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

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LSU vs Michigan NCAA Tournament Second Round Picks

Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines shoots. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP

Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines shoots. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP

 

On Monday, the Round of 32 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament (aka the second round) continues with eight games that constitute half of the second-round games. For the 2020-2021 season, 347 college basketball teams played and only 24 have a chance of winning the championship. Of all the second round NCAA Tournament matchups on Monday, one of the most compelling is the matchup between Michigan and LSU.

 

LSU Tigers vs. Michigan Wolverines

Monday, March 22, 2021 – 07:10 PM EDT at Lucas Oil Stadium Unity

Teams

  • Michigan (1): 21-4
  •  LSU (8): 19-9

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Three Dark Horse Teams to Win the NCAA Tournament

Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on March 13, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   Justin Casterline/Getty Images/AFP

Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on March 13, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Justin Casterline/Getty Images/AFP

The Landscape of the NCAA Tournament

For this year’s NCAA Tournament, there are 68 teams and only one of them is going to win the title. There are four clear betting favorites to win the tournament Gonzaga (+210), Baylor (+500), Illinois (+700), and Michigan (+800). Unsurprisingly, all four of those teams are the top seeds in their regions.

That is why it should be no surprise that Gonzaga, Baylor, and Michigan are among the worst bets you can make to win the tournament because despite being the best teams, they are overbet and the odds are shaded against the betting public. Only Illinois is a good bet, but they are not considered a longshot. There are several longshot’s that are worth betting on winning the big dance and my favorites are Iowa, Houston, and Virginia.

Criteria for Picking NCAA Tournament Underdogs

This year when coming up with my NCAA Tournament longshot picks, I decided to compare the best betting odds to FiveThirtyEight’s NCAA Tournament odds. While FiveThirtyEight is known for their election forecasts, many do not know that their founder Nate Silver used to be a Baseball statistician. That is why it is no surprise that they have a great record when it comes to their sports forecasting.

For this year’s March Madness tournament, I compiled a list of each team FiveThirtyEight gave a 0.1% or better chance of winning the tournament and compared them to their breakeven betting odds. Unsurprisingly, FiveThirtyEight’s model in comparison to the betting odds found an edge with only five teams for this year’s tournament in Illinois, Houston, Iowa, Ohio State, and Virginia. Additionally, the three worst teams to bet on winning the tournament were Michigan, Gonzaga, and Baylor. As a bettor you can ignore my advice at your peril, but you are betting off not betting if the choice is between betting or picking Michigan, Gonzaga, Baylor to win the tournament.

 

Iowa (+1700)

It is debatable whether Iowa can be considered a dark horse based on its record of success. Basketball analytics website KenPom ranks Iowa as the 5th best team in the country despite having a 21-8 regular season record. While Iowa at +1700 is not as much of an underdog to win the tournament as other +10000 or +5000 teams, in my opinion any team that isn’t a top seed should be considered a dark horse this year.

There are three reasons why Iowa is dangerous in this year’s tournament. During the regular season, the Hawkeyes played in the Big Ten which was the strongest conference this season. That is evidenced by half of the top-seeded teams coming from the Big Ten. When you adjust their performance based on their level of play, Iowa had the 2nd best offensive efficiency in the country this season. Part of the reason why is because of 6-11 forward Luka Garza who led the country in offensive win shares this season with five offensive win shares. Additionally, Garza led the country with 6.4 overall win shares. At +1700, Iowa is a great pick to win the tournament

NCAAB Pick: Iowa +1700 with DraftKings

Houston (+2200)

Most of the time when people pick a team to win the tournament, they are either picking a major conference team or a mid-major who went undefeated during the regular season like Gonzaga. As a result, teams from mid-majors who were not undefeated are often overlooked.

One of those teams is the Houston Cougars who had a 24-3 overall record but played only the 79th strongest schedule according to teamrankings.com. However, a strong case can be made for Houston winning the tournament when you examine their body of work.

Houston won the American Athletic Conference easily beating most of their conference opponents. In fact, the Cougars had the 2nd highest average scoring margin this season of +18 meaning that on average they won their games by 18 points. Only the betting favorite Gonzaga had a better average margin. Houston had the 8th best adjusted offensive efficiency this season and the 16th best adjusted defensive efficiency. The Cougars are dangerous this year and that is why I like them as one of my picks to win the tournament.

NCAAB Pick: Houston +2200 with Bet365

Virginia (+5000)

While I would not put my life savings on Virginia winning the NCAA Tournament (or on any team for that matter), a strong case can be made for why Virginia has a good chance of winning the tournament this year. Because of last season’s canceled tournament, Virginia is still the defending national champion as they won in 2019.

