NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Best Bets: Our Top Picks for Oregon State vs. Houston & Arkansas vs. Baylor

Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Adam Flagler.

And then there were eight.

The Sweet 16 saw the continuation of a crazy NCAA Tournament as two double-digit seeds — Oregon State and UCLA — advanced and now have a legitimate chance at making it to the Final Four.

Tonight, we get (2) Houston vs. (12) Oregon State and (1) Baylor vs. (3) Arkansas. Our staff came through with six total bets for those two games, and each pick has a complete breakdown below.

Check out each pick, and feel free to use the table below to navigate to any breakdown.

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NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Best Bets

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#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston 7:15 p.m. ET
#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston 7:15 p.m. ET
#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston 7:15 p.m. ET
#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston 7:15 p.m. ET
#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston 7:15 p.m. ET
#3 Arkansas vs. #1 Baylor 9:57 p.m. ET

All listed odds have been updated as of Monday at noon ET. Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.

#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston

By Mike Randle

Pick Oregon State +8
Tipoff 7:15 p.m. ET

The Cougars earned just one Quad I win prior to the tournament, a neutral-court victory 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 the Cougars’ path to the Elite Eight was watered down, as they faced three opponents seeded 15th, 10th and 11th in the Midwest Region. While Rutgers and Syracuse both technically count as Quadrant I wins, neither team presents the all-around challenge of Oregon State.

Oregon State has shown incredible versatility in beating three top programs with completely different styles. Head coach Wayne Tinkle mixed up defenses and stifled the Loyola Chicago attack. The Ramblers shot just 41.9% (13-of-31) from 2 and 21.7% (5-of-23) from deep.

Oregon State will need to match Houston on the boards, but it has 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 with 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.

Look for 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 as the underdog in a low-scoring game that should be decided by just a couple of possessions.

Pick: Oregon State +8

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#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston

By Pat McMahon

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-props-january 23
Pick Houston -7.5
Tipoff 7:15 p.m. ET

I think Oregon State’s impressive tournament run ends tonight at the hands of Houston in convincing fashion.

The Beavers have played out of their minds in this tournament, winning each of their games in improbable ways. A great outside shooting performance helped lift them over Tennessee. Canning 32-of-35 free-throw attempts got them past Oklahoma State. A horrendous shooting performance from Loyola helped them defeat the Ramblers.

On the season, Oregon State has not been a very good shooting team. It shoots just 43.5% from the field and ranks 222nd in effective field goal percentage, per TeamRankings. The Beavers will have a tough time scoring on a Houston defense that ranks sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency and first in effective field goal percentage.

The Cougars’ defense just flexed its muscle against a red-hot Syracuse team in the Sweet 16, holding the Orange to 28% shooting and just 14 made field goals for the entire game.

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On the other side of the ball, the combination of Houston’s veteran guard play and its offensive rebounding prowess should be able to generate enough points to get the cover.

DeJon Jarreau’s health (hip pointer) was in question heading into Saturday’s game, but he looked very comfortable on the floor against Syracuse. He showed how valuable he is to this team in the win over the Orange, playing lockdown defense on Buddy Boeheim and also tallying nine points, eight rebounds, and eight assists.

The Beavers’ run to the Elite Eight has been one of the best storylines of this year’s tournament, but it’s very tough to see them getting past the Cougars.

With both a top-10 offensive and defensive efficiency ranking, Houston is far and away the most complete team Oregon State has seen in this tournament, and I like the Cougars to cruise.

Pick: Houston -7.5 (Play to -8)

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#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston

By Kyle Remillard

Pick Houston -7.5
Tipoff 7:15 p.m. ET

Oregon State has rolled to the Elite Eight through its zone defense and hot outside shooting.

Houston just prepped for this same situation against Syracuse, and the Cougars dismantled the Orange on both ends of the court. I anticipate Houston to do the same against the Beavers tonight.

Houston owns the eighth-best offensive and sixth-best defensive efficiency rating in the country. It ranks No. 1 in the nation in effective field goal percentage, holding opponents to 42.9% from the field.

The Cougars make life tough on the outside, where opponents hit just 29.0% of their 3-point attempts. It’s even tougher in the paint, as they rank seventh in the country in block percentage. The Cougars can close out extremely well on shooters and take away any air space the spot shooters need to get off clean looks.

This defense is the real deal and held Syracuse — a team that is heavily reliant on outside shooting like Oregon State — to just 46 points.

More impressively, Houston held the Orange to just 28.0% from the field for the entire game. In the three games the Cougars have played in the tournament, they’ve allowed an average of 54.0 points per contest.

I’m laying the points with the Cougars, who I fully expect to get it done again on the defensive end while holding Oregon State in the 50s tonight.

Pick: Houston -7.5 (Play to -8)

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#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston

By BJ Cunningham

Pick Houston -8
Tipoff 7:15 p.m. ET

I think the Beavers’ amazing run ends tonight against Houston.

