Sweet 16 Tale: #3 Texas A&M Vs. #2 Oklahoma
- CoachingBilly Kennedy is in his fifth season as head coach of Texas A&M. He has been to only three NCAA appearances in his 18-year career. He got Murray State there once in his five seasons as the head coach and that earned him the Texas A&M job in 2011. It took three seasons to turn the Aggies into a 20-win team and they are in March Madness for the first time since he took over.The Oklahoma Sooners have had some fantastic coaches in their past with Kelvin Sampson and Billy Tubbs. They have all worked to bring in some of the best basketball players in history, from Blake Griffin and Mookie Blaylock to Wayman Tisdale and now Buddy Hield. Now, Lon Kruger has brought them back to relevancy again. Kruger led Kansas State to the Elite Eight, Florida to the Final Four, UNLV to the Sweet Sixteen and now has Oklahoma in the Sweet Sixteen for the second year in a row. He has been part of 18 March Madness appearances, but has yet to win a title.
- OffenseDanuel House and Jalen Jones are the double-headed scoring threat for Texas A&M, averaging 15.8 and 15.4 ppg on the season. The Aggies scored 92 points in both of the first two tournament games, which is enough to beat anybody. Against Green Bay, they shot 56.1 percent from the field and House scored 20 points. Against Northern Iowa, both House (22) and Alex Caruso (25) broke the 20-point mark.All that needs to be said here is that the Oklahoma Sooners has Buddy Hield as their offensive star, and he ranks second in the nation with 25.4 ppg. If Hield has a good game, there are few teams in college basketball that can beat the Sooners. In the first two rounds of the March Madness tournament, Hield scored 27 points against CSU Bakersfield and then finished with 36 against 10-seed VCU. It isn’t just Hield, either. As Isaiah Cousins averaged 13.1, Jordan Woodward added 12.8 and Ryan Spangler finished the season with 10.5. This is one of the top scoring teams in the nation.
- DefenseThe Aggies almost lost to Northern Iowa and they were down by 12 points with only 44 seconds left. After that, they rebounded and played hard to win the game. That proves that this defense has the fight to win just about any game. However, if they fall behind to OU like that, their defense may not have an answer to Buddy Hield. Jalen Jones averaged 7.1 rebounds through the season and Tyler Davis added 6.2 with an impressive 1.1 blocks a game.Ryan Spangler is the key to this defense, averaging 9.3 rebounds a game over the season, just 0.7 rebounds short of averaging a double-double on the year. They are not only a top 20 team offensively, but also rank in the top 20 in defensive efficiency as well. Outside of a pair of bad losses this year, most of OU’s losses came in close games, and this defense is good enough to keep any game close for Hield to score and win.
- Bench DepthAgainst Green Bay, there were seven bench players, including three who eclipsed 20 minutes. The bench also accounted for 44 points in the game. Against Northern Iowa, there were four bench players, with Admon Gilder the biggest, with 11 points and four rebounds in 38 minutes. Texas A&M really utilizes their bench well and has plenty of players who can score.The Sooners don’t have the bench that Texas A&M has, but they do have some quality bench players. Against CSU Bakersfield, Dante Buford and Akolda Manyang played 32 minutes and scored 11 points in the win. Against VCU, it was Jamuni McNeace and Christian James combining for 26 minutes and one point. They give the starters enough time to rest, but are not weapons themselves.
The Oklahoma Sooners are one of the best teams in the nation, a top 20 offensive and defensive team. They have arguably the best player in the nation on offense, and he can beat anyone at any time. Texas A&M is a good team, but they don’t have the coaching experience of Lon Kruger or the scoring power of Hield. Oklahoma should win this game, and they are good enough to make it to the Final Four.