March Madness Final Four Preview – Oklahoma
Oklahoma: where the wind comes sweeping down the plain and Buddy Hield just can’t miss a shot from behind the arc. Those are the lyrics, right? You could certainly make a case for them now, as the Sooners are onto their first final four appearance since 2002. The trendy pick out of the West region has not disappointed in their NCAA Tournament run. They’ve won all of their matchups fairly easily and they’re getting consistent play from their guards and big men. Of course, Buddy Hield having an off day isn’t even in the realm of possibilities at this point, right? The Wooden Award candidate has had four solid tournament games to this point, and is coming off a ridiculous 37 point performance against Oregon in the West Regional Finals. Hield shot 13/20 overall and 8/13 from three point range. Needless to say, Hield looks absolutely unstoppable right now. So with all of this praise for Oklahoma and the run they’re currently on, why couldn’t I bring myself to pick them to go to the final four? Throughout the season, I saw too many games where Oklahoma looked like “Buddy Hield and the E Street Band.” If Buddy Hield had an off night shooting the rock, the game got out of hand. I wasn’t a believer in the depth and consistency of the Sooners, but now they look like a complete team who has a great chance to win the title. The next opponent that stands in the way for the Sooners is the Villanova Wildcats. Maybe you’ve heard, but the last time these two teams met was just four months ago, and Oklahoma won in a landslide. The Sooners won 78-55 on a neutral court in Pearl Harbor, and according to Villanova head coach Jay Wright, the game wasn’t even that close. People are writing off Villanova like they are choking dogs who are going to get ran over in this game. However, Villanova has proven the non-believers wrong recently, having one of the largest margins of victory in the tournament and taking down the overall #1 seed Kansas in order to reach the final four. Both of these teams have a super reliance on the three, and the winner here is going to be who can get hottest from beyond the arc. There’s a few factors that help Oklahoma in this matchup, and make them the favorite in my mind. The game is in Houston, so the travel distance is shorter than Villanova’s trip from Philadelphia (yes, this matters). Oklahoma’s front court is also playing better as of late, and that may cause less reliance on the three point shot. Throw in the possibility of Villanova not being able to escape their Pearl Harbor demons from December, and advantage goes to the Sooners. But don’t count Villanova out yet, Vegas actually has them as the betting favorite (-2). I’ve been known to get bested by the odds makers at Vegas, so we’ll just have to wait and see.