Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Once the final buzzer sounds this Sunday night, we’ll know the four teams that have successfully navigated the treacherous NCAA Tournament and will take center stage in Houston, Texas on Saturday, April 2 to play in the Final Four.
Now that most of us are finally over the sting of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament – which were two rounds that turned brackets across the country into confetti – we can now focus on attempting to make some sense of the next two rounds of the NCAA Tournament – the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8.
For those whose brackets were completely busted into smithereens about four or five hours into March Madness, their saving grace was the West Region, which as you may have noticed is the perfect bracket. Well, that is of course assuming you picked all of the favorites to make it into the Sweet 16, which you definitely did, right?
Anyway, that’s the story in the West right now. The No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds are all very much alive and well and will now be duking it out for West Region supremacy and a trip to Houston for a Final Four appearance.
However, this is where the story of the lone perfect region of the imperfect 2016 bracket ends. The No. 2 seeded Oklahoma Sooners are going to ruin the fun, and here’s why.
Buddy Hield. Hield has been unstoppable all season long and that hasn’t changed now that the stage has grown bigger and brighter. The star guard put up a ridiculous 29 points in the second half alone against No. 10 VCU in his last game and had 27 against No. 15 CSU Bakersfield.
NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2016
As we saw against Northern Iowa, the Aggies can put some pressure on an offense when necessary, but with all due respect to Northern Iowa, the Panthers didn’t have a player in the same stratosphere as Hield. Hield’s quickness and his ability to create his own shot – and drill it from anywhere on the floor – is unmatched in college basketball right now.
The man tasked with guarding Hield much of the night may be forward Danuel House. House, who went off late in the second half and into both overtimes against Northern Iowa to the tune of 22 points is 6 foot 7 inches, compared to Hield who is 6 foot 4 inches. So perhaps House can get a hand in Hield’s face – if he can keep up with the speedy and smaller guard.
More importantly for House will be his ability to match Hield’s scoring possession for possession, especially when it gets late in the game.
Besides Hield’s scoring prowess, he’s got a more than capable support staff, especially in fellow seniors Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins.
With Hield and Oklahoma’s lights out shooting they should be able to out-shoot the Aggies at a high enough clip to win this one.
Should Oklahoma advance, they’ll face the winner of No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 4 Duke in the Elite 8.
The Oregon-Duke matchup is an extremely intriguing one all around. While Oregon is more well-rounded and possibly deeper than Duke, the Blue Devils’ top three players will present matchup problems for the Ducks, especially when it comes to the guard play of Grayson Allen, who has been on fire of late. Then there’s Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee, who have been having phenomenal tournaments as well and are equally as capable of giving the Ducks fits on defense.
That being said, the Ducks have a stronger traditional frontcourt than the Blue Devils with big bodied and hard-nosed players like Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks. Brooks can stretch the floor much in the same way that Ingram does for Duke while Cook thrives under the basket.
At this point in the tournament, seeding can usually be chucked out the window and that’s definitely the case here. Duke winning would hardly be an upset and that’s the way it feels like this one would play out.
Duke vs. Oklahoma would be one for the ages. Both teams can score at will, both teams are phenomenally coached and both have a shooting guard that will probably be doing their thing at the NBA level come the end of this year.
Still, the ‘Boomer’ Sooners feel like the team to beat in the West but as we all well know, anything can and will happen when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.
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