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No. 1 Houston vs. No. 16 Northern Kentucky preview for March Madness First Round matchup

No. 1 Houston Cougars and No. 16 Northern Kentucky Norse face off in the First Round of the 2023 NCAA tournament. We’ve got an initial preview of the game and how to watch.

Houston v Memphis Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The NCAA Tournament begins on Tuesday, March 14th with the First Four, and then moves on to the First Round on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17. The No. 1 seed Houston Cougars will face the No. 16 seed Northern Kentucky Norse on Thursday.

Here’s an early look at what we can expect from the matchup.

Once odds from DraftKings Sportsbook are made available for this game, we’ll add that information below. We’ll also add the game time and TV channel once it’s settled.

Game date: Thursday, March 16
Game time: 9:20 p.m. ET
TV channel: TNT
Location: Birmingham, AL

Odds: Houston -20

No. 1 Houston

After losing Marcus Sasser to injury, the Houston Cougars fell to the Memphis Tigers in the AAC Championship Game. However, the Cougars still finished with a 31-2 regular season record and an at-large bid to March Madness.

Houston’s stifling defense and incredible team rebounding is what makes them one of the favorites to win it all in 2023. Amazingly, the Cougars allowed more than 71 points just once this season and their 56.5 points allowed per game ranks No. 2 in the country. Their rebound margin of +7.5 per game is ranked No. 8 in the country. Defense and rebounding often wins out in March.

One worry for the Cougars is that they are not exactly a team built to play from behind. They’re simply not used to playing from behind after playing a mostly cupcake conference schedule. Second, their methodical offensive sets are not conducive to closing gaps quickly. Where they could fall into trouble in the tournament is if an opposing team goes on a run and the Cougars simply run out of time to close the deficit.

Record: 31-3, 17-1 AAC

Coach: Kelvin Sampson

Qualifier: At-large

KenPom overall: 1

KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 11

KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 4

Pace: 342

PPP overall: 1.134

Leading scorer: Marcus Sasser

NET: 1

Quad 1 record: 7-1

Against The Spread: 18-15-0

Over Total: 15-18-0

Odds to win NCAA Championship: +550

No. 16 Northern Kentucky

A relative newcomer to the Big Dance, with just two prior appearances in school history, the Northern Kentucky Norse have only been eligible for the NCAA Tournament since the start of the 2012 season. However, through Horizon League play in 2022-23, the Norse fared rather well, going 14-6 to share second place.

In the Summit League Tournament, Northern Kentucky really turned up the intensity behind a stifling defense, defeating regular season champ Youngstown State and Cleveland State en route to their automatic bid. Over their past eight contests, the Norse have surrendered more than 70 points to an opponent only once while winning seven of those games. HC Darrin Horn will ensure that the moment is never too big for NKU.

Record: 20-12, 14-6 Horizon

Coach: Darrin Horn

Qualifier: Automatic

KenPom overall: 162

KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 217

KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 121

Pace: 358

PPP overall: 1.022

Leading scorer: Marques Warrick

NET: 155

Quad 1 record: 0-2

Against The Spread: 14-18

Over Total: 12-20

Odds to win NCAA Championship: +100000