Oklahoma secured its first Final Four appearance since 2002 after defeating the Oregon Ducks in the Elite Eight. Previously, they opened the tournament pulling away from CSU-Bakersfield, squeaking past VCU in the round of 32 and disposing of Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.
Before the Sooners’ dreams of hoisting a national championship trophy comes to fruition, their Final Four rematch with Villanova provides a daunting task. Oklahoma easily defeated the Wildcats by 23 points during its early-season match-up, but both teams have improved in the months since.
Predicting a national champion is always tough, but here are three reasons why the Oklahoma Sooners will win their first-ever national championship.
Trivia: Which player led the tournament in points scored?
Answer: Buddy Hield (117)
Electrifying, clutch and impactful. Words that describe Buddy Hield’s performance this March Madness to a tee. He’s doing his best Danny Manning circa 1988 and Kemba Walker circa 2011 impression, draining shots from all over the floor, seemingly carrying Oklahoma’s offense.
There’s no need to beat around the bush. Hield’s performance alone can lead the Sooners past Villanova because he showcased one-man-show capabilities all season long, especially over the past couple of games. Against VCU, Hield scored 29 of his 36 points in the second half. In the first half against Oregon, he simply couldn’t miss from beyond the arc, and when the Ducks attempted to rally in the second half, his timely shooting provided dagger after dagger.
Trivia: Which remaining backcourt possesses the most career games played together?
Answer: Oklahoma (312 games)
Okay, maybe Hield hasn’t done it all by himself. Junior Jordan Woodard scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting against Texas A&M, while senior Isaiah Cousins’ play at point guard remains consistent despite recent shooting woes. With a backcourt so familiar with one another, and in a season where the emphasis on great guard play is high, the Sooners’ experience gives them a key edge entering the Final Four.
Trivia question: Which conference had the highest RPI during the regular season?
Answer: The Big 12
While the ACC delivered six teams in the Sweet 16, the regular season belonged to the Big 12. Oklahoma lost twice to the top overall seed Kansas Jayhawks, but both games were tight, including the first match-up, where the Sooners and Jawhawks battled tooth and nail in a triple overtime instant classic (a game in which Hield scored 46 points, by the way). Oklahoma finished with a conference record of 12-6, which included wins over Baylor (twice), Iowa State (twice), Texas and West Virginia (twice).
Why they could lose
Hield is shooting 58 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range so far in the tournament, but his 11 turnovers over the last two games can’t be ignored. If his shots suddenly stop falling, Villanova or the winner between North Carolina-Syracuse will capitalize.
Featured image courtesy of Max Goldberg
Edited by Cody McClure