The second-seeded Houston Cougars try to avoid the upset prowess of the 12th-seeded Oregon State Beavers when the two face off in the Midwest Region final at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday. The Beavers have knocked off fifth-seeded Tennessee, fourth-seeded Oklahoma State, and eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1982.
Oregon State (20-12) used defense to knock off the Ramblers in the Sweet 16, holding them to 33.3% shooting, including 21.7% accuracy from the 3-point arc, in rallying from an early six-point deficit. The Beavers held Loyola Chicago to seven points in the final 13:32 of the first half to take control.
Coach Wayne Tinkle’s squad has won six straight, sweeping through the Pac-12 tournament and the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. All of those victories have come with the Beavers playing as underdogs.
Houston (27-3) has been playing airtight defense, ranking second in the country in allowing just 57.5 points per game and holding opponents to a national-best 37.0% shooting from the field. The Cougars shut down Syracuse in the Sweet 16, holding the red-hot Orange to just 28% shooting, including 5-of-23 from 3-point range.
The Cougars have won 10 straight for coach Kelvin Sampson, sweeping the American Athletic Conference tournament and taking care of their first three NCAA Tournament opponents. The Beavers will be Houston’s fourth opponent that is a double-digit seed in the tournament.
There wasn’t much to indicate that this kind of a run was possible by Oregon State entering the Pac-12 tournament, as the Beavers were the fifth seed before starting their winning streak. The most impressive thing is it has all come against NCAA Tournament teams, with the Pac-12 tournament run coming against UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado.
Senior guard Ethan Thompson has been the team leader offensively all season long, and he’s been doing it in the NCAA Tournament as well, averaging 20.3 points. Thompson is averaging 15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and a team-high 3.8 assists.
Sophomore guard Jarod Lucas is a deadly shooter from beyond the arc, hitting 75 on the season at a 38.9% clip. Lucas is averaging 12.9 points per game and is connecting on 89.6% of his free throws, ranking second in the Pac-12 in the category.
Junior forward Warith Alatishe is nearly averaging a double-double at 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds. He leads the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds, averaging 3.3 per game, and he’s also averaging over a steal and a block per contest. Roman Silva, a 7-1 senior center, has also been a presence defensively for the Beavers in the tournament, averaging 2.3 blocks and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Shutting Them Down
All the talk going into the Syracuse-Houston Sweet 16 contest was about the Orange’s zone defense and the scoring of Buddy Boeheim. After the game, all the talk was about Houston’s stifling defense, which held Boeheim, who was averaging 28.3 points in the NCAAs, to 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting, including 1-of-9 from 3-point range.
It was a team effort for the Cougars on both ends of the floor, with junior guard Quentin Grimes leading the way with 14 points. Grimes has been Houston’s top offensive performer all season long, averaging 18.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game, shooting 41.7% from 3-point range and hitting 91 from beyond the arc.
Sophomore guard Marcus Sasser is a second scoring threat for the Cougars, averaging 13.3 points and connecting 66 times from the 3-point line. He finished with 12 points against Syracuse. Additionally, to check out more specific information about the NCAAB props available for the Santa Barbara vs Baylor matchup.
Senior guard DeJon Jarreau had a big game on both ends of the floor, finishing with nine points, eight rebounds, and eight assists while taking on the task of guarding Boeheim. Senior forward Justin Gorham had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win, a bit better than his season averages of 8.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Additionally, to check out more specific information about the NCAAB props available for the Boise State vs Northwestern matchup.
Points are not going to be easy to come by with both defenses playing great in the tournament. Oregon State may have more trouble, with Thompson likely to be the focus of the Cougars, especially Jarreau, much like Boeheim was.
Houston has more options on offense and will be looking to bomb away from long-range. That difference in scoring depth is going to be the difference in this contest.
When making your college basketball picks, take the Cougars to win and cover.