Conference: Big 12
Record: 25-7 (12-6)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 2 (West)
How they got to the Big Dance
Oklahoma started the season off with a 12-game winning streak, including wins over Wisconsin, No. 3 Villanova and Hawaii. Oklahoma is ranked 15th in strength of schedule, primarily because of the strength of the Big 12. The Sooners went 7-4 against the Top 25 RPI teams. In the Big 12, they scored wins against No. 9 West Virginia (twice), No. 21 Iowa State (twice), No. 22 Baylor (twice), No. 23 Texas and Texas Tech. They dropped both of their contests to Kansas, including the triple overtime marathon that may have been the best college basketball game this season. The Sooners also lost to Iowa State, Texas and Texas Tech, though all three games were on the road. Oklahoma began the Big 12 tournament with a close 79-76 win against No. 6 seed Iowa State. They lost by two in the semifinals to West Virginia after referees waived off Buddy Hield’s desperation heave from half-court.
Why are they are legitimate contender
Oklahoma can light up the scoreboard. They are 24th in the NCAA in points per game, averaging 80.4 points and converting 42.6 percent of their 3-point attempts, good for third in the nation. The Sooners are also ranked 30th in the NCAA with an average margin of victory of 10 points. OU also boasts a great defense, holding opponents to 40.5 percent field goal percentage. The Sooners limit opponent’s second chance points by pulling 28.09 defensive rebounds per game, which ranks 23rd in the NCAA. Lon Kruger is an experienced coach who has won an NCAA tournament game with five different Division I programs, the only coach to ever accomplish the feat.
Why they are not a legitimate contender
Teams with turnover problems tend to have problems in March, which could spell trouble for Oklahoma. They commit 13 turnovers per game, which is ranked 202nd in the NCAA. They only force 12.72 turnovers per game, giving them a negative turnover ratio. As a team with only three players taller than 6-foot-8, the Sooners’ average rebounding margin is only 2.5. If OU struggles rebounding and protecting the ball, don’t be surprised if they exit the NCAA tournament early.
Player to watch – G Buddy Hield
The 6-foot-4 senior is one of the best players in the country for good reason. He scores 25 points per game, grabs 5.6 rebounds per game and dishes out 2.1 assists per game. Hield shoots the lights out, making 49.6 percent of his field goal attempts and an impressive 46.4 percent of his 3-point shots. He’s dangerous from the free-throw line as well, shooting 89.5 percent. If Buddy Hield is scoring and making shots, the Sooners have a good chance to make a run this year.
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