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Dean's Blog: Sooners Look Ready In Columbus

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -

Flying into Columbus, OH it was clear the Sooners are anxious to get back onto the court and win their first NCAA Tournament game in the Lon Kruger Era. Junior forward Ryan Spangler told me his nightmare miss ending in a Big 12 Semifinal loss to Iowa State is “in the past and not in my thinking.”

The No. 3 West Regional seed worked out this morning in Norman and flew out of OKC at 2pm Wednesday. Oklahoma is a 13-point favorite to beat Albany in the 7:30ish EST tip Friday. ESPN's numbers-crunchers equate that to an 89 percent chance of advancing.

Buddy Hield's infectious enthusiasm you see on the court was seen off the court as he and his merry mates seemed and sounded like they plan to do some damage in the Big Dance. Buddy told me, “it's great man…it's that time of year and we get another chance and plan to make the most of it.” He's right. But it's also Hield and OU's last chance to get it right.

Next loss is the last loss for this season. For Hield, his play in the NCAA Tournament could very well determine whether he's playing for big bucks next season or returns to the Sooners for his senior season. At times, he's a mid-first round pick: athletic, long, a pure shooter with strong defensive fundamentals. At others, weak with the ball – particularly near the rim – sustained cold streaks shooting from 3-point range and not as competitive as you'd like.

I have it on good authority that if Hield is a first-round pick, it's all but a done deal; he's leaving for the NBA. Hield's last couple of weeks have been okay, but not special.

So now that's it's tourney time, Oklahoma needs Hield to be special. If the likable player of the year can string some strong games together, the Sooners can get out of Columbus and on to the Sweet 16.

Anything less would be a disappointment.

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