Are the Sooners up for the Challenge?

Sixteen teams have made their way to Portland, Oregon for the chance to show fans a little March Madness sneak-peak.

Eight of the teams made the NCAA tournament in 2017, and 3/4 of the Final Four teams (Oregon, UNC and Gonzaga) are participating in the tournament. In what may be considered the greatest preseason tournament ever put together, Lon Kruger and his Sooners (2-0) have a great opportunity to prove to fans that they are contender worthy.

The last time we saw the Sooners play they had an impressive 108-69 victory over Ball State, but that was eight days ago. Kruger has expressed his satisfaction with the way these Sooners are handling their practices between games.

“You can’t wait until next week to play again without getting better between games,” Kruger said. “I think that’s where a team, a mature team, really distinguishes themselves from others. It’s not just game-to-game; it’s getting better between games.” – Tulsa World

The Sooners first opponent is a familiar one. The Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0) are the perfect matchup to start off with for fans in either state. It’s a matchup that should be played more, but for now we shouldn’t take it for granted. The face to face record between the two programs sits at an impressive 11-11. Unfortunately, the last time we got to see this matchup was December 4, 2012, when the Razorbacks came out on top 81-78.

Keys to Victory

Guard Play – For the Sooners it all starts with the play of their star freshman point guard Trae Young. He has his first real matchup against the Razorbacks backcourt led by senior guard Jaylen Barford, who is averaging 20.3 points per game. Barford has been in the Fayetteville news lately for being wrongly accused of shoplifting, but Barford hasn’t been letting the nonsense get to him and his play on the court speaks volumes. His partner in the backcourt Daryl Macon has been just as important to the Razorbacks success in the young season as Barford has. The two guards have each hit 50 percent of their three point shots. Sooners will need to keep them close and don’t allow the Razorbacks too much space to hit open threes.

Take Advantage of Frontcourt- There is no doubt that the strength of the Razorbacks is their backcourt, so the Sooners will need to play their best perimeter defense while getting a boost from their frontcourt. The Sooners will need to take advantage of the Razorbacks weakness in the frontcourt by continuing their domination on the glass. The Sooners have averaged an impressive 48 rebounds in their first two games. The Sooners have some great rim protectors in forwards Khadeem Latin (1.5 blocks) and Jamuni McNeace (4.0 blocks). They’ll need to continue their play around the rim and stay big inside if they want to keep the Razorbacks one dimensional on offense.

This is going to be a fun game to watch. Mike Anderson looks to have his best team in two years, and he’ll need his team to play fast and physical for 40 minutes to get a win here. The size and ability to rebound the basketball will be too much for the Razorbacks to overcome. This is a very hard game to pick, because both teams strengths are the others weakness, but I think the Sooners guard play is better than the Razorbacks ability in the post.
Sooners 84, Razorbacks 81

The Winner will take on the winner of Portland vs. North Carolina.

Tip-Off is at 4 p.m. CT, on ESPN2

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