Guard Play Will Determine Outcome

The guards will have to step up and play a strong game if the Sooners are to advance past Michigan to make it in to the 'Sweet Sixteen'.

The Sooners have heard it the entire season.

And they'll hear it again until today's tipoff against the Michigan Wolverines at 4:50 p.m. at the Sprint Center in Kansas City .

The guards must step up and lead the way.

Sophomore forward Blake Griffin is almost a given every single game, but the guards can be inconsistent at times.

And against Michigan , it will be even more crucial that the perimeter players come to play because the Wolverines will bring a zone defense.

"You know, I think the zone has been really something that they rely on a lot," said senior forward Taylor Griffin. "We expect to see 1-3-1, 2-3, and they're very good at it."

That will force the Sooners to hit some shots from the outside in order to split the zone.

"That's one thing that we're going to have to have—a well-rounded game offensively to compete with that," Taylor said. "I'm sure they'll double-team Blake and whatever, but [we have to] be ready for anything and be ready to knock down open shots and make plays."

And OU must be ready to step up and defend a talented freshmen guard duo in Zack Novak and Stu Douglass.

"They're good," said OU head coach Jeff Capel. "They're scrappy and tough. It's not a fake toughness. Those kids play hard. They can make shots. Most importantly, which is so important on a team, they understand who they are—and probably just as important—who they're not."

Capel said they do a good job of staying within their games.

"They don't try to do the things that they're not good at," Capel said. "They focus on what they do, and they do it at a very high level, make shots, play hard, defend, scrap, do all the little things that add up to being really big things. I think that's one of the reasons why Michigan is in the position they're in right now."

With their solid guard play, the Wolverines aren't afraid to shoot it from deep, and that means the Sooner guards must be ready to step out and defend, as well as chase down the long rebounds.

"Our guards are going to have to rebound for us," Capel said. "We're going to have to check out and rebound. It's something we didn't do well [Thursday]. We're going to have to make that a point of emphasis tomorrow."

While it may not be the most favorable size matchup for the Wolverines, who run out four starters at 6-foot-5 or less, they are still a scrappy, competitive team that could cause the Sooners trouble if the guards aren't ready to play.

"Just because they don't start as a big lineup, we still have to prepare the same way for what they do because, like we've said, they're very good at what they do," Blake said.


Sooners Illustrated Top Stories