Helmer: Three Keys to the Final Four

NORMAN, Okla. -- Both the men's and women's teams have a legitimate chance to make the Final Four. In this feature we will be analyzing the three most important things for each to make the Final Four.

First comes the men's keys to making it to Detroit .

3. Consistent guard play:

The Sooners must have consistent guard play in the tournament in order to make a deep run come March. Throughout the year, it has seemed like there has been a guard step up big every game. There was a huge stretch where senior Austin Johnson led the perimeter players, and when he's been off, freshman Willie Warren has provided the spark plug from the outside. Sophomore Cade Davis and junior Tony Crocker have also provided significantly in OU's guard game. Consistency from the perimeter is a must if the Sooners want to reach their final destination.

2. Mr. Griffin staying out of foul trouble:

The Sooner posts are becoming more and more dependable as the season rolls on, with the removal of the redshirt off junior forward Juan Pattillo and senior forward Taylor Griffin's ability to step up at different times. But sensational sophomore forward Blake Griffin must find a way to play smart and stay out of foul trouble when the Sooners hit the hardwood in the NCAA Tournament. That does two things, which Texas Tech head coach Pat Knight alluded to after the Sooners victory over the Red Raiders. First, it allows him to play his game and contribute both offensively and on the glass. But also, it helps open up other players offensively because he is such a strong presence inside and teams must double team to stop him. He will undoubtedly win the National Player of the Year Award when released, but in order for the Sooners to make a deep run, he must play smart and not commit the silly fouls down the stretch.

1. Stay healthy:

It seems like a cliché every year for every team as solid as the Sooners are this year. But keeping players healthy is a must for any tourney run considering the caliber of teams the Sooners are likely to face throughout the NCAA Tournament. If the guards aren't producing and another one that could is sitting on the bench because of an injury, or Blake suffers an injury and the posts can't back him up throughout the tourney, this could be a serious issue. OU must stay healthy, and it will have a legitimate chance to make the Final Four for the first time since 2002.

I previously introduced the three keys to the men's basketball team making the Final Four. Now, here are the three keys to the women's team earning a trip to St. Louis and the Women's Final Four.

3. Keep the mojo:

After starting off 4-2, the Sooners have rolled off 20 in a row (before the loss to A&M), and only a couple of the wins were even close. OU is 12-1 in conference play. It is crucial that the Sooners keep that momentum, however, and keep winning throughout the remainder of the regular season and the conference tournament. There is no doubt this team is a virtual lock for the Final Four, but if the Sooners have a stretch of a few games where they don't play well, look out. They could be in for trouble.


Courtney Paris

2. Make the three ball:

In recent years, the Sooners have been lacking in this area. They have failed to find a shooter that could step up and hit the big shot from behind the arc when they needed it. But so far, freshman guard Whitney Hand has provided the Sooners with that throughout her first year in Norman . Sophomore guard Jenny Vining has also stepped up and hit some huge threes as of late, and junior Nyeshia Stevenson has the ability to do it as well. Hitting threes down the stretch in big games can be huge not only on the scoreboard but also psychologically to opposing teams that must also break down the Sooner inside presence as well.

1. Feed the Paris twins:

It would be a shame if the Paris twins went four years at OU without winning a National Championship. But they'll have one more shot to do it, and they will be ready produce and get the title come March Madness. As good as the guard play is down the stretch, everyone knows this team runs through senior center Courtney Paris and twin sister and fellow senior forward Ashley Paris. Courtney has clearly been the most dominant player in women's college basketball history in her four years at OU, setting that 112 game double-double streak that was recently snapped against Tennessee . And Ashley has vastly improved her mid-range jumper and become an increasingly dangerous force for teams to reckon with on the inside. The Sooners must revolve their offense around these two in order to earn a trip to St. Louis.


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