Two of the AAC’s projected frontrunners are set to square off Saturday at noon ET on CBS as No. 12 Houston hosts Wichita State in a game the Shockers (9-4, 0-1 AAC) sorely need if they are going to build a compelling at-large resume for the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars (13-2, 2-0) are the league’s only team in the top 50 of the NET rankings at No. 3 and are showing no signs of weakness, even amid serious injury woes.
Houston’s leading scorer Marcus Sasser and key reserve Tramon Mark are both out for the year, and the team’s top remaining scorer, Kyler Edwards, is playing on an injured ankle. Despite the personnel crisis, the Cougars began league play with a road win at Temple last Sunday while playing without Edwards and followed up by winning at South Florida on Wednesday when he returned. The Texas Tech transfer is not yet 100%, but that didn’t stop him from scoring 15 points in 33 minutes against USF.
Wichita State edged out Houston for the AAC’s regular season title last year after splitting with the Cougars and finishing league play with a slightly better winning percentage. But replicating that feat is going to require some offensive improvement for the Shockers. Tyson Etienne, last season’s AAC co-Player of the Year, has become more effective inside the arc, but his 3-point shooting percentage is just 30.6% so far this season after he hit 39.2% last season.
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Houston vs. Wichita State prediction, picks
As AAC preseason Player of the Year Tyson Etienne starts to get going, Wichita State’s offense will heat up and the Shockers will find themselves in the top half of the AAC. But going on the road to Houston is a tough place to start building momentum. In spite of their injury woes, the Cougars are still a gritty defensive team that can stifle Wichita State. Prediction: Houston 73, Wichita State 64
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