Oregon State vs. Houston NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Preview

DeJon Jarreau #3 of the Houston Cougars reacts after a play. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

DeJon Jarreau #3 of the Houston Cougars reacts after a play. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

On Monday, there are two exciting games that make up the first half of the Elite 8. For the 2020-2021 season, 347 college basketball teams played and only 8 have a chance of winning the championship. There are many great Sweet 16 matches this weekend, and one of those intriguing games is the matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Houston Cougars.

Oregon State Beavers vs. Houston Cougars

at Lucas Oil Stadium

Teams

● Oregon State Beavers (12): 20-12

● Houston Cougars (2): 27-3

Stakes of the Matchup

Houston plays in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) which is rated as the 7th strongest conference in the country according to basketball analytics website KenPom. Oregon State plays in the Pac-12 which is rated as the 2nd strongest conference. Before the NCAA Tournament the Pac-12 was rated much lower than other major conferences. Based on Pac-12 teams winning 12 of 14 games in the tournament, they are now rated as the toughest conference behind the Big Ten.

Houston as a big fish in the small pond of the AAC is currently rated as the third strongest team left in the tournament behind only Baylor and Gonzaga. Just like Houston R&B group H-Town had a hit single “Knockin’ Da Boots”, bettors should not knock the Cougars just because they play in the AAC. In the handful of games that the Cougars have played against strong teams, the Cougars have won. Houston is a well-rounded team with a top-10 offense and defense.

Oregon State has had an incredible story this season. They were projected to finish last in the Pac-12 at the beginning of the season, and they only made the NCAA Tournament after winning the Pac-12 championship. Over the last six games, the Beavers were at least 5.5 point underdogs, yet they have won all of those games outright. Most impressively in the Sweet 16 against Loyola-Chicago, Oregon State won 65-58 as seven-point underdogs against a Loyola-Chicago team rated as the 10th best in the country according to KenPom’s ratings.

How Oregon State and Houston Match Up

Oregon State is the luckiest team remaining in the NCAA tournament. Shockingly despite being a conference champion from a strong conference, KenPom rates them as the 42nd best team in the country. This is largely because they are the 28th luckiest team in the country according to KenPom. The question for Monday night’s game is if Oregon State’s luck will run out.

The Beavers have neither a top 25 offense nor defense. OSU has the 35th best adjusted offensive efficiency and the 60th best adjusted defensive efficiency. Every other Elite 8 team has at least a top 11 defense or offense. If Oregon State wins Monday night’s game, then Disney might have to make a movie about this team.

Stylistically both teams are similar in that they are slow tempo teams. The only difference is that Houston in what few possessions they have on offense against Oregon State will dominate against Oregon State’s defense. Additionally, Oregon State’s strength is their offense which will have trouble against a Houston defense which allowed only 57.9 points this season, the fewest in the country.

Prediction

Oregon State is the team that you want to root for because they are an underdog who keeps on winning. However, Houston by far is the toughest team they have played in the tournament and they should easily win.

The Beavers luck will run out and I believe that Houston should win by a large margin. 7.5 points may be a lot of points to lay against a slow tempo team, but I believe that the Cougars should cover. That is why I am backing the Houston Cougars to cover the spread as 7.5 point favorites.

College Basketball Pick: Houston Spread -7.5 (-109) (DraftKings)

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