Houston to cover the spread in opening March Madness match

The long-time favorite to win the 2023 NCAA Tournament is the Houston Cougars. On Thursday, the Cougars will get their March Madness campaign underway against the unfancied Northern KY. Can the Cougars justify being the favorites for so long this season? Let’s answer that question with our latest NCAAB betting picks.

  • What; NCAA Tournament March Madness – First Round
  • Who; Houston Cougars vs Northern Kentucky Norse
  • Where; Legacy Arena, Birmingham, Alabama
  • When; Thursday, March 16th, 2023
  • Tip Off; 8.20 pm ET

The Cougars are still the favorites to win the 2023 NCAA Tournament, but they are no longer out on their own in the betting. Kelvin Sampson’s team are now joined in the favorites position by the Alabama Crimson Tide, who have continued to pick up support from punters as the season has worn on.

The Cougars are one of the number 1 seeded teams though. They are also heavy favorites (Houston are +140) to win the Midwest Region, ahead of Texas (+350) and Xavier (+900). They still are, and have justifiably been, the favorites all season to win the NCAA Tournament. But unfortunately for Sampson, and Cougars backers, that doesn’t mean they will win it.

Betting to win the 2023 NCAA Tournament

Side-by-side with the Cougars at the top of the betting to win the tournament is the Alabama Crimson Tide. Both Alabama and Houston are now at +550.

The two leading sides have a bit of a gap between themselves and the following pack. Next in the betting is Kansas and Purdue (both at +1000), and then comes Texas at +1100, and UCLA at +1200.

Houston Cougars vs Northern KY; Match Betting

If the betting odds are anything to go by, the best college basketball betting sites aren’t expecting anything other than a win for the Cougars. On the moneyline, Houston is -3000, while Northern Kentucky is +1250.

On the handicap spread, Northern KY is receiving 19.5 points. With the nice big headstart, they are -110. Houston is also -110, starting from -19.5 points. If you’re a fan of betting on the over/under total points market, then the spread is set at 122.5 points. Over is -110, and so is under.

More odds on the match from some of the best March Madness betting sites can be found below. For more information on the betting sites we use for our odds, please check out our top US sportsbooks reviews page. Here you will learn more about these top-rated sportsbooks, and also bag yourself a few bucks by claiming their respective welcome bonuses.

Houston vs Northern KYBetOnline ReviewMyBookie ReviewBovada
Houston Cougars-3000-3500-3300
Northern KY+1250+1300+1200
Houston (-19.5)-110-110-110
Northern (+19.5)-110-110-110

Recent Form

Houston head into this match on the back of a disappointing loss at the hands of the Memphis Tigers. The Tigers rushed into a 46-31 lead at the halfway stage. And even though the Cougars fought back in the second period, they still ended up losing by a convincing 75-65 scoreline.

Prior to that defeat, the Cougars had won their previous 13. In the American Athletic Conference, the Cougars finished top with a conference record of 17-1, and an overall record of 31-3.

As for Northern KY, they head into the showdown in high spirits after winning their last five in a row. If you look back further, they have won seven of their last eight. It’s this late flourish that has seen them make it to the NCAA Tournament. Albeit, as 16th seeds.

A match against Houston will be a serious step up in class though. Darrin Horn’s side only managed a third place finish in the Horizon with a conference record of 14-6, and an overall record of 22-12. Not the worst. But it’s hard to see them giving the Cougars much of a match.

Our Picks

There’s no point beating around the bush on this one, we don’t see Northern KY getting anything out of this match. Yes, shocks will happen in the 1st Round. But we don’t see one here.

We’re leaving the -3000 available on the moneyline alone though. It’s too short. The only remaining questions are, can Houston beat the spread? And will it be over or under 122.5 points?

We think Houston can beat the spread. They won by margins of 14 (vs East Carolina) and 21 (vs Cincinnati) in the recent ACC Tournament. And these two opponents would be considered stronger than Northern KY.

So for our first pick on this March Madness fixture, we are going for Houston to win against the spread.

Houston (-19.5)To beat Northern KY
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Secondly, the total points market. Three of Houston’s last four games have failed to see 123 points scored. One was bang on 122, the other two were a few points under. Look back a bit further to when Houston was playing lesser teams, and 122.5 was regularly beaten. Therefore we are going for over 122.5 points for our second pick of the match.

Over 122.5 Total PointsHouston vs Northearn KY
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Dean Etheridge

Hailing from Coventry, England, Dean brings his British wit to every piece he pens. A true lover of a good wager, Dean's passion for both sports and writing has merged into the world of sports betting. Dean is the mastermind behind his very own soccer and cricket betting platforms. As the owner and editor of a renowned football betting website, Dean has established himself as a force within the industry. His expertise as a freelance content writer is centered in the realms of football, cricket and Formula 1. From breaking down odds to unraveling strategies, Dean's writing radiates an unmatched love for sports. When he’s not immersed in sports betting, Dean enjoyes exploring new culinary delights, conquering the latest car racing video games, or getting lost in the pages of a novel.