It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
No presents, trees, mistletoe or lights. No reindeer, Santa, cookies or pies.
Instead, it’s 12 hours of basketball on Thursday followed by 12 hours of basketball on Friday. Then just when you think it’s time to rejoin your family and/or society, there are 16 more games over the weekend.
It’s March Madness, and for Oklahoma, it’s the beginning of what could potentially be special run. It’s not every season that a school in Oklahoma has a legitimate shot at a championship. In fact, it’s quite rare. But thanks to a veteran roster, a good coaching staff, and a bad, bad dude in Buddy Hield, the Sooners have a real chance to make some serious noise.
Of course, most teams' chances are determined by one thing: the bracket. Sometimes you’re only as good as your tournament draw allows you to be. If that’s the case, Oklahoma could be incredible.
OU had to walk away from Selection Sunday grinning like Jaws swimming back from the beach. The Sooners landed as the No. 2 seed in the West Region, easily the weakest of the four pods. Here’s a quick look at the West:
Top competition (seed number)
Texas A&M (3)
Oregon and Duke could both provide Oklahoma with serious problems. Oregon is a fast-paced, athletic and physical squad that might punish the thinner Sooners in the paint. Duke is a tremendous shooting team which, thanks to a key injury inside, plays very similarly to Oklahoma. The Blue Devils will hoist 3s until the cows come home and pray they make enough to overcome their deficiencies on the interior. They also have Coach K, with whom you don’t want to tangle in March.
Great news, though! If OU advances to the Elite 8, it will only have to face one of Oregon, Duke or Baylor because they’re all on the top half of the Sooners’ bracket.
OU’s toughest potential opponent blocking its way to the Elite 8 is Texas A&M. The Aggies, while not a traditional power, have had a terrific season, albeit in a horrid SEC. A&M won 26 games but lost five times to non-NCAA Tourney teams. And two more losses came to teams that probably shouldn’t be in: Syracuse and Vanderbilt. To compare, OU lost just one such game.
It’s also important to note that OU won’t have to play A&M and Texas, just the winner.
The Sooners, assuming a first-round win over Cal State Bakersfield, will play the winner of Oregon State and VCU in the second round. The game will be in Oklahoma City and it’s hard to fathom a loss to either opponent.
That means all OU would need to do in order to make the Elite 8 is beat the potential winner of Texas and A&M. They could also see the 11-seed Northern Iowa or 14-seed Green Bay. Doesn’t get much cushier than that.
If OU does make the Elite 8, it will need to bring it’s A game against any of the aforementioned teams from the top half of the bracket if it wants to make the Final Four. Speaking of the top half of the West, though – talk about another dodged bullet.
Sure Oregon is good, but considering the alternatives, this is a dream scenario for the Sooners. OU avoided the three most complete teams in the country: Kansas, UNC and Michigan State. OU also avoided Virginia, the best defensive team in the country with a potential first-team All-American in Malcom Brogdon. Those four teams would have been matchup nightmares for Lon Kruger’s squad. Instead, OU can maneuver its road and hope those teams slip up before the Final Four.
Oklahoma also avoided teams with more NBA talent in the middle seeds. No Kentucky, no Maryland and no California. Also no Duke until the regional final.
The statistical gurus/prediction geniuses at FiveThirtEight.com actually favor the Sooners to come out of the West. They give OU a 32 percent shot at winning the region, while only giving Oregon a 23 percent chance. Texas A&M and Duke both got 12 percent.
This draw doesn’t guarantee the Sooners of anything. In fact, you can bet that Bakersfield will hit the practice court on Monday fully expecting to beat OU. But the West region has no overwhelming favorite, so it might as well be Oklahoma.