Texas Longhorns vs. Miami Hurricanes
Line: Texas -3.5
Where: T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, Missouri
When: Sunday, 3/26 at 5:05 p.m. ET
No. 5 seed Miami was partially responsible for a chaotic Friday evening that saw the two remaining No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament eliminated.
The Hurricanes cruised to an 89-75 win over Houston in the Sweet 16, setting up a showdown with No. 2 seed Texas in the Elite Eight on Sunday evening. Texas put on an impressive display of its own, controlling the entirety of its 83-71 win over No. 3 seed Xavier.
Oddsmakers opened the Longhorns as 4.5-point favorites late Friday night, but the early betting action moved that spread down to -4. It’s now been moved down to -3.5. Sunday’s total opened at 150 points before moving slightly to 149.5 as of Saturday afternoon. By early this morning, most spots had the tally down to 147.5 points.
Texas has gone ‘under’ in seven of its last eight games, with the lone exception being Friday’s game.
Miami booked its trip to a second straight Elite Eight, but now it will be seeking its first Final Four appearance in school history. The Hurricanes put up 89 points on the nation’s top-ranked defense in field goal percentage (36.6), as Nigel Pack poured in 26 points on 7 of 10 shooting from 3-point range.
“He was ridiculous,” Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said. “I don’t know how far some of those shots were. People ask me what I say to him when he misses one of those long shots. I say, ‘Keep shooting.’”
Pack scored 21 points in a first-round win over Drake before notching a season high against Houston. He averages 13.8 points per game and is shooting a red-hot 40.5% from beyond the arc for an offense that ranks sixth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings.
“My teammates found me early and got me going,” Pack said. “They kept feeding me and telling me to shoot the ball. I tried to have confidence that it would keep going in.”
The Hurricanes have relied on their elite offense throughout the season, as they are outside the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency. They rank inside the top 35 in 3-point percentage (37.0), 2-point percentage (54.1) and free-throw percentage (77.6) offensively.
Their defense looked much better against Houston though, holding the Cougars to 37.5% shooting from the floor and 29.0% from beyond the arc. Texas has a capable offense of its own, which it showcased when it never let Xavier get within 12 points during a second half that it led by as many as 24 points.
The Longhorns hit 53.1% of their shots in the first half and held the Musketeers to a 27.3% clip. They are back in the arena where they won the Big 12 Tournament championship against Kansas two weeks ago.
“We’ve been here before,” Texas veteran guard Marcus Carr said. “Having our fans come out and support us is big.”
Carr leads the team with 15.8 points and 4.1 assists per game, but he has three teammates scoring in double figures as well. Senior forward Dylan Disu, who averages 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds, played just two minutes against Xavier after suffering a foot injury against Penn State in the second round. Tyrese Hunter stepped up with 19 points on Friday, marking his best output in seven games.
Texas is 7-0-1 against the spread in its last eight games, while Miami is 13-7 ATS in its last 20 games. The Hurricanes are 8-1 ATS in their last nine games as underdogs, but they are 1-4 in their last five games against Big 12 opponents.
The pick: Miami +3.5
Miami thrives in this role, covering in eight of its last nine games as an underdog, including Friday’s outright upset over Houston. The Hurricanes are a generally undersized team, but Texas is even shorter and could be playing without one of its top big men if Disu is sidelined. He had 28 points in the second-round win over Penn State, so his production has been a key for the Longhorns. Miami has won by a margin of 12.3 points per game during its run to a second straight Elite Eight, and its defense has stepped up to allow less than 67 points per game. The Hurricanes have experience playing at this stage of the Big Dance last year, while Texas has not been here since 2008. This line should be closer to a tossup, giving me enough value to take Miami as an underdog.