The Cougars showed how good of a defensive team they are against Syracuse in the Sweet 16, holding the Orange to 46 points and only 0.72 points per possession.

The Cougars are one of the most balanced teams in the nation, ranking inside the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

Despite their run in the tournament, Oregon State’s offense hasn’t been that efficient, as it’s averaging only 1.05 points per possession in the NCAA Tournament. Its biggest problem all season has been the fact that it struggles to score inside. The Beavers averaged only 46.8% from inside the arc for the season and shot only 42% 2-point range against Loyola Chicago.

That’s going to be a problem since Houston is eighth nationally in 2-point defense and allows only 53% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.


Ethan Thompson has handled most of the scoring load for Oregon State, but he’s going to have a really difficult time against DeJon Jarreau, who is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. He shut down Buddy Boehiem in the Sweet 16, holding him to 12 points and only 3-of-13 shooting from the field. If Thompson can’t get going, it’s going to be a long night for Oregon State.

The Cougars are going to have a massive advantage on the offensive glass in this game. Houston is second nationally in offensive rebound percentage, while Oregon State is 228th in defensive rebounding.

Oregon State is most likely going to play a 2-3 zone as it did against Loyola Chicago, but Houston will be ready for it after just playing Syracuse.

I have Houston projected as a -9.07 favorite, so I think there’s a little bit of value on the Cougars at -8 or better.

Pick: Houston -8

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#12 Oregon State vs. #2 Houston

By Mike Calabrese

Pick Double Result (+500)
Tipoff 7:15 p.m. ET

The double result remains one of my favorite bets because it really embraces the idea of truly predicting the flow of a game end to end. Plus, the payouts offered are incredibly lucrative, and if you decide to play a combination of an underdog leading at half before wilting in the second half, the hedge opportunities are plentiful.

As for this double result, there are two trends that make this play decidedly realistic.

During Oregon State’s run, dating back to the Pac-12 Tournament, it’s led at the break in five straight games. It has also allowed its opponents to get within a single possession in the final 10 minutes in all but one of those games.

Aside from the Tennessee runaway in the Round of 64, this exact play has been within reach in nearly every game the Beavers have played during this run.

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Then, you have Houston’s slow starts. A sluggish opening 15 minutes against Cleveland State saw the Cougars up just five in the closing minutes of the first half. They followed that up by trailing Rutgers at halftime in the Round of 32 before orchestrating a memorable second-half comeback.

A red-hot first-half team against a defensive-minded squad that has been slow out of the blocks in this tournament? Color me intrigued.

And the final element of this play is the total. In games with higher projected totals, the likelihood of the underdog’s small lead evaporating in the second half are not as likely as they are in low-scoring affairs. Low-scoring games are made for double-results.

This play isn’t for the faint of heart and can feel like you’re threading a gambling needle, but at 5-1, the narrative of a Cinderella grabbing an early lead before falling just short doesn’t seem so outlandish vis-a-vis the odds.

You don’t have to dig too deep to find an instance of this paying off handsomely in this very tournament (ORU-Arkansas at +750).

Pick: Double Result +500 (Play to +450)

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#3 Arkansas vs. #1 Baylor

By Collin Wilson

Pick Over 148
Tipoff 9:57 p.m. ET

The biggest question heading into the tournament for Baylor was whether or not its defensive efficiency would return.

Hartford, Wisconsin and Villanova each had fewer points per possession than the Bears’ season average of opponents, signifying the return of the defense.

Head coach Scott Drew has a similar no-middle defense to Chris Beard of Texas Tech, a look that made Arkansas struggle to hit jumpers in the Round of 32.

The Bears can be had on the perimeter and at the rim, but Arkansas’ first half struggles have been associated with a lack of attack on the rim. The TV timeout live-betting bonanza on the Hogs will continue through the Elite Eight.


As for the Bears offensively, the small lineup of four guards — Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, Mario Teague, Adam Flagler — is causing havoc on opposing defenses. Each player specializes in hitting 3-pointers and attacking the rim.

For Arkansas to stay in this game, each one of its guards must play excellent defense. JD Notae is 73rd in the country in steal rate, while Jalen Tate and Moses Moody both stand at 6-foot-6 and provide enough length to disrupt shots. The MVP of Arkansas’ tournament run is Davonte Davis, as the freshman will need his peers to assist in the defensive efforts.

The Bears’ pace has been slower over their last few games against Wisconsin, Villanova and a Big 12 slate that ended with Kansas State and West Virginia. The slow tempo is a result of their opponents, as Baylor is still top-100 in offensive tempo.

Arkansas lives to play the game in transition, making this game a prime candidate for quick scores. The Hogs did improve perimeter defense and disrupt shots against Oral Roberts, but the five-game moving average suggests Baylor will have plenty of open looks in the Elite Eight.

Pick: Over 148 (Play to 150)

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