The only team from outside the Power 6 conferences to win a championship since U.N.L.V. in 1990 was Connecticut in 2014, after its first season in the American after spending decades in the Big East. Houston fits that profile well with a band of castoffs and overlooked talent.
Six Cougars, including four starters, began their careers elsewhere — none more prominently than Grimes, an acclaimed recruit who marked his arrival in college basketball at Kansas by scoring a game-high 21 points in a win over a Michigan State team that ended up in the Final Four.
But Grimes, not as comfortable as he wanted to be, returned home to Houston.
Sampson has been able to pitch a track record of development, burnished by six years he spent as an N.B.A. assistant, though that stint was essentially an exile after he landed Oklahoma and then Indiana on probation for violating N.C.A.A. rules.
If Sampson has rarely had elite talent, he has consistently built winners around hard-nosed ballplayers who build a fortress around the basket they are defending. In his 27 previous seasons as a head coach — at Washington State, Oklahoma, Indiana and Houston — that had been good enough to regularly reach the N.C.A.A. tournament but for just one trip to the Final Four, in 2002 with Oklahoma. The backcourt pair from that team — Hollis Price and Quannas White — are on his staff with the Cougars.
They were surely nodding with approval on Monday night as the Cougars took space away from Oregon State’s floor full of shooters and eventually stole their will. Price and White had to be particularly pleased with DeJon Jarreau, a sinewy 6-foot-5 guard who, like them, is from New Orleans.
A transfer from Massachusetts, Jarreau had 10 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds, but his best work may have been on defense. He badgered Ethan Thompson, who had scored 48 points in the previous two games and had been particularly adept at getting to the free-throw line, where he had made 25 of 26 shots in the tournament. On Monday, Thompson was limited to 11 points, though he contributed 7 rebounds and 6 assists to fuel Oregon State’s late charge.
The Beavers had flourished in freewheeling games in the tournament’s opening weekend, racing past fifth-seeded Tennessee and then knocking out fourth-seeded Oklahoma State, a popular Final Four dark horse that had the presumptive No. 1 overall N.B.A. draft pick, Cade Cunningham.
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