Teams from the state of Texas have fared well in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, and the Longhorn State will represent half of the Final Four field after Baylor and Houston both won in the Elite Eight on Monday night. Baylor's 81-72 victory over Arkansas propelled the Bears to their first Final Four since 1950, while Houston's 67-61 win over Oregon State sent the Cougars there for the first time since 1984.
With the two now set to play each other on Saturday, the state of Texas is guaranteed to have a representative in the national title game next Monday night. Texas Tech, North Texas, Texas Southern and Abilene Christian also won games in the Big Dance, leaving the University of Texas as the only school from the state that failed to win a game.
Half the Final Four is set. Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander recap Monday night's action on the latest episode of Eye on College Basketball.
But as the tournament winds down, the Cougars and Bears are still dancing and still repping the football-crazed state on the hardwood. They are the obvious winners from Monday night's action, so here are some of the other storylines from the first two Elite Eight games on Monday.
Winner: Baylor's guards prove it again
Veteran guard play is a proven ingredient of championship teams, and it's the reason why Baylor is headed to the Final Four. The trio of Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague and Jared Butler combined for 48 points to carry the Bears on Monday. Throw in 10 points from redshirt sophomore Adam Flager, and the Bears' back court produced 58 points while making 7-of-12 3-point attempts.
Their collective performance sets up what should be an incredible Final Four matchup with Houston. The Cougars are one of the best defensive teams in the country, and are especially adept at limiting the 3-point makes of their opponents. Don't forget about Baylor's do-it-all forward Mark Vital, though. He doesn't always get the acclaim of the skilled guards, but he put the final exclamation mark on Monday's win with this vicious putback dunk.
Loser: JD Notae's swift demise
After scoring just 11 points over Arkansas' previous two games, JD Notae exploded for 12 in the first half on Monday. His contributions were vital for resurrecting the Razorbacks after they fell behind 29-11 early in the first half. But within four minutes of checking in for the second half, Notae fouled out. Considering the 6-foot-1 guard had just two fouls at halftime, his quick accumulation of three more was a stunning twist that halted some of Arkansas' momentum.
Winner: Oregon State is lovable even in defeat
It looked in the first half like the fun was finally over, like Oregon State was finally running out of gas and was going to get stomped after six straight do-or-die victories. But the Beavers put their resilience on full display once again Monday night as they roared back from a 17-point deficit to tie Houston at 55-all with 3:46 remaining.
The historic comeback bid fell short in the end, but even in defeat, Oregon State gave its supporters a reason to be proud. This was a special run for a long-dormant program, and the exit was a graceful one.
Loser: Free-throw shooting strikes again
A night after Alabama's 11-of-25 free-throw shooting performance cost it a chance to advance to the Elite Eight, Oregon State struggled at the charity stripe as well. The Beavers made just 11-of-20 free throws, including a horrific 1-of-6 performance in the first half. Such a fundamental element of the game shouldn't be an issue this late in the season with so much on the line. But on consecutive nights, it haunted teams that ended up on the losing side of close games.
Winner: Kelvin Sampson back in the Final Four
The fraternity of elite college basketball coaches who are 65 and older is strong, but Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, 65, probably deserves a seat at the table with the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo and Jim Boeheim. He certainly will if his Cougars win a national title. If not there, at least give him a seat of honor at the table with Leonard Hamilton, Rick Barnes and Lon Kruger.
For one thing, no one from either of those groups ever lived through a show-cause penalty. But Sampson endured what amounted to a five-year ban in 2008 for violations at Indiana and has come back from it to lead a formerly moribund program to the sport's pinnacle. Sampson ventured to the NBA as an assistant during his show-cause, and when he came back to the college game in 2014, Houston had been to just one NCAA Tournament in the past 22 seasons. Now, he has the Cougars in the Final Four.