Old Big 12 foes in Oklahoma and Missouri collide in hope of playing Gonzaga in the second round.
Date: Saturday, March, 20. 7:25 p.m. ET, TNT.
Arena: Lucas Oil Stadium (South). Indianapolis, Indiana.
Odds: Oklahoma (-2)
Since the beginning of February, Oklahoma stumbled near the end. After a shocking upset loss to Kansas State, the Sooners would get swept by Oklahoma State on Monday.
After the impressive stretch of four straight Top 25 wins, including one over SEC Champion Alabama, it looked Oklahoma was destined to compete with Baylor for the Big 12. However, the Sooners walk into the Big 12 Tournament, limping, and hoping for a reboot as the NCAA Tournament awaits them.
After picking up a win over Iowa State, Oklahoma was upended in a close affair against David McCormack-less Kansas in the Big 12 Quarterfinals.
The Sooners are led on offense by First Team All-Big 12 guard Austin Reaves, who has been in Norman, as long as, Perry Ellis was at Kansas. Another key veteran is Brady Manek, who has slowly gotten better, after being under COVID-19 protocols.
In the Sooners loss to Kansas, Manek was quite possibly, the best player on the floor. The senior from Harrah, Oklahoma finished with 19 points, six rebounds, and three blocks. Other members from the Sooners that have been factors are De’Vion Harmon and Umoja Gibson. When the duo is on, the Sooners look like worldbeaters.
However, if neither of them is effective, Oklahoma struggles with consistent offense. Elijah Harkless is a glue-guy, that does just about anything needed of him. Overall, the Sooners have not had the ball roll their way in close games. In the five losses near the end of the season, all of them have been by single digits.
For Missouri, they have had a very similar path, with a great late January and early February. However, Missouri has been poor down the stretch, with their lone notable win being against Florida.
Similar to Oklahoma, the Tigers are capable of rattling off big wins with victories over Oregon, Illinois, Tennessee, and Alabama. However, Missouri is the same team that was swept by Ole Miss, fell to Mississippi State, as well as, Georgia.
The first notable player is Xavier Pinson, who brings explosiveness near the rim and can stretch the floor. Dru Smith is the best three-point shooter on the team at 38%. There isn’t an area where Missouri truly excels, but they struggle mightily from beyond the arc.
The majority of their minutes are given to seniors, and the team as a whole is relatively disciplined. They get to the free throw line often and the guard play is overall, solid.
Overall, considering the direction team has been going in, this might be one of the most evenly-matched 8/9 games the tournament has to offer this year. Both teams have common opponents and each team has wins over the other.
Oklahoma swept TCU, meanwhile, Missouri won an OT thriller against the Horned Frogs. The Tigers and Sooners were both able to handle Alabama in their regular-season matchups.
Both teams are equally matched and have the tall task of a potential powerhouse in the second round. Missouri might slightly athletic, but Oklahoma is the better shooting team. I think the difference in the game is the glue-guy Harkless and a good game from Gibson.
Both teams have had fantastic stretches during the season, while also having abysmal finishes. I believe the Sooners get the efforts from Harkless and Gibson and it’s enough to get past Missouri, in a less than stellar offensive performance from both teams.
Prediction: Oklahoma 65, Missouri 60.