Oklahoma Sooners, Oregon Ducks are looking for a ticket to the Final Four on Saturday

OU hasn't been to the Final Four in 14 years. The Sooners are looking to go back by knocking of the West Region's top seed.

Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.

No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (28-7) vs. No. 1 Oregon Ducks (31-6)

TV/Radio: CBS/107.7 FM

Time: 5:09 p.m.

Series: Oregon, 2-0.


Oklahoma All-American Buddy Hield wouldn’t share what NBA superstar Kobe Bryant told him Thursday night after the Sooners’ win against Texas A&M. He was just happy to meet the player who Hield called “the man.”

“He’s one of my idols I grew up watching, one of the guys I looked up to,” said Hield, who wears No. 24. “And to try and copy and mimic his work ethic. I am just happy I got to meet Kobe, and he said a couple words of encouragement.”

There’s a lot of reason for Hield to receive praise from anyone around basketball. Hield is climbing further up all-time scoring charts. He needs 12 points to move into second all-time in Big 12 scoring and 31 points to become Oklahoma third-best all-time scorer. If Hield scores 30 points against Oregon on Saturday, he will have the most career 30-point games in Big 12 history.

Hield is leading the NCAA Tournament in points scored through the first three rounds with 80.

“Just stay focused and locked in,” Hield said. “We came in locked in and executed, but now, we can’t get too high right now. We’ve got to stay low, not too low but in between because we have a big game coming Saturday. So, we have to be really locked in for that one too.”

Hield decided to come back to Oklahoma after his junior season ended in a Sweet 16 loss, and one of the first things he said after making the announcement to return to the Sooners was that he wanted to lead Oklahoma to the Final Four.

“Why not?” he asked almost 11 months ago.

Oklahoma is just one win away from making the Final Four for the first time since 2002.

“I just felt in my heart this would be the best in the long run for me,” Hield said. “. . . I worked hard this summer, me and Isaiah. We were working hard together, and he pushed me and I pushed him. Now, I’ve just turned the table coming in to the season.”

Sending the Duck back

The last time Oklahoma and Oregon met was before the United States entered World War II. These two teams met in the first NCAA Tournament after the 1939-40 season and then once the next year.

But going back in time isn’t a concern for Oklahoma. Instead, the Sooners’ are more worried about getting sent back from the rim. Oregon broke the single-season school block record with 214 so far this season.

Led by Chris Boucher, who ranks third in the nation in blocks, the Ducks are second in the nation in team blocks.

“We just have to be aware of great shot blockers,” Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard said. “We go against shot blockers in practice every day with our bigs. So, we’ve just got to use that to our advantage and just stay aggressive and make plays for other teammates.”

Boucher’s 109 blocks this season are the fifth-most in Pac-12 Conference history. Oregon needs just four more blocks to set the all-time conference record.

Showing the Big 12’s strength

There’s a chance the Big 12 Conference to make a big statement in the NCAA Tournament. After finishing the regular season as the top RPI conference in the country, by a wide margin, the league took a big hit on the first day of the tournament.

Of the seven teams that made the NCAA Tournament from the Big 12, four lost on the first day of the tournament. Three made it to the Sweet 16, and right now, Oklahoma and Kansas are in the Elite 8. It’s guaranteed that the ACC will have two teams in the Sweet 16 after dominating one half of the bracket.

The Big 12 can match that if both Oklahoma and Kansas win this weekend.

“It really doesn’t hurt because the last couple years, we haven’t validated it in the postseason, and we’ve thought of ourselves anyhow as the best conference in the country,” Kruger said. “The last two years have been great.”

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