Houston guard Quentin Grimes, left, celebrates his 3-point basket with Fabian White Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Florida, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
- The Houston Cougars are the first team to advance to the 2021 Final Four
- Houston survived a late scare against Oregon State after squandering all of a 17-point halftime lead
- The Cougars will face the winner of Arkansas vs Baylor on Saturday, April 3
It was closer than it should have been, but ultimately, the #2 Houston Cougars punched their ticket to the Final Four with a 67-61 win over upstart #12 Oregon State in the Elite Eight. They are into the FInal Four for the first time since 1984 and are still in the running to win their first-ever national championship.
Houston entered the day as just the fourth-favorite of the final eight teams, sitting at +625 on average. After the win, they moved to +400 at the first books to re-open their NCAA Tournament odds.
Odds below are from FanDuel
2021 NCAA Tournament Title Odds
|Team||Odds at FanDuel|
Odds as of March 29.
March Madness Final Four Odds Tracker
The Cougars Looked Great … Until They Didn’t
Houston took a 34-17 lead into halftime against Oregon State. They dominated right from the opening tip and were getting balanced production. Their first six baskets came from five different players.
But the second half was a different story, especially on defense. Oregon State made solid adjustments and got cleaner looks, racking up 44 second-half points. With 3:48 to play, a Gianni Hunt three-pointer knotted the score at 55.
That’s when senior leader Quentin Grimes stepped up. On the following possession, Fabian White Jr grabbed an offensive board – something the Cougars do better than all but one team in the nation (UNC) – and Grimes nailed a three to give Houston a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Up next for the Cougars is either #1 Baylor or #3 Arkansas. At the time of writing Baylor holds a 15-point lead late in the first half. Safe to assume Houston is getting Scott Drew’s Bears.
Beating Baylor is all about harassing their sharpshooters and limiting second-chance points. Baylor lives and dies by the three. They shoot 40.8% from beyond the arc as a team, second in Division I, and get 36.1% of their points from threes (50th-most out of 357 teams). Luckily for Houston, Baylor struggles at what Houston does best: rebound.
Baylor is just 265th in defensive rebounding rate (i.e. preventing opponents from getting offensive rebounds). Their defense allows offensive rebounds on 30.3% of possessions. As mentioned, Houston is tenacious on the offensive glass. They scooped up 19 offensive rebounds against Oregon State and wound up with 15 more field-goal attempts as a result (62 to 47).
If they can grab their own misses at that rate against Baylor, a team that’s worse at limiting offensive rebounds than Oregon State, they will have a recipe for pulling a small upset against the Bears.
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Sascha was a hockey player in his youth, a lawyer in his capricious mid-20s, and has now been an assigning editor, writer, and lead oddsmaker for SBD for over five years. He covers everything you can possibly put odds on, but specializes in football, baseball, hockey, and basketball.