While this year’s team has a much different composition, they are still a strong team that plays at a slow tempo. In fact, the Cavaliers play at the slowest adjusted tempo out of all 357 college basketball teams. As a slow tempo team, they can catch their opponents off guard and decrease the number of possessions per game. Against a heavy favorite, Virginia can turn what might be a blowout into a one possession game that they can win in the last minute. Additionally, the Cavaliers are the highest rated 4th seed as KenPom ranks them as the 11th best team in the country.

There are two qualitative reasons why Virginia is undervalued as a +5000 pick to win the tournament. The first is that they played in a weakened ACC this season that had weak UNC, Duke, Syracuse, and Pitt teams. The other is because they had to forfeit their game against Georgia Tech in the ACC Conference championship because of a COVID outbreak. If Virginia can manage to field a roster for their first game on Saturday against Ohio, then they are a good dark horse candidate to win the tournament.

NCAAB Pick: Virginia +5000 with BetMGM

Mercer vs. UNC-Greensboro NCAA Basketball Preview

Mercer Bears Marching Band

The Mercer Bears Marching Band performs at a basketball game.

Mercer Bears vs. UNC-Greensboro Spartans

Monday, February 8th, 2020 – 7:00 PM ET at Allen Fieldhouse

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Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State NCAA Basketball Preview

Guard De'Vion Harmon #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts after making a shot. John E. Moore III/Getty Images/AFP

Guard De’Vion Harmon #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts after making a shot. John E. Moore III/Getty Images/AFP

 

Oklahoma Sooners vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Monday, March 01, 2021 – 09:00 PM EST at Gallagher-Iba Arena

Stakes of the Matchup

Most college basketball games are inconsequential. There are hundreds of teams, and only 68 of them make it to the big dance. To make it to the NCAA tournament, teams must either win their conference or make it as an at-large team. Typically, teams in weaker conferences must win their conference to make the tournament. What makes the Big 12 different is that they are currently ranked as the second-best conference in college basketball. As a result, the Big 12 expects to send several teams to the national championship tournament each year.

Baylor, currently the second ranked team in the country, plays in the Big 12. Of the ten teams that play in the “Big 12”, six of them are ranked among the AP top 25 teams. One of those teams is the 7th ranked Oklahoma team who tonight visits unranked Oklahoma State. While the Cowboys are unranked, they received the most votes of any unranked team in the last AP poll.

Despite what appears to be a matchup where OU has a clear edge, both teams are relatively equal after OU has lost their last two games. Once the AP top 25 is updated both teams are likely to either be unranked or ranked in the 20’s. Currently KenPom rates OU as the 33th best team and OSU as the 36th best team. The betting line reflects the close matchup as the Sooners are only 1.5 point favorites.

Currently Oklahoma has a 14-7 overall record while Oklahoma State has a 16-6 record. In conference play, both teams are 9-6. OSU has won their last four games while OU has lost their last two games. Basketball handicappers who believe in streaks will be inclined to bet on the Cowboys because they have been playing well recently. Additionally, both teams played on Saturday and the Cowboys won 74-71 in overtime. However, past performance is not predictive of future performance and a strong case can be made for the Sooners reverting to the mean.

 

How Oklahoma and Oklahoma State Match Up

On Saturday, Oklahoma was a pre-game six-point favorite against Oklahoma State, and at one point looked good as they were leading by seven points at halftime. Then the Sooners collapsed in the 2nd half and lost in overtime and now they are only 1.5 point favorites against the Cowboys. While Oklahoma did blow a large lead, they were also the victim of bad variance as they lost the rebound battle 45-28 despite having a 50.2% rebound rate of the season. For OSU to win again, they must find a new way to beat OU as OSU got lucky in Saturday’s game.

While both teams are evenly matched, both teams play much different styles of offense. Oklahoma State plays at the 19th fastest tempo in college basketball and the fastest tempo in the Big 12 as they average 76.6 possessions per game. Oklahoma currently averages only 71.9 possessions per game which is slightly higher than the median college basketball team, which averages 71.2 possessions per game. The Cowboys are going to look to run the ball up the court all game, while the Sooners will try to slow down the tempo.

Monday night’s game is going to come down to how well Oklahoma State’s offense does against the Sooners defense. According to basketball analytics website KenPom, OSU is 75th in offensive efficiency while OU is 39th in defensive efficiency. For Oklahoma State to win, they must play better on offense then they have been playing all season. Their defense is a strength as the Cowboys have the 20th best adjusted defensive efficiency in college basketball, but they will have their hands full against a Sooners offense which has the 35th best offensive efficiency in college basketball.

 

Prediction

Monday night’s spread is an overreaction to Oklahoma’s losing streak, Oklahoma State’s winning streak, and Oklahoma State’s upset on Saturday. While Oklahoma State has a strong team, they are overvalued in Monday night’s matchup. Oklahoma should be a heavier favorite and that is why I am betting on them to cover as 1.5 point favorites at Oklahoma State.

College Basketball Pick: Oklahoma Spread -1.5 (-110) at DraftKings