UTEP vs. Sam Houston State Prediction, Odds and Key Players for C-USA Semifinal (Back the Bearkats)

College basketball betting preview, prediction and best bet for UTEP-Sam Houston State.

Dec 28, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA;  Sam Houston Bearkats guard Davon Barnes (2) works the ball into the paint.
Dec 28, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Sam Houston Bearkats guard Davon Barnes (2) works the ball into the paint. / Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 Sam Houston State is two wins away from a Conference USA Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. The Bearkats have won eight consecutive games since a two-game February skid and are short favorites against No. 5 UTEP Friday afternoon, a team they swept during the regular season. Will they advance to Saturday’s championship game?

UTEP opened the conference tournament with a 66-57 win over Liberty. The Miners have also not made March Madness since 2010 but have struggled as an underdog this season. Can they right the ship in the semifinals? Here’s the betting breakdown of the matchup with a best bet.

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UTEP vs. Sam Houston State Odds, Spread and Total

UTEP vs. Sam Houston State Betting Trends

  • UTEP is 11-17-1 ATS this season
  • Sam Houston State is 18-11-1 ATS this season
  • UTEP is 5-9-1 ATS as an underdog this season
  • Sam Houston State is 11-5-1 ATS this season
  • The OVER is 12-17 in UTEP games this season
  • The OVER is 17-13 in Sam Houston State games this season

UTEP vs. Sam Houston State How to Watch

  • Date: Friday, March 15 
  • Game time: 12:30 p.m. EST
  • Venue: VBC Propst Arena
  • How to watch (TV): CBS Sports Network
  • UTEP record: 17-15
  • Sam Houston State record: 21-11

UTEP vs. Sam Houston State Key Players to Watch


Zid Powell: One of three double-digit scorers in the Miners’ lineup, Powell is an all-around stat-stuffer as the team’s leader in assists (3.2) and rebounds (5). Powell has scored in double figures in five consecutive games and is coming off a 13-point, 7-rebound performance in UTEP’s first-round win over Liberty. 

Sam Houston State 

Davon Barnes: Barnes is part of a great backcourt tandem with Lamar Wilkerson that has led the Bearkats to the No. 1 seed. Barnes averages 13.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 40% from 3-point range. Barnes led the Bearkats with 15 points in the win over FIU in the C-USA quarterfinals on Wednesday. 

UTEP vs. Sam Houston State Prediction and Pick 

In two Sam Houston State regular-season wins over UTEP, the Bearkats held the Miners to 37.6% shooting from the field (41-of-109), 26.3% from 3-point range (10-of-38). UTEP also missed 13 free throws and failed to crack 60 points in both matchups. 

Will history repeat itself? UTEP’s offense has struggled all season, ranking No. 274 in effective field goal percentage, according to KenPom, and No. 323 in 3-point shooting. The Miners are also one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the nation. UTEP’s offense should struggle again against a Sam Houston State defense that is top-3 in Conference USA in every major shooting metric, as well as efficiency. 

Helping out a struggling Sam Houston State offense (No. 259 in effective field goal percentage) should be transition opportunities from takeaways. UTEP is No. 344 in the nation in turnover percentage and Sam Houston State is a top-75 team in creating turnovers. 

UTEP’s defense is No. 1 in the nation in turnover percentage, but Sam Houston State’s offense should have enough to cover the short spread with its 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding prowess (No. 86 in KenPom). Sam Houston State is 11-5-1 ATS as a favorite this season. The top-seeded Bearkats pull away on Friday. 

Game odds update periodically and are subject to change.