Let the Madness officially begin! The Oklahoma Sooners were given – or maybe gifted – the No. 2 seed in the West Region for the NCAA Tournament, which begins Tuesday with the play-in games.
It’s a region with the lowest seeded No. 1 team in the entire bracket as seeded by the NCAA Committee. Oregon is the No. 2 team in the RPI, but after Oklahoma at No. 6, there isn’t another team in the top-15 of the RPI.
What does that mean?
Oklahoma received one of the more favorable draws among top seeds in the entire tournament.
There’s a banner that reads, “The Road to the Final Four begins here” and hangs just above the Sooners’ entryway onto the court at Lloyd Noble Center. Sooners Illustrated is to prepare where the Road to the Final Four goes from there.
Round 1 – CSU-Bakersfield: In Oklahoma City for the first round of the tournament against a team in the “Big Dance” for the first time in program history. The Roadrunners have said all the right things about wanting to “make noise,” but after the WAC Tournament championship, it seemed as though a bit of relief and a sense that the season was over during the postgame press conference.
CSU-Bakersfield won’t put up much of a fight against Oklahoma. There’s a pretty good chance this game becomes a rout. The Roadrunners best win of the season was their last game, and they won’t have seen anyone near the caliber of Buddy Hield.
Round 2 –VCU: The Rams look like they’ll be the most obvious first-round upset of the tournament. VCU is tourney-tested and got an at-large bid even without winning the Atlantic-10 Tournament. Meanwhile, No. 7 Oregon State is in the tournament for the first time in 26 years, the second-longest streak in major conference basketball. As for the match-up with Oklahoma, VCU returns four starters from last year’s tournament team, but they’ve got two glaring weaknesses. They like to run and won’t slow down the Sooners, and the Rams play a lot of zone, which doesn’t always play well against 3-point shooting teams. Much like Baylor, VCU plays an aggressive zone, but the second round could serve as a momentum-building game heading to the Sweet 16. Oklahoma will be allowed to live or die by the 3 on Sunday.
If Oregon State wins, then it’ll be a match-up of great point guards: Isaiah Cousins vs. Gary Payton II. Payton was Bob Cousy Award Finalist, and Cousins was snubbed. That chip might look bigger Sunday.
Sweet 16 – Texas A&M : Both the Aggies and the Longhorns, which should make for an interesting second-round matchup, provide a challenge to the Sooners. Both have length and can defend. The Aggies move on to the Sweet 16 in this scenario, and Oklahoma gets a taste of 6-foot-7 duo of Jalen Jones and Danuel House, who both average more than 15 points per game. Texas A&M also has a 6-10 power forward. They went in a lull in February, like the Sooners, and occasionally struggle to shoot the 3, something Oklahoma doesn’t really have a problem doing.
This will be a pretty fast-paced game between the two former Big 12 South division rivals. The Sooners are likely hoping that they see the Aggies, who will get out and run with Oklahoma.
Elite 8 – Duke: Now, it could be Oregon in this spot, but for one game, Duke stands up and shows its tournament pedigree in the upset. What does this mean for Oklahoma? Really nothing. The Blue Devils and the Ducks are very similar. Both like to score. Both like to shoot. Duke is a little bit more perimeter-oriented, but for Oklahoma to reach the Final Four, it might need Oregon to go down early.
Look out for a matchup between Grayson Allen and Isaiah Cousins in this game. That’s two fiery competitors who have a tendency to let their emotions get the better of them: Cousins’ punt and Allen’s leg lock. One team will get hotter from 3-point land in this one. The numbers would say Oklahoma.
Final Four – Kansas: Please say Round 3. Please say Round 3. For the good of all things holy, please give these two teams a chance to play Round 3. And in Houston for the Final Four, no less. The Jayhawks look like a buzz saw right now. Anyone that watched them in Kansas City probably saw the same thing. Everyone on the roster is playing at a high level. They’ll probably have just one test against Maryland in the Sweet 16.
Championship – North Carolina/Michigan State: This far ahead, this early in the week: I think getting it down to two teams is an achievement. North Carolina runs. Michigan State is more defensive. A matchup between Denzel Valentine and Hield would be exciting and a change at revenge for the Sooners. North Carolina has more depth and length up front than the Sooners might be able to contend with. This game is still a long way away.