By Jeff Kubiszyn @JeffKubiszyn on March 17, 2014
The Oklahoma Sooners come into the NCAA tournament on a bit of a down note. The Sooners were shocked in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament by the Baylor Bears. Sooners fans were expecting to play for the conference championship. The team is young, but talented. Balanced scoring and tough defense has been Oklahoma’s M.O. this season. Head coach Lon Kruger will rely on these five players to take Oklahoma deep into the tournament.
Ryan Spangler does the dirty work. The 6-foot-8 forward leads the team in rebounding. Spangler is not a main offensive weapon for the Sooners. He will focus on keeping the opposition off the boards. The Sooners have no depth at the forward position, so Spangler will need to stay out of foul trouble, or Oklahoma will be exposed in the post.
Jordan Woodard is not playing like a freshman. The point guard has done an excellent job protecting the ball while running Oklahoma’s offense. His assist-to-turnover ratio in the last five games is 23:6. Woodard will need to continue to take care of the ball if Oklahoma plans to stick around in the tournament.
Isaiah Cousins may be Oklahoma’s wild card in the tournament. The 6-foot-4 guard can take over a game when necessary. The sophomore wing man has burned teams that focus on stopping the Sooners’ top scorers. Oklahoma does not have a lot of size, so Cousins will need to defend larger opponents. How Cousins performs against another team’s big men could be the determining factor on how long Oklahoma stays alive.
Cameron Clark is the lone senior starter. Clark controls the paint despite his lean frame. The big man can shoot the three, too. Clark shoots 43 percent from behind the arc. Oklahoma will need him to earn the tough points around the basket though if it hopes to advance deep into the tournament.
If you want to beat Oklahoma, it starts with containing Buddy Hield. That is easier said than done. Hield averages nearly 17 points a game and has scored in double figures in 30 of Oklahoma’s 32 games this season. There is no question the Sooners’ offense runs through the sophomore guard. Look for this to continue in the postseason.
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