March Madness Round 64 Preview
Oklahoma vs. Rhode Island
In what may go down as one of the more controversial selections of the NCAA Tournament, Oklahoma not only made it but garnered a No. 10 seed and will meet No. 7 Rhode Island on Thursday in the Midwest Region in Pittsburgh. The Sooners went 6-12 down the stretch and were bounced from the Big 12 Tournament in the first round but will still get to face the Rams, who are the Atlantic 10 regular-season champions.
The fact that they play in a major conference that sent seven teams to the tournament and have Freshman of the Year candidate Trae Young certainly helped the Sooners, who were the only team in the field, including First Four teams, to make it with fewer than 19 victories. Young led the nation in scoring (27.4 points per game) and assists (8.8) while grabbing 3.9 rebounds for coach Lon Kruger. The 6-2 guard helped his team to a 12-1 start, including three wins over ranked teams, but things started to go south in mid-January. The Rams, who were unable to capture a second straight Atlantic 10 Tournament title, got a tough draw, including a possible second-round game with No. 2 seed Duke, for a team that won 25 games, including its first 13 in the Atlantic 10.
TV: 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (18-13): Everyone knows what Young can do, but it’s the rest of the team that will decide if the Sooners can advance out of the first round after missing the tournament last season. Junior guard Christian James had been solid with seven straight games in double figures before going scoreless in the Sooner’s 71-60 loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. Freshman forward Brady Manek is the only other player averaging in double figures for Kruger, but has only scored more than nine points once in the past seven games.
ABOUT RHODE ISLAND (25-7): Redshirt senior E.C. Matthews recorded 20 points and eight rebounds, but the Rams lost their second low-scoring game to Davidson in the last two weeks in the Atlantic 10 final. Dan Hurley’s team is well-rounded with a top scorer in Jared Terrell, a defensive specialist in Stanford Robinson and a solid point guard and leader in Jeff Dowtin. Andre Berry, Cyril Langevine and Jarvis Garrett also see considerable playing time for the Rams, who are in the tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since going to three straight from 1997-1999.
1. The Sooners made the Final Four in 2016 and the Sweet 16 in 2015 under Kruger, who has been to the tournament 17 times with five schools.
2. The Rams are 7-9 in the NCAA Tournament, including a win last season over Creighton.
3. The winner plays Duke or No. 15 seed Iona in Saturday’s second round.