Houston vs. Oregon State NCAA Tournament Odds & Pick: Back the Underdog Beavers in Elite Eight (March 29)

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Ethan Thompson of Oregon State.

Houston vs. Oregon State Odds

Houston Odds -8
Oregon State Odds +8
Moneyline -315/+285
Over/Under 130
Time | TV Monday, 7:15 p.m. ET | CBS
Odds as of Sunday Night and via BetMGM.

The Elite Eight starts on Monday Night with a battle between a favorite and a shocking long shot. No. 2-seed Houston brings a 27-3 record and NCAA Tournament wins over No. 15 Cleveland State, No. 10 Rutgers and No. 11 Syracuse. The Cougars have found success all season with an elite defense and tenacious rebounding.

No. 12-seed Oregon State has defeated higher seeds in every prior round. The Beavers started with an upset over No. 5 Tennessee, then No. 4 Oklahoma State, followed by Saturday’s win over No. 8 Loyola Chicago. Head coach Wayne Tinkle has confused opponents with a variety of effective defenses.

The higher-seeded Cougars are the proper favorite, but should bettors really expect a comfortable Houston win?

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Houston Cougars

Houston has been superb defensively, allowing opponents to shoot just 29% 3P (ninth-best), 42.6% 2P (fourth-best), while ranking first overall in effective field goal percentage allowed. The Cougars are also top 10 in blocks per game and sixth overall with an average of 40.9 rebounds per game. But Houston has not played enough high-quality opponents to be favored by eight points in this matchup.

The Cougars earned just one Quad I win prior to the tournament, a neutral-court win over Texas Tech back in November. Similar to Oregon State’s Sweet 16 opponent, Loyola Chicago, the Cougars’ metrics are based on success against substandard opponents.

Houston’s biggest regular season wins? Boise State at home in November, and Memphis at home by three points in March. Neither team made the NCAA Tournament.

Even Houston’s path to the Elite Eight was watered down, facing three teams ranked 15th, 10th and 11th. While Rutgers and Syracuse both technically count as Quadrant I wins, neither team presents the all-around challenge of Oregon State.

The Cougars rely on balanced scoring from a variety of players. Junior Quentin Grimes leads the team with 18 PPG and 41.3% from 3P. Marcus Sasser (13.3 PPG,), DeJon Jarreau (10.8 PPG) and interior player Justin Gorham (8.6) all provide enough scoring for a “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” mindset.

The Cougars have received a huge boost from senior forward Fabian White Jr. (6.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG) who provides critical bench minutes (20 MPG).


Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State has shown incredible versatility in beating three top programs with completely different styles. The Beavers easily beat a strong defensive-minded Tennessee team, with a dominant 70-56 performance in the opening round. Next, was an 80-70 victory over an up-tempo Oklahoma State team with potential No. 1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham. Lastly in the Sweet 16, head coach Wayne Tinkle’s Beavers outexecuted a slow-paced Loyola Chicago team, holding the Ramblers to just 58 total points.

Head coach Wayne Tinkle’s team has found success through three areas: a slow pace of play, 3-point defensive efficiency and a vastly-improved offense.

Oregon State plays at one of the slowest paces in college basketball, ranking 303rd in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. The Beavers were the second-slowest team in the Pac-12 but balanced that pace of play with stifling perimeter defense. The Beavers are now allowing just 30.4% from 3P, ranking 23rd in the country.

Tinkle mixes up defenses and stifled the Loyola Chicago attack as a result. The Ramblers shot just 41.9% (13 of 31) from 2P and 21.7% (5 of 23) from deep.

Oregon State will need to match Houston on the boards but have the size and depth to do it. Oregon State has size on the interior with 6-foot-7 Nicholls State transfer Warith Alatishe, 7-foot-1 center Roman Silva and the 6-foot-10 Maurice Calloo. Alatishe has an average of 11.5 rebounds in the past two games and nine or more rebounds in five of the past six contests.

In Houston’s Sweet 16 win over Syracuse, the Orange simply did not have a player who could attack the basket off the dribble. Oregon State certainly does in senior guard Ethan Thompson (15.6 PPG). Thompson has averaged 24 PPG over the past two contests, and has shot 23 of 24 from the free throw line.

Teammate Jarod Lucas (12.9 PPG) has scored double-digits in 12 of the last 14 games, and is one of the best free-throw shooters in the country at 89.6%

The Beavers are tall across the board, ranking 23rd in the country in average height. The size of their guards on the perimeter is particularly problematic for opposing perimeter players. I expect them to limit the Cougars from beyond the arc and battle inside with Silva, Calloo and Alatishe.

Both teams have been very strong against the spread. Houston is 20-9 overall against the spread (ATS), covering 10 of their last 12 games.  Oregon State is even more impressive, carrying a record of 22-9-1 and covering an incredible 12 of its past 13 games.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Houston still struggles to score and has taken advantage of a very favorable slate of tournament opponents. Oregon State is playing superior on both sides of the ball, and Thompson provides a legitimate high-end scorer that will attack the Cougars’ defense all night.

Look for Wayne Tinkle’s defense to limit the Cougars on offense and keep this game close throughout.  The line is too high for a matchup the Beavers could definitely win.

I’ll back Oregon State yet again at the underdog in a low-scoring game that should be decided by just a couple possessions.

Pick: Oregon State +8| Play down to Oregon State +7


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