The 2021 NCAA Championship Elite Eight will tip off Monday night with the Midwest Region showdown between the No. 12 Oregon State Beavers and No. 2 Houston Cougars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, so here’s the best betting pick along with the latest odds update on William Hill Sportsbook.
These two schools will meet each other for the first time since 2009 when the Beavers defeated the Cougars as 1-point underdogs in the first round of the CBI Tournament, 49-45. This time, the Cougars are firm 8-point favorites with a total of 130.5 points.
Oregon State continues to impress
The Oregon State Beavers are on a six-game winning streak following a 65-58 victory over the No. 8 Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16. During their terrific run, the Beavers beat some heavyweight teams, playing as underdogs of 5.5 or more points on all six occasions.
Oregon State put on a strong performance last Saturday, dominating the Ramblers for most of the game. The Beavers executed well offensively against one of the best defensive teams in the country while holding their rivals to 33.3% shooting from the field.
Senior guard Ethan Thompson racked up 22 points and four assists against Loyola after dropping 26 points on the No. 4 Oklahoma State in the Midwest Region Second Round. He’s averaging 15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game, while sophomore guard Jarod Lucas is adding 12.9 points a night.
The Beavers are scoring 111.7 points per 100 possessions (35th in the nation) and yielding 95.7 in a return (63rd). They rank 89th in 3-point percentage (35.6%) and 19th in opponent 3-point percentage (29.8%).
Houston shut down Syracuse in the previous round
The Houston Cougars barely survived the second-round clash against the No. 10 Rutgers, escaping with a 63-60 victory as 7.5-point favorites. They improved drastically in the Sweet 16 matchup with the No. 11 Syracuse, tallying a 62-46 win and easily covering a 6.5-point spread.
It was another top-notch defensive performance by Kelvin Sampson’s boys who limited the Orange to just 28.0% shooting from the field and 21.7% from beyond the arc. They led by as many as 17 points, but the Cougars haven’t impressed offensively, making only 38.3% of their field goals and 26.9% of their 3-pointers.
Junior guard Quentin Grimes leads the way for the Cougars, averaging 18.0 points and 6.0 boards on the season. He had 14 points and four rebounds against the Orange, while sophomore guard Marcus Sasser (13.3 PPG, 2.3 APG) added 12 points and four steals.
The Cougars own the sixth-best defensive rating (88.2) and the eighth-best offensive rating (118.5) in the nation. They rank first in opponent field goal percentage (37.0%) and third in opponent 3-point percentage (28.0%).
- 13-1 ATS in the last 14 games overall
- 6-0 ATS in the last six games as underdogs
- 4-7 ATS in the last 11 games as favorites of eight or fewer points
On paper, the Cougars are a better team than Oregon State, but the Beavers have improved a lot over the last few weeks and their confidence is sky-high after they’ve knocked off a bunch of tough teams during that span.
Houston possesses great depth and should win this game, but with eight points on the table, I’m backing Oregon State to cover. The Beavers will struggle to cope with the Cougars’ aggressive defense, but I’m not sure about Houston’s offense that has been quite unpredictable all season.
Pick: Take Oregon State +8.0 at -110
This should be a slow-paced contest, as both teams love to take their time. Houston records 64.7 possessions per 40 minutes (326th in the nation), while Oregon State tallies 65.6 (304th).
Therefore, I’m backing the under on the totals. The Cougars lean heavily on their defense, limiting their opponents below 61 points in five of their previous six outings. These two teams will combine for more than 130 points only if they enjoy a tremendous shooting night.
Pick: Go under 130.5 points at -110