A major thanks to Rich DeCray from Crimson and Cream Machine for taking some time to answer some questions about the Sooners ahead of tonight's matchup. Be sure to head over there to check out the answers I gave to questions about the Ducks.
Ahead of the Elite Eight matchup I caught up with Crimson and Cream Machine, the Oklahoma Sooners SB Nation site.
1) Over the last little bit, Oregon fans have heard so much about Buddy Hield. What is it that makes him such a weapon?
Over the course of four years, Hield has made significant improvements in multiple facets of the game. Now as a senior, the guard has finally put everything together making him a force to be reckoned with. With possibly the quickest release in all of college basketball, a small window allows Hield to fire a shot from beyond the three point line. Connecting with consistency, opposing defenders must respect the shot and fight over screens. If anyone is caught lagging behind, Hield recognizes the space taking the ball to the rim. While he may find success beyond the three point line and at the rim, Hield is not as comfortable when forced to shoot from mid-range.
2) If Buddy Hield isn’t having one of those nights, who is it that the Ducks need to be most worried about?
My initial instinct is to reference Isaiah Cousins. But, throughout tournament play, it's been Jordan Woodard answering the call. Moving from point guard over to the wing, Woodard has flourished offensively seeing an increase in shots taken and shots made. In the three games leading up to Saturday's match-up, Woodard averaged 18 points per game. If he finds his rhythm early, Woodard could be the x-factor for the Oklahoma Sooners.
3) With the Sooners being out rebounded 285-249 in the seven losses this year, will the rebounding game be the difference in the matchup?
Most likely. The Sooners thrive on fast break opportunities and setting the pace of play, both of which are sparked by defensive rebounds. If Ryan Spangler finds himself unable to match the physicality and athleticism Oregon brings to the table, Oklahoma would not only lose the battle on the boards, they'd likely dig themselves a hole from which there would be no return. On the other side of the equation, Oregon may have a height advantage but gives up a bit of weight to the Oklahoma bigs. Yet, both teams utilize crashing guards to pick up extra boards. It will be interesting to see how this single aspect of the game plays out.
4) There’s been lots of talk of the three headed guard lineup of Hield, Jordan Woodard, and Isaiah Cousins. With the Ducks deploying strong wings like Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook, who do the Sooners have to match up with those type of players?
No one at the position matches the height Brooks (6-7) and Cook (6-6) bring on the wing which creates an instant nightmare pairing (something Oregon has created all season long). Both Cousins, arguable the best defender on the roster, and Hield stand 6-4 while Cousins plays the point guard. Inevitably, they will draw the defensive pairings. Although Lon Kruger opts for tight man-to-man coverage switching at nearly every screen, viewers may see a rare zone deployed if things go awry.
5) Prediction. Who wins and why and who is your MVP?
As much as I would like to think the Sooners pull out a win, it's hard to ignore the style of basketball and success the Ducks have found. Behind unmatched athleticism and speed, I think Oklahoma gives Oregon all they can handle before eventually falling 76-70 as Chris Boucher has the game of his career.