#2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Texas A & M. Lon Kruger and Billy Kennedy have put together a good mixture of talent and experience to get to this point. The Sooners thrive off of Buddy Hield and his shot-making ability. A & M is not really dependent upon one particular guy, but can’t have all options unavailable (as they did when they had their midseason losing streak).
Oklahoma is built up at the guard spot with Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, and Hield. But the key in this matchup might be with the interior defense played by Khadeem Latin and Ryan Spangler. Latin has finally stepped into a recurring role after being so highly touted out of high school. He uses his length well and at 6’9 is the biggest regular. Spangler is a great shooting big who is an underrated rebounder. Protecting the paint from an Aggie team that is very good at driving to the basket (though they fall in love with the 3 all too often) will go a long way in making them a one-dimensional team.
Buddy Hield could take over this game, but don’t think that the Sooners can’t lose if he scores 30 or more. Team defense will be very important as will how the other two guards are able to facilitate, create, and open up shots for Hield. If Jordan Woodard can take some pressure off of Buddy by hitting some outside shots early, the Aggies will have no option but to sag off and help defend. The bench isn’t very deep outside of the first five guys, so let’s hope they don’t have to play heavy minutes.
Texas A & M is a curious team. Built on a couple upperclassmen leaders , a couple transfers, and a couple young guns; the Aggies have the right mix of talent to go even further. Alex Caruso is a tough combo guard with a lead-guard mentality but the ability to score if needed. He will be an important player regardless of who he’s shadowing all night long. Danuel House (Houston), Jalen Jones (SMU), Anthony Collins (South Florida) are all transfers playing big roles for a team that needs their experience and confidence to create on all fronts. House and Jones are both mercurial but have deadly range and have the length to make the Sooner uncomfortable on the perimeter.
Three freshmen DJ Hogg (6’8), Tyler Davis (6’10), and Admon Gilder (6’3) anchor this team and have all grown into big roles in their first year. Davis is a beast in the paint, Hogg is flashy from the wing, and Gilder can score. Tony Trocha-Morelos has been a steady player down on the block at 6’10 as well.
The Aggies are an effective half-court team that doesn’t care much for the half court. Can they be the team to continue a run after a come-from-behind win? Perhaps, but it will take a gargantuan effort. Oklahoma will be fresh and ready to play. Texas A & M will need to find a shorter rotation in this game to overtake their former conference rival. Texas A & M 71, Oklahoma 69.