NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: Monday's Elite Eight Winners and Losers

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2021

NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: Monday's Elite Eight Winners and Losers

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The conclusion of the 2021 men's NCAA tournament will have a Texas feel. On Monday night, both the Houston Cougars and Baylor Bears punched their tickets to the Final Four.

    No. 2 seed Houston survived a surge by the No. 12 Oregon State Beavers, who recovered from a 17-point halftime deficit to even the score in the second half. The Cougars, however, leaned on their backcourt to earn a 67-61 victory and win the Midwest Region.

    In the nightcap, No. 1 seed Baylor cruised to an early lead against No. 3 Arkansas and held off a late charge for an 81-72 win. The Bears secured the program's first trip to the Final Four in 71 years.

    Since the objective winners and losers were clear, these selections are based on details of the game and milestones.

Winner: Houston Backcourt

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    While the frontcourt had a clear impact in Houston's winmore on that shortlythe perimeter group carried the scoring load.

    Marcus Sasser netted a game-best 20 points, hitting five threes and committing zero turnovers. DeJon Jarreau, who injured his hip in the first round, flirted with a triple-double. He collected 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

    And down the stretch, star guard Quentin Grimes came up huge.

    During the last six minutes, the Kansas transfer scored 10 of his 18 pointsincluding a tiebreaking three with 3:22 left. Houston did not trail again. He drained four triples, dished four assists and had zero giveaways.

Loser: Oregon State's Defensive Rebounding

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Oregon State knew it needed to contain one of the nation's best offensive rebounding teams, but it didn't.

    Led by Justin Gorham and Fabian White Jr. with five apiece, Houston corralled 19 offensive boards. Seven players grabbed at least one of the Cougars' misses, and they turned the second-chance opportunities into 19 points.

    As a result, Houston won the rebounding battle 41-29 and attempted 15 more shots than Oregon State. That's a major disparity, particularly for a slow-tempo team like the Beavers.

    They actually did a terrific job on the other end, accruing 15 second-chance points from just seven offensive rebounds. But the inability to limit Houston to one shot crushed OSU's chances.

Winner: Kelvin Sampson in Milestone Game

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Including his four-year stint with Montana Tech in the 1980s, Monday marked the 1,000th game of Kelvin Sampson's career.

    And there are worse ways to celebrate a milestone than clinching a spot on the sport's coveted stage.

    From a program perspective, Houston sealed its first trip to the Final Four since Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and the beloved Phi Slama Jama teams of the 1980s. That alone has guaranteed Sampson a place in school history.

    Sampson, though, is eyeing a personal first.

    While he led Oklahoma to the Final Four in 2002, the Sooners lost to Indiana—the program he coached five years later—in the national semifinals. Sampson is seeking his first career appearance in the championship game, and Houston's road runs through Baylor.

Loser: Free-Throw Line Fails Oregon State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Entering the night, the Beavers ranked 29th nationally with a 76.8 free-throw percentage. They picked a terrible moment to have a poor showing at the charity stripe.

    Oregon State finished 11-of-20 at the line, which included a 1-of-6 mark in the opening half. While it's unfair to say that shortcoming was anything more than a piece of the problem, the early struggles contributed to the 17-point halftime deficit.

    To their credit, the Beavs fought back anyway.

    Still, they trudged to a 55 percent clip at the free-throw line, which was their second-worst performance of the season.

Winner: Baylor Capitalizing on Arkansas' Slow Start

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    In its three previous NCAA tournament games, Arkansas recovered from double-digit deficits to win. The first part of the trend continued Monday, as Baylor held an 18-point lead within the first nine minutes.

    The Bears, however, made certain the Razorbacks ran out of magic.

    MaCio Teague poured in a game-high 22 points. Davion Mitchell showed off his explosiveness in a 12-point, six-assist performance, while Jared Butler provided 14 points and five assists. Adam Flagler chipped in 10 points, four steals and three assists off the bench.

    Arkansas narrowed the gap, but spotting Baylorthe No. 2 team in the nation for most of the seasonthat huge advantage went about as well as you'd expect.

Loser: Arkansas' Offensive Execution

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Though the Razorbacks did well on the offensive glass, they otherwise struggled to score.

    Arkansas committed 15 turnovers, including six by Jalen Tate and three each by Moses Moody and JD Notae. In the first half alone, Baylor scored 14 points on 10 takeaways—and finished with 21 on 15.

    Worse yet, though, the Razorbacks' key players couldn't atone for those ball-security woes.

    Moody, a potential first-round NBA draft pick, mustered a 2-of-10 shooting night and missed all four of his three-point attempts. Notae fouled out with nearly 14 minutes to play. Their respective issues led to Arkansas' 3-of-11 performance from the perimeter.

    The Hogs simply didn't have enough offense to keep up with the Bears.

Winner: MaCio Teague's Clutch Finish

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    As the clock ticked below 10 minutes to play in the second half, Arkansas climbed within four points. The Razorbacks had a shot to continue their epic streak of double-digit comebacks.

    MaCio Teague saved the day for Baylor.

    First, he stalled that 10-2 Arkansas run with a pair of free throws. With under five minutes to play, he knocked down three-pointers on consecutive possessions to give Baylor an 11-point edge. For good measure, Teague grabbed a defensive rebound that led to Mark Vital's emphatic putback slam.

    All-American guards Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell often overshadow Teague, who had totaled just 14 points in the last two games. Monday provided a clear reminder of his value.

    Along with his game-best 22 points, Teague added five rebounds and two blocks with zero turnovers.