Will Oklahoma advance to the national title game on Monday? Here is the case for—and the case against—the Sooners.
As part of its preview of the Final Four, SI.com is taking a look at each remaining team. Adjusted offense and defense statistics—which measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions—are from kenpom.com and the rankings are relative to the other Final Four teams. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through April 1.
Record: 29–7 (12–6 Big 12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 117.0 (3rd)/93.9 (2nd)
Path to the Sweet 16: Beat No. 15 CSU-Bakersfield, 82–68; beat No. 10 VCU, 85–81; beat Texas A&M, 77–63; beat Oregon, 80–68
Impact Player: Buddy Hield, senior guard, 29.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 apg during the NCAA tournament
The Case For: Buddy Hield, the Sooners’ senior star who has captured the nation’s full attention, is coming off his best performance of the NCAA tournament. Against No. 1 seed Oregon in the West Regional final, Hield hit eight of his 13 three-point attempts en route to 37 points and an easy win over the Ducks. Villanova is, on paper, the best team remaining in the NCAA tournament, but that won’t scare the Sooners. In the Big Dance, one of the biggest keys to winning is having a senior veteran guard who can take games over (see: Shabazz Napier, for a recent example). Villanova has an excellent backcourt, but Oklahoma has the best player in college basketball.
The Sooners are known for their offense because of Hield, but they are actually as good—in terms of adjusted efficiency—on defense. And relative to the other teams remaining in the Final Four, the Sooners’ strength will be its defense. Although Oklahoma will rarely turn you over, Sooners’ opponents struggle to shoot both two-pointers (44.7%, 38th in the country) and threes (33.1%, 88th).
The Case Against: In the national semifinal, Oklahoma will face the best team remaining in the field, according to kenpom.com. Villanova has dispatched its opponents with ease in the NCAA tournament, and even took down No. 1 overall seed Kansas in the South Regional final. Villanova’s defense could present problems for Oklahoma, as it employs a variety of looks and switches between them every few possessions. This will be the most difficult defense that the Sooners have faced in the NCAA tournament to date.
Oklahoma was also among the most three-point reliant teams in the country this season. It is 60th in percentage of threes among overall field-goal attempts and second in percentage, at 42.8%. NRG Stadium has wreaked havoc on three-point shooting teams in the NCAA tournament, and if Oklahoma can’t get its shots to fall, it could be in serious trouble in this game.
SI Prediction: Lose to Villanova in the national semifinal