Oregon State becomes the second No.12 seed to ever make the Elite Eight. With one more win they will be the first 12 seed to make the Final Four. In the Elite Eight, Oregon State will face the two seeded Houston Cougars. Houston and Oregon State have played fantastic defense this NCAA Tournament. Both teams have talented scorers that can shoot from three. Some keys to the game includes offensive droughts and offensive rebounding.
First off, Houston’s offensive drought must end. The Cougars have shot only 37.8% in their last two games. Fortunately for Houston, they have one of the best defenses in college basketball. However, Oregon State is also playing lights out defense by holding opponents to 31.3% in March Madness. Defense alone will not earn Houston a Final Four birth. Oregon State has shown it can win a slow-paced defensive game, as seen in their Sweet Sixteen victory against Loyola-Chicago. Therefore, Houston must shoot 40% or better in Monday night’s clash with Oregon State.
In addition, Houston needs another great defensive effort against Oregon State. It is unlikely Houston comes out and shoots 50% or better against a good defense in Oregon State. In turn, Houston will have to lean on good defense yet again. After all, Houston’s identity is playing tough defense.
One area Houston will need to key on is Oregon State’s three point shooting. Oregon State shot 38.5% from three against possibly the best or second best defensive team around in Loyola-Chicago. Considering Loyola-Chicago typically holds opponents to roughly 32% from three, Oregon State’s 38.5% from three is good. Oregon State has two sharp-shooters in Jarod Lucas and Maurice Calloo. Lucas shoots 38.9% from three and Calloo is 41.6% from three. With Lucas and Calloo in mind, Houston needs to chase Oregon State off the three point line. Coming off their Sweet Sixteen win against Syracuse, Houston held Syracuse to only 21.7% from three. Also, this was a Syracuse team shooting 50% from three in the NCAA Tournament. Houston clearly has the ability to stop Oregon State’s three point shooting.
Oregon State’s Keys
For Oregon State, their star player Ethan Thompson needs another big game. Thompson is their lead-scorer averaging 15.8 points. In his last two, Thompson is averaging 24 points. In addition, Thompson shot 6/13 with 22 points against a great defensive team in Loyola-Chicago. However, Thompson will have a challenge against Houston. Buddy Boeheim of Syracuse was averaging 28.3 points while shooting 60% and 55.8% from three in his four games before Houston. Against Houston, Boeheim only shot 3/13 and 1/9 from three with 12 points. Houston has a knack for stopping blazing-hot scorers. Surely, Houston will key on Thompson. If Thompson can torch Houston’s defense, Oregon State will likely win.
Furthermore, Houston is one of the premier offensive rebounding teams in college basketball. Houston is averaging over 14 offensive rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament. Even with their offensive struggles, Houston beat Rutgers and Syracuse partly due to offensive rebounding. Against Loyola-Chicago, Oregon State gave up a troubling 14 offensive rebounds. Oregon State has been so good defensively, but it is all for nothing if they allow Houston to eat them alive on the offensive glass. Therefore, Oregon State has to have a good effort on the defensive glass versus Houston. If Houston is cold against Oregon State and does not get many offensive rebounds, Oregon State will probably win.
Players to Watch
For Houston, Quentin Grimes is the star of the show averaging 18 points per game. In the NCAA Tournament, Grimes is averaging exactly 18 points. Grimes is capable of being a knockdown shooter and must be accounted for.
Also, Justin Gorham is Houston’s lead-rebounder averaging 8.6 boards per game. Gorham is coming off a big 13 point and 10 rebound performance against Syracuse. Gorham is the best offensive-rebounder for Houston , he had four offensive rebounds against Syracuse.
One interesting matchup to watch will be Thompson guarded by Dejon Jarreau. Jarreau was Boeheim’s primary defender and did a fantastic job. Often, Jarreau gave Boeheim absolutely no space to get any shot off. Thompson is about the same size as Boeheim, and Houston will probably put Jarreau on Thompson. If Thompson has a rough night, it will be due to Jarreau’s defense.
Warith Alatishe is Oregon State’s lead-rebounder. Alatishe could be a huge factor in slowing down Houston’s offensive rebounding. Alatishe is coming off a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. He is a very athletic forward that can sky for rebounds. The rebounding battle between Houston’s Gorham and Oregon State’s Alatishe will be huge.
Houston opens as a 7.5 point favorite against Oregon State. With Houston’s recent offensive struggles, Oregon State has a good chance. Especially when considering Oregon State’s recent defense. Ultimately, this should come down to Houston’s shooting. Houston has some talented guards, but they have not been efficient recently. Marcus Sasser is one wildcard for Houston. He is capable of erupting with 20-30 points, but he has been wildly inconsistent recently.
Oregon State allowed too many offensive rebounds versus Loyola-Chicago. Also, Jarreau could stop Thompson’s hot-streak. This should be a very good Elite Eight game. However, Houston is the better defensive team and this should prevail. Houston against Oregon State tips Monday at 7:15 p.m. on CBS.
Prediction: 67-62 Houston
All stats courtesy of ESPN and Team Rankings.