NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Game Preview: Houston Cougars vs. Oregon State Beavers

Mar 29, 2021 - 1:59 PM

Half of me is in utter disbelief that Oregon State is in the Elite 8. The other half admires the grit this team has shown to get here. Either way, they’ve made it this far. And while there may be a handful of luck in their tournament recipe to success, it’s hard to say they haven’t earned it.

Houston has had one of the easiest tournaments so far, facing a 15, 10, and 11-seed respectfully. They get to face another double-digit seed in Oregon State, but winning is winning, so it’s not as if you can critique them for doing just that. The Cougars’ defense has shown up, not even giving Syracuse a chance, as Houston was in control the entire game.  

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One team was expected to be in this position, while another team is a complete surprise. I know I said Oregon State had earned its spot, but I have to mention the luck involved. In the three NCAA tournament games they have played in, opponents have averaged 22.8% from beyond-the-arc while the Beavers have shot 38.7%. You can make the argument that Oregon State’s perimeter defense is solid, but 22.8% is meager. Shot Quality (@Shot_Quality) is a Twitter account analyzing expected game outcomes based on all of the teams’ shots taken throughout a game. Oregon State was given an 8% chance of beating Loyola-Chicago based on shots both teams shot and less than a 1% of winning all three tournament games. The Beavers are truly a walking miracle.

Houston has had some luck on their own, but they proved their worthiness of reaching the Elite 8 in their drubbing over Syracuse. If you are looking for a three-point defense to slow down the Beavers’ prolific scoring – the Cougars are your team. Houston ranks 8th in the country at 3pt% defense, limiting opponents to just a 29.0% clip from downtown. They rebound aggressively and should win the board battle in this game, despite a slight size disadvantage. Houston is also great at limiting opponents’ transition points and second chance opportunities while taking advantage of second-chance points on offense.


  • Houston is 5-2 ATS in neutral site games 
  • Houston is 19-9 ATS as a favorite
  • Oregon State is 6-0 ATS in neutral site games
  • Oregon State is 5-0 ATS vs. ranked opponents 
  • Oregon State is 16-5 ATS as an underdog
  • The over is 0-4 in games where Houston only had one day off

Bottom Line

Despite Oregon State needing a lot of luck to make it this far, they’re playing with not just a chip on their shoulder, but an entire Lays bag. This team isn’t content reaching the Elite 8 and only has one thing on their mind – winning it all.

The Beavers also match up surprisingly well with Houston. The Cougars’ weak spot is their constant fouling – nearly a quarter of opponents’ points comes from the charity stripe, which ranks 5th highest in all of college basketball. In Oregon State’s first-round game, they made it to the free-throw line for 35 attempts. Against Houston, they might be able to score 40 points from the foul-line, and that’s not an exaggeration. Many of their scoring already comes from the charity stripe, and Houston will just add gas to that fire.

Furthermore, where the Beavers shine on defense is from the perimeter, limiting opponents to 30.4% shooting from beyond-the-arc. This is where Houston does 35.4% of their scoring (58th highest), so the Cougars will need to find a way inside the paint to put some points on the board.

The way I imagine this game to go is that Houston will get into foul trouble early, forcing Kelvin Sampson to sit his starters. It will be a plodding game with plenty of whistles, and Oregon State will get out to an early lead that they will take with them into halftime. But second-half adjustments will give the Cougars new life and force the Beavers to go on a scoring drought. This game will come down to the wire, but I expect Houston to advance, earning a Final Four birth.

Pick: Oregon State +8

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Ryan Coleman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive.

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