Big 12 Tourney: Sooners Set For Vigorous First Round Battle With Cyclones

Wednesday, March 9th 2016, 5:59 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger

After a tenaciously long regular season slate, the Oklahoma basketball team will begin postseason play in the Big 12 Tournament with a less than an ideal first round matchup. Despite a remarkable season overall, the Sooners (24-6) bolster the third seed in the tournament and face a well versed Iowa State team that’s more than capable of beating any team in the nation on any given night.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on Thursday inside of the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Not only can the Cyclones (21-10) knock off any team in the nation, but they have more than enough experience doing just that against the Sooners. Since Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins first laced up their sneakers in an OU uniform, ISU holds a 6-5 advantage in 11 meetings and have won three of the last four against Lon Kruger’s Sooners.

That being said, here are three things to know about this Big 12 bout, which tips at 8 p.m. on Thursday:

Battle tested

For much of the season, the Sooners have been praised for being a veteran laden team, led by seniors Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler along with junior Jordan Woodard. That foursome has started 98 straight games for OU, and is the main reason the Sooners have seen the success they have.

Against Iowa State on Thursday, Oklahoma won’t have as huge of a veteran advantage as usual, with the Cyclones hoarding a few experienced fellows of their own.

Georges Niang is the name which rings loudest when talking about Iowa State, but Niang has the luxury of playing alongside of a few senior comrades such as Jameel McKay, Naz Long and Abdel Nader, not to mention junior Monte Morris.

Niang leads the team in scoring at 19.4 ppg and is one of the best players in the entire nation, but in ISU’s five-point win over OU back in January, all three of Niang, Morris and Nader scored 20 points or more. That three-way attack proved to be potent against the Sooners, seeing Spangler and Woodard combined for only seven points on 3-for-15 shooting for OU.

If Iowa State’s seniors bring the heat on Thursday, Oklahoma will need to ensure its star players do the same if they don’t want to leave Kansas City earlier than expected.

Cyclone fans will show out

Seeing the great people of Iowa don’t have a professional sports team to cheer for, and the ISU football team stumbled its way to a 3-9 record, you can bet your bottom dollar the Cyclone faithful will head south for the 228 mile trip from Ames to the “City of Fountains”.

ISU fans are a committed bunch, and they’re notorious for showing out strong for the Big 12 tournament.

Oklahoma has played its fair share of road games, and seeing there are a lot of OU fans who will be attending the tournament as well, it shouldn’t be as big of an issue as it was for OU back on January 19 inside of Hilton Coliseum.

Flashbacks to last year

It’s been 360 days since the Sooners lost to Iowa State in the semifinals of last year’s Big 12 tourney, but there’s little doubt that Ryan Spangler thinks about that game often.

Spangler had an easy opportunity to tie the game at the final buzzer with a pointblank layup, but instead his shot rolled off the front of the rim as the Cyclones advanced to the championship. What’s even worse is the Sooners held a double-digit lead in that game, and should’ve been able to put away an ISU team that needed a buzzer beater to beat Texas just one night before.

Last year’s outcome only provides more motivation for OU to get the job done on Thursday night, as Oklahoma would like to win its conference tournament after failing to dethrone the Jayhawks as Regular Season Big 12 champions.