Sooner Than Later

I have to admit, I really didn't know too much about Oklahoma going into this week.  As far as I knew, they just sent Blake Griffin out there by himself every game (and the more I learn about the guy the more I think it would have worked).  Thankfully, Matt over at the Oklahoma blog Crimson and Cream Machine was here to answer my questions and get me, and you, up to speed.  My questions and his answers below:

What did you learn about this OU team from the first two games of the NCAA Tourney?

We learned that Blake Griffin was good enough to single-handedly power the Sooners past the lower tier tournament teams but there is a big red flag that has popped up as well with the team’s depth. The starting five are very good but behind them both guard and post play seems to take a significant dive. Against Michigan Oklahoma’s bench only produced one point. That concerns me the deeper they go into the tournament.

Besides Blake Griffin, who is the one player that Syracuse will have the most problems with?

Next to Blake, Willie Warren is most likely Oklahoma ’s second best scoring threat. A true freshman, Warren has been amazing this season. He’s got great range and is averaging just under 15 points per game for the season. In both the first and second round games he scored 16 points each.

You also don’t want to fall asleep on Taylor Griffin (Blake’s older brother) either. He is an underrated defender and although he lacks the size of Blake he has much of the same athleticism and can make you pay for giving all of your attention to Blake.

Oklahoma seemed like they were heading for a 1-seed for while. Ultimately, is being a 2-seed making a difference with the way their post-season is progressing?

I was pleased with Oklahoma ’s draw as a #2 seed. When I saw the bracket the first thing I thought was that the Sooners were a lock for the Sweet 16. Even if you swap OU and Syracuse I believe that we still arrive at this point. With North Carolina most likely waiting in the wing the tournament has reached the point where the strongest survive. There’s no Cinderella in the South Bracket so whichever team survives to the Final Four can legitimately say they earned it.

What would a Final Four appearance mean to OU basketball fans?

After the catastrophic end of the Kelvin Sampson era three years ago a trip to the Final Four would be priceless. OU has never won a basketball national championship but fans believe that Jeff Capel has them on track. A trip to the Final Four in just his third season means that he has them further ahead of schedule than we ever expected.

What are the keys for Oklahoma to beat Syracuse? And on the flip side, what do you see as the keys for Syracuse?

Keys For Oklahoma

  1. Feed the beast – Give Blake Griffin his touches. He’s the best player in the country and creates all types of match-up problems. The more times Blake touches the ball the better off Oklahoma will be.
  2. Win the battle of the boards – Second chance points are going to be a huge key in this game. The Sooners have to be active on the glass to gain second chance points and prevent the Orange from getting theirs.
  3. Fire Daggers – Oklahoma ’s guards are going to have to both create and make big shots from outside. This wont be a game that Blake Griffin can win all by himself.

Keys For Syracuse

  1. Force the Sooner guards to make shots. Oklahoma ’s guards have been streaky at best. By taking the ball out of Blake Griffin’s hands and forcing the guards to make plays they will greatly cripple OU’s offense.
  2. Win the battle of the boards – See above!
  3. Let the 2-3 zone do its thing. Consistently force Oklahoma into bad shots and turnovers.

Thanks to Matt for taking the time. Keep an eye on Crimson and Cream Machine over the next couple days for any more insight on the Sooners as we prepare for battle.

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