Houston (-8) vs. Oregon State
Oregon State’s Cinderella run continued this past Saturday with a seven-point win over fan-favorite Loyola-Chicago. The low-scoring affair was all about the defense. Loyola was off their game, but props are due to the Beavers’ smothering defense, who held the Ramblers to just 33% shooting including 21.7% from behind the arc. Oregon State was certainly not elite on offense either, but senior guard Ethan Thompson stepped up, leading all scorers with 22 points, including a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe. Nicholls State transfer Warith Alatishe did his part as well by recording a ten-point, 11-rebound double-double. Outside of those two, Oregon State spread the love, with nine different players scoring.
Speaking of defense, the Houston Cougars’ sixth-ranked defense (per KenPom) continued their dominant streak this week with a 62-46 throttling of the No. 11 Syracuse Orange, a team that averaged 72.8 points/game during their 2020-21 campaign. Houston left something to be desired on the offensive side of the ball, going just 7-26 from three-point range. They also struggled from the free-throw line, shooting just 64.3% on 14 free-throws attempts. The staggering difference in this game was Houston’s ability to crash the boards, especially on their own end. The Cougars hauled in 36.7% of available offensive rebounds compared to just 15.4% by Syracuse. Houston did the same thing in their previous two tournament matchups against Rutgers (40%) and Cleaveland State (51.7%).
This bet for me is a timing bet. Oregon State got hot at the right time. Their defense is playing at an uncharacteristically high level. I would consider this fluky had they not done it consistently throughout the end of the season, holding their last five opponents to 70 points or fewer. On the other hand, Houston has scored only 63 and 62 points in their last two tournament matchups against Syracuse and Rutgers, respectively. I think Houston could struggle to score points against this hot Oregon State team. Ethan Thompson will need to continue his hot streak (20.3 PPG in the tournament), and the Beavers will need to limit Houston’s second-chance points, but this is a winnable game for the Beavers. In the end, there is a good chance Oregon State’s run ends tonight, but this game could be much closer than anticipated. Eight points is just too much for me to give in this situation. Oregon State has covered (and won outright) six straight games as underdogs coming into this matchup. I picked against them versus Loyola and I’m not making that mistake again. I’m riding the hot hand.
@IowaZach Pick: Oregon State +8
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