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2016 NCAA Tournament: Previewing the Oklahoma Sooners

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Oregon Ducks. Oklahoma Sooners. Elite Eight!

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Disciple meets teacher Saturday as head coaches Dana Altman and Lon Kruger face off for the first time. Kruger gave Altman his first Division I experience with an assistant coaching role with the Kansas State Wildcats back in 1986. This time on the court Kruger leads his Oklahoma Sooners, let's take a better look at the team many simply know thanks to Buddy Hield.

Quick facts:

League- Big 12

Record- 28-7 overall, 12-6 in Big 12

Key wins- vs Wisconsin 65-48, vs Villanova 78-55, vs Iowa State (twice), vs West Virginia (twice), vs Baylor 82-72

Key losses- at Kansas (twice), at Iowa State 82-77, at Texas 76-63, vs West Virginia 69-67

2016 NCAA Tournament: 82-68 over 15 seeded Cal State Bakersfield. 85-81 over 10 seeded VCU. 77-63 over 3 seeded Texas A&M.

Trends:

Thanks to 12 straight wins to kick off the season, the Oklahoma Sooners were one of the hottest teams in the early going. That stretch was finally snapped in a triple over time loss at Kansas in one of the games of the season between the then top two ranked teams. Oklahoma found no hangover from that game as they responded with three straight wins to jump up to the #1 ranked team in the country.

But as soon as they snagged the top spot, a loss at Iowa State knocked them off the top spot. After four more wins, the Sooners entered their worst stretch of play all season. Over a span of four games, Oklahoma lost three to Kansas State, Kansas and Texas Tech. But the Sooners responded like a good team would and finished the season 4-1 to claim the third spot in the Big 12 finishing behind Kansas and West Virginia.

Oklahoma got one win in the conference tournament as they knocked off Iowa State but were immediately knocked out in the semi final with a last minute loss to West Virginia. Getting a two seed in the NCAA tournament, things have been relatively smooth so far. The Sooners blew past Cal State Bakersfield in the first round for an 82-68 victory. The closest game came in the second round as the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams pushed the Sooners to an 85-81 victory. The game was in hand with a 44-31 halftime lead, but after giving up 50 points in the second half VCU made things interesting. In the Sweet Sixteen, the Sooners cruised past Texas A&M for a 77-63 victory.

Key players:

Buddy Hield,  #24, Senior guard, 6' 4", 214 lbs.

PPG: 25.1 RPG: 5.7 APG: 2.1

Buddy Hield, one of the most feared offensive players in college basketball this season. Hield is also one of those rare players who stuck around for his senior season. The guard has made the most of it as he bumped up his scoring from 17.4 points per game to 25.1 points per game this season. Hield puts up his points through some great shooting; he shoots 49.9% from the field, 45.8% from three and 88.3% on free throws. Buddy has even played well this season in losses as he still hovered right around his season average of 25 in those games. The area to impact Hield is through intense pressure. The guard isn't one who loves to pass, as he averages 2.1 assists per game, and likes to put up a large volume of shots (16 per game). Without a ton of assists, Hield's assist to turnover ratio isn't so hot with his 2.9 turnovers per game. Oregon needs to throw multiple looks and defenders at the guard and hope to force him in to turnovers. In losses this season, Hield is closer to 3.5 turnovers per game.

Jordan Woodard,  #10, Junior guard, 6' 0", 187 lbs.

PPG: 13.0 RPG: 3.0 APG: 3.4

Woodard played a large role in the win over Texas A&M with his 22 points off of 5-6 three point shooting. A compliment to Hield, Woodard is able to do a little bit of everything. Solid with the ball, the guard averages 3.4 assists per game while giving it up 1.6 times per game. He's a very good shooter from three at an over 45% clip who the Ducks can't afford to get hot and pick up slack for Hield. The season has been boom or bust for Woodard as he's scored over 20 in six games but scored less than ten in ten games.

Isaiah Cousins,  #11, Senior guard, 6' 4", 200 lbs.

PPG: 12.8 RPG: 4.5 APG: 4.6

Cousins makes up the last member of the Sooners three headed guard attack. He isn't quite the shooter as the other two, but still puts up solid numbers from the field. Similarly to Woodard, he is solid with the ball as he turns it over 2.3 times per game compared to his 4.6 assists. However, the Ducks could use some lessons from the VCU pressure in the second round who forced Cousins into six turnovers.

Team strength:

Offensive prowess. No doubt that led by Hield the Sooners are one of the best offensive teams in the country. Scoring 80.4 points per game, Oklahoma ranks 12th in the country in points. They do it through some great shooting percentages, highlighted by the 42.6% from three which ranks second in the country. Three different Oklahoma starters average shooting over 40% from three. The three shooting was a large part to the 14 point victory over Texas A&M as the team shot 44% on 11-25 shooting. The Aggies did a horrible job in that game putting any pressure on the shot and often missed rotations to the open man. Look for Altman to deploy a very similar defense to the one against Duke. You can live with one guy hitting threes (i.e Brandon Ingram) but the Ducks can't afford to have multiple Sooners hitting.

Team weakness:

Inconsistent rebounding. Much like the Duke game, Oregon and Oklahoma come in to the game with nearly identical rebounding numbers. What's important to note is how poor the Sooners have done in the rebounding game in losses this season. Oklahoma lost the rebounding battle in six of the seven losses, only wining the battle by two over West Virginia. In all losses this season, the Sooners have been out rebounded 285-249. The tournament hasn't been great for them in this area either, being out rebounded in two games, and tying VCU in rebounds during the second game. The Ducks must control the glass in this one.

Spotty defense. Once again similar to the Duke matchup, the Sooners are quite inconsistent on defense. This can't be too much of a surprise as a team that puts up so many points can often times put pressure on the defense by scoring so quickly. Removing the outlier of the triple overtime game against Kansas, the Sooners give up close to an additional five points per game in losses this season. Outside of the tournament game against VCU the defense has been solid in the tournament, as neither Cal State Bakersfield nor Texas A&M broke the 70 point barrier. A key for Oregon in this one will be to once again attack the glass. The Sooners average near five blocks per game but a majority of that consists of two players. Khadeem Lattin averages 2.2 blocks per game to lead the way. Other than that, the Sooners don't offer much in terms of rim protection giving Oregon an area to attack.