The Oklahoma Sooners square off against San Diego State Friday in Philadelphia in the Sooners' first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2009. Even though the Sooners are the No. 10 seed to San Diego State's No. 7 seed, Friday's game is without a question a game the Sooners can win if they do a couple of things well. Here are three keys to the game for both teams.
Keys for San Diego State:
-Help Jamaal Franklin
Franklin leads the Aztecs in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. He's a do-it-all type player, but he can't beat the Sooners without help. The Aztecs need to help him shoulder the offensive load. Chase Tapley and Xavier Thomas both averaged double-digits this season, so there are players capable of helping Franklin. The frontcourt players for the Aztecs aren't very productive on the offensive end, so if one of those players can emerge, it would go a long way toward helping SDSU get the win.
-Rebound the ball
Neither the Sooners nor Aztecs are a very big team, so neither team has a decided advantage when it comes to rebounding. It will be a battle inside on Friday, so the Aztecs have to assert themselves on the boards, both offensively and defensively, to give themselves a chance. SDSU has several athletic big men, so depth in the post shouldn't be a problem at all.
-Find some consistency
This has been the Aztecs problem all season, but some of it can be attributed to injuries, which have plagued SDSU all season long. Without consistency on the roster, the Aztecs were unable to find any consistency on the court, losing to teams such as Wyoming and Air Force, but beating New Mexico. If the Aztecs can put together a solid 40 minutes of basketball, they'll be tough to beat.
Keys for Oklahoma:
-Rediscover the 3-point shot
The Sooners are a grand 3-of-34 from 3-point distance in their past two games, both losses. Oklahoma wasn't a great 3-point shooting team this season, but they do have some very capable shooters, mainly senior Steven Pledger. Oklahoma used the 3-pointer to their advantage in several big wins and will need to do that again to advance in the tournament.
-Play through Romero Osby
Osby is far and away the Sooners most consistent player, and also their best player. The way Osby has played in games this season has been the biggest indicator of the success of the team. Oklahoma will have to feed the ball to Osby as much as possible. The more touches the first team All-Big 12 performer can get, the better.
-Take care of the basketball
The Sooners struggled all season when opposing team deployed a full-court press. The return of guard Buddy Hield from injury has helped alleviate those struggles, providing the Sooners with an extra ball handler to help break the press. Friday, three freshmen and a senior point guard who has never been to the tournament will be handling the ball extensively for the Sooners. If they can all keep their composure and not commit any dumb mistakes, Oklahoma will have a great chance to win. If the turnovers pile up, it could get ugly.