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No. 2 Houston vs. No. 15 Cleveland State preview for NCAA Tournament first-round matchup

The No. 2 Houston and No. 15 Cleveland State face off in the first round of the 2021 NCAA tournament. We’ve got an initial preview of what and how to watch following Selection Sunday.

Cincinnati v Houston Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday, March 18th with the First Four, and then moves on to the first round on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16. No. 2 seed Houston Cougars will face No. 15 seed Cleveland State Vikings in the first round. Game time has yet to be announced but we will update this article with that and game odds as soon as it comes available. For now, we’ve got a preliminary preview of the two teams to get you ready for March Madness!

Once the 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: Friday, March 19
Game time: 7:15 p.m.
TV channel: truTV
Location: Assembly Hall

Odds: Houston -19
Over/Under: 135.5

No. 2 Houston

Kelvin Sampson has put together some excellent Houston Cougars teams consistently the last few years, but the 2020-21 version might be his best yet. Houston has been hovering around No. 10 in the weekly polls all season long, showing the Cougars’ consistency throughout the year. Houston comes in at No. 6 in KenPom with the No. 14 offense in terms of adjusted efficiency and seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Junior guard Quentin Grimes is a player to watch for Houston. He’s averaging 16.9 points per game to lead the teams and also averages 6.4 rebounds. Senior forward Justin Gorham leads the AAC in rebounding, going for 9.6 rebounds per game, so second-chance points could be huge in the NCAA Tournament. As a team, Houston is tied for fourth in the country with 42.1 rebounds per game and second in offensive rebounds per game (15).

Record: 24-3, 15-3 American
KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 9
KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 16
ATS: 17-8
Over Total: 12-13
Odds to win NCAA Championship: +2000

No. 15 Cleveland State

The Cleveland State Vikings claimed the Horizon League title to earn their spot in The Big Dance for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The Vikings have failed to finish above .500 in each of the last five seasons heading into this year. CSU won five of their last six games including each of the last four, and Vikings’ success comes on the defensive end of the floor where they allowed the second fewest points per game among Horizon League teams this season.

Cleveland State ranks in the bottom half of most offensive categories in the conference, so that will be an issue for the Vikings to pull off a huge NCAA Tournament upset. They are led by senior guard Torrey Patton, who averaged team highs with 14.9 points and eight rebounds per game this season. He’s also shooting 46.9% from the floor.

Record: 19-7, 16-4 Horizon
KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 199
KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 121
ATS: 17-8-1
Over Total: 13-12-1
Odds to win NCAA Championship: N/A