Survive and advance. The Sooners did just that in their first round win over Cal State Bakersfield on Friday, and now Oklahoma face a tough VCU (24-10) team in the second round on Sunday at 4:15 p.m. inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Here’s everything you need to know about the round of 32 matchup:
VCU’s really good
The Rams have been a tournament darling before back in 2011 when they went to the Final Four, and they’re in the big dance for their sixth straight season. Not only is VCU back, but the Rams beat Oregon State on Friday for their first tourney win since 2012.
What makes the Rams so dangerous is their relentless defense. VCU ranks No. 14 in the country in defensive turnover percentage (21.9 %), and their pestering style causes the same type of headaches West Virginia caused throughout Big 12 play.
This is a battle-tested, physical team with plenty aggressive ball hawks. Four players on the VCU roster averaged at least one steal per game throughout the season, with junior Doug Brooks nearly averaging two (1.9 spg).
New head coach
Shaka Smart was the face of the Rams since their deep tourney run, but now that Smart left VCU for Texas after last season, the Rams are under the guidance of former assistant coach (2009-13) Will Wade. After spending the last two seasons as the head coach at Chattanooga, Wade opted to return to VCU once Smart jetted for Austin.
Interestingly enough, the Rams are still alive in the tournament while Smart’s Longhorns were eliminated in the first round by NIU.
Melvin Johnson can hoop
While there are four VCU players who average double-digit scoring per game, it’s senior Melvin Johnson who does most of the damage for the Rams. Johnson averages 17.2 points per game and has made 105 3-pointers this season at a 38 percent clip.
It should be a great battle between Johnson and Buddy Hield, as both seniors try to extend their collegiate careers win another tournament win.
Jequan Lewis and Korey Billbury are a nice compliment to Johnson out on the wing, therefore we’re in store for a nice matchup on the perimeter as both VCU and OU have the luxury of very good guard play.
Speaking of OU’s guards..
It was a positive sign to see the trio of Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard all have nice games in the win over the Roadrunners on Friday. That group of experienced guards combined to shoot 18-for-31 from the field while hitting 9-of-13 three-point attempts.
OU’s at its best when those three guys are hitting shots, and against a stifling defensive team such as VCU, it’s crucial that Hield, Cousins and Woodard all take care of the ball and knock down open jumpers.
Manyang's status uncertain
OU will be without big man Akolda Manyang on Sunday after a death in his family. Manyang found out the news a few hours after OU's win over CSU-Bakersfield on Friday, and he flew back in Minnesota on Saturday according to Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman.
Look for Jumani McNeace to get Manyang's normal minutes as backup center.