SoonersIllustrated.com will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season. But with the Battle 4 Atlantis, we’ll do it a little differently. We’ll breakdown each team in the field, because Oklahoma has a chance to play any of them.
Oklahoma (2-1) vs. No. 20 UCLA (4-0)
When:1:30 p.m. CST
TV/Radio: Oklahoma’s opening round game will be played on ESPN with the winners’ bracket on ESPN and the losers’ bracket on ASXTV. All games will be broadcast on 107.7 FM in Oklahoma City and 1430 AM in Tulsa.
Let’s break ’em down:
No. 20 UCLA
Oklahoma hasn’t played UCLA since 1975, the tail end of the Bruins’ run of national championships, but the Sooners have also never beaten UCLA.
The Bruins though, have a similar make-up to Oklahoma. They play three guards and don’t have a player in the starting lineup taller than 6-foot-9 with depth as a major issue.
UCLA lost its point guard, an NBA lottery pick, and two more of its top three scorers from last season. Nothing in their early non-conference means much, beating up on a ton of lesser competition – but also allowing 71.5 points per game to a quartet whose best team was Long Beach State.
No.5 North Carolina
The Tar Heels lean on junior point guard Marcus Paige and for good reason.
He was a unanimous preseason All-American and can do everything that a point guard needs to do. He has stellar vision and can score around the bucket. He just hasn’t yet.
Freshman wing Justin Jackson is shooting 63 percent from the field and averaging 13.3 points per game. He’s also 6-foot-8. North Carolina is a favorite to make the championship game. Lots of weapons in Carolina blue.
Another undefeated team entering the tournament, Butler has stuck with old-fashioned basketball to maintain its success.
The Bulldogs are the seventh-best shooting team in the country and are averaging 83 points per game, the 27th-best average in the country. They also have the sixth-best defense in the country, albeit against a much lesser class of competition.
Maine, Chattanooga and Loyola-Maryland haven’t put up much of a fight, each losing by at least 22 points.
Butler starts two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore – each will plenty of experience.
There will be a lot of new faces on the court for the Hoyas this season and in the Bahamas.
Georgetown brought in a quartet of four-star players – all of whom play 15 minutes per game or more. Freshman L.J. Peak is second on the team in scoring. Leading-scorer Joshua Smith missed last season because of academic issues. He’s back, and Georgetown was predicted as the second-best team in the Big East Conference.
No. 2 Wisconsin
The Badgers might not have played anybody worth writing home about, but they aren’t leaving anything to chance.
Wisconsin has won all four of its games by 24 points.
The Badgers only had to replace 20 percent of their scoring from last season. With a fifth-year point guard, Wisconsin has plenty of experience – and some to spare.
With a veteran coach like Bo Ryan, Wisconsin hasn’t had an issue with its potential reliance on the 3-point shot nor the game at shooting guard in the starting lineup.
No. 18 Florida
Don’t even think the Gators are the same team as last year. Florida lost four senior starters including the SEC Player of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year and another All-Conference performer.
Michael Frazier, one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, is the only returning starter. Frazier has struggled through to a 35-percent mark through the first three games, and Florida lost by two points to Miami and needed overtime to beat Louisiana-Monroe.
The Gators are still a team trying to gel. They aren’t very deep, playing roughly eight different players on average.
The only non-major conference program in the Bahamas this week isn’t one to be written off quickly.
The Blazers aren’t one to be considered contenders either though, starting the tournament against Wisconsin.
UAB has struggled to start the season, losing two games in the first four contests, and currently rank out of the top 100 in every major offensively category. UAB is allowing 69.5 points per game – 236th in the country.
Sooners Illustrated prediction: Oklahoma tops UCLA but falls in the next game to North Carolina, which exploits the Sooners’ lack of experienced depth. In the third-place game, Oklahoma beats Georgetown, which was coming off a near-upset of Wisconsin – the eventual champion.