(2) Houston vs (12) Oregon State
Line: Houston –8
Time: Monday 7:15 PM
The Elite Eight is a national stage that the Houston Cougars will use to show off their elite defense. On a path to the Final Four that will be achieved by only playing double-digit seeds, detractors will say that the Cougars still have a lot to prove. Shutting the Oregan State ducks down and crippling their offense will go some way, their last Quad 1 win prior to the tournament was in November against Texas Tech. Although Quentin Grimes leads the team with 18 points per game and is backed up by Marcus Sasser, Dejon Jarreau, and Justin Gorham, their defense remains the most frightening part of Houston. By limiting opponents to 29 percent from three and 42.6 percent from inside the arc, the Cougars will always be capable of a win. In this matchup against Oregon State, they will need to be stifling on defense to put out a Beavers team that is on fire.
Oregon State is a 12 seed, the highest seed left in the tournament, and have had a significantly more difficult run to the Elite Eight than Houston. After dispatching 5-seed Tennesse, outscoring Oklahoma State, and executing better than Loyola Chicago, the Beavers have shown that they have what it takes to defeat a variety of different programs. Although they typically play slow, Oregon State can attack from different angles while maintaining a stingy defense that is only allowing 30.4 percent of opponents’ three-point attempts. Led by All Pac-12 senior guard Ethan Thompson, who is averaging more than 20 points and seven rebounds in the NCAA tournament, the Beavers can also rely on Warith Alatishe for some offensive rebounds and Jarod Lucas for shots from deep. Oregon State will be relying on competitive rebounding and an incredible Thompson performance to go further.
(1) Baylor vs (3) Arkansas
Line: Baylor –7.5
Time: 9:57 PM
This Elite Eight match-up is showcasing two elite offenses who love to get up and down the floor. The Baylor Bears look closer and closer to the mid-season form the country saw to start this season. They have yet to put together a full game but they show stretches of brilliance both offensively and defensively. They were in a tightly fought game with Villanova until there were about 8 minutes left and they ramped up the defensive intensity. The 3-ball was not falling so they started forcing live-ball turnovers and scoring in transition which they do so well. Davion Mitchell may be the best on-ball defender in the country and can take anyone off the dribble on offense. Baylor will likely enter this game plan searching for 3-point shots and trying to turn over the Razorbacks to create easy baskets.
Arkansas is faced with a tough task entering this game. They are coming off a thrilling last-second victory over Oral Roberts and have to quickly shift focus to one of the best teams in the country. In their Sweet Sixteen match-up, it took them most of the game to find a defensive scheme that would work. Coach Musselman said that the game planned an A, B, and C coverage and ended up needing an option D to beat Oral Roberts. They will not have that luxury against Baylor as they only have a day to prepare their players and if they let them get out to a lead early, they may never catch up. The Razorbacks will need their balanced scoring attack led by freshman Moses Moody to show up in a big way to win this game. If they can defend the 3-point line well and limit and live-ball turnovers they will have a good chance to win.