WHEN: Saturday, March 26th, 6:09 p.m. (CBS)
WHERE: Honda Center, Anaheim, Ca.
MAJOR STORYLINES: The story that everyone is going to be talking about is the friendship between Dana Altman and Lon Kruger. Kruger hired Altman as an assistant at Kansas State some 30 years ago, and this will be the first time that the two have squared as opposing head coaches. There’s a reason for that: It’s not all that much fun to compete against one of your buddies with so much on the line, and there may not ever be a game with more on the line than in the Elite 8.
Altman has never been to a Final Four. Kruger hasn’t been to a Final Four since 1994. Both are considered in the coaching ranks to be among the best tacticians in the college game, but it’s hard to truly get the national recognition without the success in March. Who will break through, and will they be able to truly celebrate it if it comes at the expense of a friend?
KEY MATCHUP: Whoever is matched up Buddy Hield is the obvious one here. Slowing down the nation’s best scorer is kind of important. But let’s look elsewhere here. I’m going to say that it is the battle at the four-spot. Oregon plays small-ball and has some terrific athletes — Elgin Cook, Dwayne Benjamin, even Dillon Brooks — that they slot into the four-spot. That’s where Ryan Spangler plays for the Sooners. He’s a skilled shooter and a guy that can stretch the floor, but is he someone that will be able to guard one of Oregon’s talented combo-forwards on the perimeter?
X-FACTOR: Oklahoma’s transition game and their ability to get onto the offensive glass will be the easiest way for the Sooners to get open looks from three. Oregon often runs a matchup zone, which will make it somewhat difficult for the Sooners to be able to run sets to get Hield and company coming off of screens. The easiest way to get great looks from beyond the arc in this case will likely end up being beating the Duck defense down the floor or finding the sharpshooters spotting up on the perimeter after an offensive rebound.
POINT SPREAD: Oregon -2
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Is Oklahoma hitting their threes?: This feels obvious, I know, but Oklahoma is as three-point reliant as any team in college basketball. When those threes are going down, they can win a national title. And as they proved on Thursday night, they don’t have to get a monster game from Buddy Hield to be able to get it done. Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard can carry them if need be. But they have to be hitting their threes for that to happen.
- Can Oklahoma slow down Dillon Brooks?: Hield is clearly the biggest star on the floor in this game, but Brooks is as important to Oregon as Hield is to Oklahoma. He can hit threes, he can put the ball on the floor and create, he’s a matchup nightmare. Here’s the better question: Will Hield guard Brooks on the other end of the floor?
- Bet the over: This may be the most intriguing Elite 8 matchup when it comes to aesthetics. Two high-powered offenses. Two teams that spread the floor and score a lot of points. Two teams that aren’t afraid to get out in transition. It will be fun. That much is guaranteed.
CBT PREDICTION: I like Oklahoma to win outright tonight, so clearly I’d take the Sooners plus the points.