Houston (-8) vs Oregon State

Oregon State’s Cinderella run continued last Saturday with a 7-point victory over first-seeded Loyola Chicago. The game, which was scoreless, came down to defense. Loyola got out of the game, but the support came from a stifling Beaver defense that held the Ramblers to just 33% shooting, including 21.7% from beyond the arc. Oregon State was not an elite team offensively either, but senior guard Ethan Thompson made a strong showing and led all players with 22 points, including a perfect 8-8 on charity shots. Nicholls State transfer Warit Alatish also contributed with a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Outside of those two, Oregon State spread the love with nine different players scoring.

Speaking of defense: The Houston Cougars continued their dominant streak this week, with a 62-46 Orange choke at No. 1. 11 Syracuse, a team that is averaging 72.8 points per game during the 2020-21 season. Houston left much to be desired offensively, allowing just 7-26 three-point shots. They also struggled at the free throw line, shooting just 64.3% on 14 free throw attempts. The surprising difference in this game was Houston’s ability to pound the boards, especially on their own half. The Cougars grabbed 36.7 percent of the available offensive rebounds, while Syracuse grabbed just 15.4 percent. Houston had done the same in its previous two tournament games against Rutgers (40%) and Cleveland (51.7%).

This bet, for me, is a bet on time. Oregon State got hot at just the right time. Their defense is playing at an unusually high level. I’d call it luck if they didn’t do that consistently all season, holding their last five opponents to 70 points or less. On the other hand, Houston has scored just 63 and 62 points in its last two games of the tournament, against Syracuse and Rutgers, respectively. I think Houston will have a hard time scoring against this Oregon State team. Ethan Thompson needs to keep his momentum going (20.3 PPG in the tournament) and the Beavers need to limit Houston’s second chance points, but this is a winnable game for the Beavers. There is at least a good chance Oregon State’s streak will end tonight, but this game could be much closer than expected. Eight points is too much for me in this situation. Oregon State has won six consecutive games as an underdog in this contest. I chose them over Loyola and I won’t make that mistake again. I’m the hot hand.

@IowaZach Opinion: Oregon State +8

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