The First Round of the NCAA Tournament gives us a game between a pair of old Big 12 rivals as the no. 8 seed Oklahoma Sooners take on the no. 9 seed Missouri Tigers in the West Region. The game is Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, with the Sooners favored by one point and the over/under set at 141 points.
The Tigers got off to a fast start this season, going 6-0 with wins over five tournament teams, including Oregon, Liberty, and Illinois. However, Missouri is just 10-9 since that incredible start, going 8-8 inside the SEC. In fact, the Tigers lost six of their last nine games to finish the season.
The Sooners endured a similar season. Oklahoma started the season 6-2 and later had a five-game winning streak, including a win over Alabama. Alas, things fell apart for the Sooners late in the season, losing five of their last six games in a loaded Big 12 conference, finishing the season 15-10 overall.
Few teams have a player they rely on as much as they rely on senior guard Austin Reaves. He leads the team in points, assists, and rebounds, which is unusual for a point guard. Typically, as Reaves goes, so goes the Sooners. Fortunately for Oklahoma, Reeves was outstanding down the stretch, averaging 21.3 points and 6.4 assists over his last eight games. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always enough to give Oklahoma a win.
The Sooners will surely need their supporting cast to play well in the NCAA Tournament. Brady Manek and Omega Gibson are both important parts of Oklahoma’s success because both can shoot the ball from three-point range and takes advantage of Reaves being a strong distributor. Their role will be even more important, with second-leading scorer De’Vion Harmon missing the opening weekend of the season due to a positive COVID test.
While the Sooners will be missing part of their starting backcourt, the Mizzou backcourt will be intact with Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson. Both are upperclassmen who average 14.1 points per game and have carried the Tigers for most of the season. They do a nice job of sharing the ball-handling duties and trying to make plays for others while also being aggressive enough to hunt their own shot.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have a reliable post scorer in 6’10’’ forward Jeremiah Tilmon, who averages 12.3 points and seven rebounds per game. If role players like Mark Smith and Kobe Brown can also join the flow of the offense, Missouri can look far better than a no. 9 seed. However, consistency has been a problem with the Tigers over the past month, which is why they’ve struggled to beat the quality competition.
Missing in Action
The last-minute loss of Harmon will surely tip the scales in Missouri’s favor from what was an even matchup. In March, the advantage tends to go to the team with the better guard play. Reaves is good, but he’ll struggle to match Smith and Pinson without Harmon’s help. In a virtual tossup, bet on Missouri to beat Oklahoma and reach the Round of 32.
100% up to $3,000 Bonus
Bovada is our most recommended ONLINE CASINO and POKER ROOM for US players with excellent deposit options. Get your 100% signup bonus today.