Syracuse’s confounding 2-3 zone defense was mere child’s play to Houston, where nifty underdog stories go to crawl in a corner and expire.
So Oregon State’s fairytale run is in for some trouble in this Elite Eight game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
On the other end, in particular, DeJon Jarreau was masterful in limiting Orange hot-shot assassin Buddy Boeheim, who made only one 3-pointer against the Cougars in the Sweet 16.
There are many reasons why Houston has gotten this far and will go farther, why the stardust stops falling on Oregon State this evening.
- Houston (27-3) -8 vs. Oregon State (20-12), Total 129, Monday, 7:15 pm ET
- Action: Houston -8
In stats guru Ken Pomeroy’s magnificent databases, Houston is one of three teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament that possesses top-20 ratings in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies.
The others are Gonzaga and Michigan. That’s significant, since that’s the footprint of all but one NCAA championship basketball team over the past 20 years.
In college basketball betting patterns, both of the Cougars’ games in the NCAAs have finished Under (at 123 and 108 total points).
The fairytale Beavers have covered 13 of their past 14 games, and only one of those was as a (slim) favorite. In fact, their past six games have been of the elimination variety, and they’ve won them all.
A $100 moneyline bet on Oregon State in the first of those six games, and rolled over in its subsequent five games—reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal—would have become $250,000 after its victory over Loyola Chicago on Saturday.
The fantasy run crashes to a halt, however, against a Houston team that has limited three NCAA Tournament foes to 38.9% inside the arc and an average of 54 points.
Syracuse’s defense is pesky, but the Cougars handled it. Jarreau’s stellar defensive effort showed this team has its priorities, thanks to veteran coach Kelvin Sampson. This could be the best defense in the country.
“We spent more time defensively, taking away the 3-point line. That’s not easy to do,” Sampson said after the Syracuse game.
No matter what defense an opponent shows Houston, its own defense is key to stifling the other guys and winning games.
“You say go out there and stop somebody,” said Sampson, “you’ve got to have clear responsibilities and great communication, and you can’t get hit by screens.”
Grimes & Co.
Quentin Grimes, the 6-foot-5 junior from The Woodlands, Texas, has been the Cougars’ offensive rudder, with 12 consecutive double-digit scoring games.
In the NCAAs, he has 54 points. He’s averaged nearly 10 3-point attempts in the three games, averaging about four, and has snatched 17 rebounds.
Most impressive, Grimes has logged all but 13 of the possible 120 minutes. This is the Ironman of the Cougars, whom Jarreau, Justin Gorham, Tramon Mark and Marcus Sasser complement so well.
And where they work best is with their backs to the basket, on defense. They are stifling, as their 3-point and 2-point defenses are both top-10 in the country.
Oregon State has made 44.3% of its 2-point shots in the NCAAs, and that figures to be poorer against the Cougars’ clampdown style.
The Beavers hit free throws better (77.1% to 73.7%) than the Cougars, but Oregon State’s poor 2-point defense will be its undoing.
According to KenPom figures, the Beavers are the luckiest team (at +.083, 28th in college hoops) left in the NCAAs. That good fortune, though, runs out against Houston.