The Beavers, though, were not troubled by aesthetics.
Ethan Thompson scored 22 points to lead Oregon State, which continued its unlikely run into a regional final for the first time since 1982. Picked to finish last in the Pac-12 at the start of the season, the Beavers will play Houston, which cooled off Buddy Boeheim and Syracuse, 62-46. Boeheim, who scored 55 points combined in Orange wins over San Diego State and West Virginia, could manage just 12 against the tenacious Houston defense, which held him to 3 of 13 shooting. The Cougars, seeded second, have not been this far since the last of three consecutive trips to the Final Four in 1984.
Nevertheless, the bracket opposite unbeaten Gonzaga, which plays Creighton on Sunday, appears open for the Bears (25-2), who have been to three regional finals in the last 12 years but never to a Final Four. For much of Saturday afternoon, Baylor’s hopes of getting there were very much in jeopardy.
Villanova, which had won two of the last four national titles, had reasonable designs on another until Gillespie tore a knee ligament three weeks ago. The Wildcats (18-7) lost three of their final four games before the tournament and were seen by many as an early upset candidate. But the Wildcats regrouped and behind sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl eased into the second weekend with convincing wins over Winthrop and North Texas State.
Still, it appeared on paper to be a dreadful matchup for Villanova. It had the worst 3-point shooting defense of the remaining 16 teams in the tournament, and Baylor — led by its three-guard trio of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague — were the nation’s best 3-point shooting team, making 41.5 percent of their shots behind the arc.
But Villanova threw a soft zone press at Baylor at times and when the Bears did get into their offense, the Wildcats toggled between zone and man-to-man defenses in the half court. It left the Bears befuddled. They made just 3 of 19 3-pointers.
At the other end of the court, though Robinson-Earl was held to a modest 8 points and 12 rebounds, the Wildcats threatened Baylor with slick interior passing and the ability around the rim of Jermaine Samuels, who had 16 points, and Justin Moore, who added 15.
And when Villanova’s Brandon Slater blew past Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua on the wing and dunked over 6-foot-9 Matthew Mayer, it put Villanova ahead by 39-33.