Oklahoma and Oklahoma State square off in KC Mo tonight. This first-round Big 12 Tournament matchup is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET at the Sprint Center. Big 12 Tourney Free Pick: Sooners vs Cowboys.
Oklahoma (-1, 160) and freshman guard Trae Young were all the college basketball noise for most of the season. The Curry-clone want-to-be hoopla quieted once the opposition understood how to contain Young and the highflying Sooners offense. Oklahoma went from being the a national Cinderella to a current NCAA Big Dance bubble team. OU crawled to the finish line in Big 12 play, losing seven of their last nine games.
Young scuffled in the latter portion of conference play. However, the freshman guard closed the regular season leading the nation in both scoring and assists. All things being equal how Young goes so go the Sooners. And the biggest question mark heading into Sprint Center tonight is just how healthy the smallish point guard is. Young missed practice earlier in the week but the Sooners coaching staff have verbalized that it was simply to rest an injured left hip. The hip-pointer was suffered in a 87-64 loss at Baylor on February 27.
Young told the Tulsa World after sitting out practice on Sunday. “It’s tough sitting out today, but it’s best for me and my body, and it’ll be better for me for Wednesday, too.”
Oklahoma State heads into tonight’s pseudo Bedlam series on a roll. Not only did the Cowboys close the league’s regular season out with their second straight win over the Kansas Jayhawks on Senior Night they have won three of their last four. Oki State also damaged the projected seed of nationally ranked Texas Tech with a 79-71 win over the Red Raiders.
Only Oklahoma fans, and Young as well, believe he was snubbed by the Big 12 coaches when Devonte’ Graham earned Big 12 Player of the Year award. In truth, there isn’t any comparisons between the two plays. Graham is a grizzled veteran that could average 25 points and 10 assists per game if he played with blinders as Young does.
Young believes that this is his team. He believes that he has been “guarded” like no other player in college basketball this year. And his backslide in the final month of the season is on how the opposition defended him and not his performances, this according to Young.
The Cowboys defensive scheme didn’t work in the first meeting between the intrastate rivals. The scheme that Oki State attempts to execute on defense game-in and game-out is how to slow Young, however.
The Cowboys are a confident bunch. They are coming off a home upset victory over then-No #6 Kansas. The victories over ranked Texas Tech and Kansas to close out February have positioned the Cowboys as one of the “last four teams in”. Despite my belief that leaving the Cowboys out of this year’s “Dance” would be a crime many believe, including the Oki State coaching staff, that the club needs a first-round win over OU to secure their seed-seat.
celebrated Senior Night with a court-storming upset of Kansas, sweeping the regular-season series with the Big 12-champion Jayhawks and all but cementing an NCAA berth. Senior guard Kendall Smith, who began his career at UNLV and then played two years at Cal State Northridge before moving on to Stillwater, finished with 25 points, including 4-of-6 3-pointers, and ranks second on the team in scoring (12.9) and has totaled 21 or more points in three of the last five games. Senior swingman Jeffrey Carroll leads the team in scoring (15.1) and is second in rebounding (5.9) while junior guard Tavarius Shine also is averaging in double figures (10.0 points) and has scored 16 points in each of the previous two meetings with the Sooners.
Young has only scored over 30 points once in the team’s last nine games. This after averaging over 30 through in the first nine of conference play. He isn’t 100 percent coming into this event and freshman typically hit a wall at this point of the season. Young is no exception to this especially since he is the Sooners offense.
The Sooners co-pilot, Christian James (12.5 ppg and 4.4 rpg), is freakishly overvalued. He is a double-digit scorer, a product, of the attention that Young receives.
When Oklahoma put down Wichita State, USC and Kansas this season the hoops nations was fascinated with what Trae Young had accomplished. The Sooners rise in the national polls has all but disappeared. Contain Young, force him to the lane dribbling rather than jump shooting, and you defeat Lon Kruger’s squad.
The Cowboys have strung together an impressive run to close league play. They have come together to play their best basketball of the season and that continues today in the Sprint Center living room. Cowboy stalwarts Jeffrey Carroll, Kendall Smith, Mitchell Solomon and the rest of the Cowboys square off against arguably the bottom of the barrel college basketball defense.
Oklahoma ranks last in the Big 12 and 337th out of 351 Division I teams in scoring defense, surrendering an average of 82.0 points per game.
The Sooners are currently unranked in both the AP and Coaches Polls, and while KenPom.com them as 43rd in their polls that ranking drops after an opening round loss to the Cowboys tonight.
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Big 12 Tourney Free Pick: Sooners vs Cowboys