|-7.5 HOU (-105) @ sportsinteraction|
My 10* signature 37-Club is on Houston at 7:15 ET.
No one should have been surprised by what Kelvin Sampson has done at Houston, after successful stops at Washington St, Oklahoma and Indiana. His first Houston team went 13-19 (2014-15) but FIVE straight 20-win seasons followed. The Cougars won 27 (2017-18) and 33 (2018-19) games, before going 23-8 in last season's pandemic shortened one. Houston took another step forward this season by winning the AAC tourney with a blowout 91-54 victory over Cincinnati, after losing the previous two seasons in the title game to the Bearcats. 24-3 Houston entered the "Big Dance" ranked No. 6 in the nation (AP poll) while earning a No. 2 seed. The Cougars are now playing for a chance to advance to the Final 4 for the first time since making THREE consecutive appearances from 1982-84 when it reached its pinnacle under coach Guy Lewis.
Standing in Houston's way is the Pac 12's Oregon St Beavers, the lowest-seed (No. 12) left among Elite 8 teams. Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle lost his son Tres (18.5 & 6.8) and center Kelley (11.1 PPG / 5.3 RPG / 3.5 BPG) from last year's team and not much was expected from the Beavers. Oregon St was just 11-11 (7-9 in Pac 12) by late-February but the Beavers won three straight on the road (at Cal, Stanford and Utah), before losing their regular season finale to Oregon, which avenged an earlier loss at home to Oregon St. Oregon St then beat UCLA, Oregon and Colorado (all as underdogs) to win the Pac 12 tourney and advance to the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. THREE straight wins (all as underdogs) over No. 5 Tennessee, No. 4 Oklahoma St and No. 8 Loyola-Chicago have followed in the "Big Dance," as the Ducks have reached the Elite 8 for the first time since the 1982 team did so (that appearance was later vacated). Oregon State last reached the Final Four in 1963!
OSU is led by guard Thompson (15.9-3.9-3.8) and fellow guard Lucas (12.9) is the only other double digit scorer. That duo is joined in the starting lineup by fellow guard Reichle (7.4) plus up front by the 6-7 Alatishe (9.6 & 8.7) and the 7-1 Silva (5.7 & 2.9). Thompson has averaged 20.3 & 7.0 and Lucas 12.3 in the Ducks' three NCAA wins, Up front, Alatishe has averaged just 6.7 PPG but also 10.7 RPG, while Silva has upped his game to average 9.0 & 6.7 in the Big Dance. The 6-10 Calloo (5.5 & 2.3 on the season), scored 15 points vs Loyola and is averaging 9.0 PPG in OSU's three NCAA wins.
A trio of Houston guards lead the way in Grimes (18.0 & 6.0), Sasser (13.3) and Jarreau (10.8-5.4-4.3), while freshman Mark (8.2 & 3.1) adds depth. The best frontcourt player is the 6-7 Gorham (8.6 & 8.6). However, Houston has won with its defense, allowing 57.6 PPG during the regular season, on 37.0% shooting, including 27.4% on threes. Grimes was the American Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year, guard Jarreau (Defensive Player of the Year) and forward Gorham (Most Improved Player).
Houston has benefited from a fortunate draw, opening with a No. 15 seed (Cleveland St), then drawing No. 10 Rutgers and No. 11 Syracuse. Now, it's the 12th-seed Beavers, although Oregon St hardly is playing like a double digit seed this tourney (same with UCLA). That said, Houston will be the first team ever to play four double-digit seeds in a single tournament. Then again, a team meets the opponent which advances. That Houston defense has been DOMINANT, allowing its three opponents to average only 54.0 PPG on 36.8% shooting, including 33.3% on threes. Just ask Jim Boeheim about Houston's D. Syracuse came in off back-to-back wins in which the Orange had shot 53.5% overall (50.0% on threes) but was 14-50 (28.0%), including 5-23 (21,7%) on threes against the Cougars. Oregon St enters this game off SIX consecutive upset wins (obviously, 6-0 ATS) but the Beavers' run ENDs here, as Houston wins "with room to spare!"