Representing the # 3 and # 7 seeds in the East bracket, the 24-10 Oklahoma Sooners will face off against the 25-11 Michigan State Spartans on Friday night in the round of 16. Both teams are coming off wins but Michigan States was a lot more impressive. The Spartans knocked off # 2 Virginia for the second straight year by playing great defense. They held the Cavaliers to just 29% shooting from the field including 2 for 17 from three point range. Oklahoma had to come back from a 9 point second half deficit to beat the # 11 seeded Dayton Flyers.
Michigan State is playing their best basketball of the year right now. Their victory over Virginia was sparked by an offensive barrage by guard Travis Trice who made his first 5 shots including three 3 point attempts. He scored 13 of their first 15 points as they jumped out to a 15-4 lead. Branded Dawson was the only other Spartan to score double digits and he chipped in with 15 points and 9 rebounds. The biggest weakness the Spartans have is their free throw shooting. In the first 2 tournament games they have only made 31 out of the 52 foul shots they have attempted which is 59%. Their aggressive style of play gets them to the foul line a lot as they had 33 attempts versus Virginia but they only made 20.
Oklahoma’s victory over Dayton wasn’t pretty but they got the job done when it counted the most. They ended the game on a 32-17 run to pull out the 6 point victory. Offensively they were led by Jordan Woodard and Big 12 player of the year Buddy Hield. Woodard scored 16 points going 9-10 from the free throw line and Hield scored 15 to go along with 5 assists. They won both the Free throw and rebounding battles while also forcing 9 steals. They made 6 more free throws than Dayton even attempted and outrebounded them 35-23. They struggled mightily when it came to defending the 3 point shot as Dayton made 11 of their 21 attempts. They also lost the turnover battle by committing 15. if they that sloppy against a much better Spartans team, they will be in trouble.
These programs put up almost identical scoring and rebounding averages this year as they both averaged 72 points and 38 rebounds. Michigan State has had the tougher road as they have beaten the #10 and # 2 seeds of the bracket while Oklahoma has beaten the # 14 and # 11 seeds. MSU has also fared better against the spread this year than OU as they have gone 20-15-1 while the Sooners went 16-16. The last 2 times a # 7 seed took on a # 3 seed in the tournament, the 7 seed won both times. Las Vegas thinks it will happen again as even though they are the higher seed; MSU is actually favorites to win this game.
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