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Can Ducks Keep it Close?

Houston vs. Oregon Odds

Houston doesn’t need to prove anything. The Cougars are laying waste to competent mid-majors like clockwork. They dispatched their first four opponents by the following margins: 35, 38, 26 and 47.

Sunday’s tilt against Oregon offers an opportunity to firmly validate that dominance against a heavyweight opponent (for any foolish remaining skeptics). Granted, the Ducks are no Mike Tyson.

In two of Oregon’s first three contests, the Ducks handled their business. But when a pesky UC Irvine squad came to Eugene on November 11, cracks began to surface. The lingering effect of an offseason slowed by injuries showed Oregon’s diminishing depth — particularly in the backcourt.

There’s no shame in losing to UC Irvine, a respected Big West program. But it’s certainly a bad omen for what awaits the Ducks in Houston.

The H-Town Cougars are a sterling 4-0 against the number so far this year, and it’s easy to see why: it’s impossible to find any holes.

In the frontcourt, the brigade of bigs is literate with burly workhorses. This braun is the foundational force behind their offensive rebounding and rim-protecting skill sets.

Against Oregon, this strength advantage will be useful. The Ducks’ frontline is long but brittle, which likely tips the rebounding scales in Houston’s favor.

On the perimeter, Marcus Sasser — a deadly playmaker and long-range assassin — sets the tone.

He’s off to a brilliant start this season, except for one head-scratching laggard: 3-point shooting. Sasser’s 27% long-range conversion rate is far below his standards. It’s safe to assume it’s only a matter of time before Sasser heats up from the outside, offering even more upside to this near-juggernaut squad.

The Ducks are an early “whack-a-mole” contender, as they’re unpredictable from game-to-game.

This volatility makes it impossible to place Oregon in the national totem pole. Talent wise, they possess top-15, even top-10 upside. However, to date, it’s hard to see that version through a blurry confusion of inconsistency.

An early injury to projected point guard Jermaine Couisnard forced head coach Dana Altman into an early game of rotational musical chairs.

Longstanding incumbent Will Richardson is more than capable of running the offense, but Couisnard’s presence was aimed at alleviating a portion of that burden off of Richardson.

The bumpy perimeter performances prompted Altman to play inside-out through his bigs, N’Faly Dante, Nate Bittle and Kel’el Ware. All three carry pro-level potential, but are not yet dominant, dependent forces at this stage.

Long term, look out.

Houston vs. Oregon Betting Pick

Oregon’s offensive identity crisis — albeit improving — is a serious problem in this Houston matchup. The Cougars will be a chore to score over up front, putting the onus on Oregon’s backcourt to pick up the pieces.

Barring a shotmaking outburst from Richardson, or the struggling Quincy Warrior, points will come at a premium.

This angle points strongly to both Houston as a side bet and the game under, the former of which I’m officially endorsing.

Hype home-dog environments are always treacherous waters, but Houston is renowned for treating these roadies like business trips. Look for the Cougars to bury Oregon early, and suck the air right out of The Pit at Matthew Knight Arena.

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