USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma St. Cowboys may have peaked too early with March Madness still a ways off. However, that doesn't mean they aren't playing great basketball as their in-state rival, the Oklahoma Sooners come to town for a sold out crowd.
The Oklahoma St. Cowboys may be the hottest team in all of college basketball at the moment. They are currently on a six game winning streak that is highlighted by wins against an underrated and under-appreciated Iowa St. Cyclones team as well as a win in Phog Allen over the Kansas Jayhawks. In their last meeting the Oklahoma Sooners were able to down their in-state rival, yet needless to say, this is not the same team that came to Norman back on January 12th.
Not only are the Cowboys playing solid basketball, they also hold a share of first place in the conference at 18-5 overall and 8-3 in conference. The worry here becomes that Oklahoma St. has peaked too early in the season. With 66/1 odds at winning a national title, there is much work left to do. Expect a packed out Gallagher-Iba Arena, as OSU Students Are In For Something Special according to PistolsFiring and it's creator, Kyle Porter.
Note that GIA is one of the toughest places to play in the country when it's sold out. The Cowboys are 12-1 at home this season with the only loss coming to a highly regarded Gonzaga Bulldogs team by a single point. Gonzaga is a team I fully expect to earn a #1 Seed come NCAA Tournament time.
The biggest difference for Oklahoma remains the fact that they will be without Buddy Hield, a freshman standout at guard. This puts more pressure on guys like Steven Pledger to hit big shots as well as freshmen Isaiah Cousins and Je'lon Hornbeak to have great outings in order to take pressure off of Romero Osby to carry the load.
Markel Brown will be the constant three-point threat coming off a stellar performance against Texas Tech. Brown hit 7-of-8 attempts from beyond the arc for an unheard of 87.5% conversion rate. If you are willing to write this off as a great performance against a subpar team, I'd advise you to rethink that statement. Against then #2 Kansas, Brown went off for 7-of-10 from range capping off the upset. When this kid gets hot, he is on fire.
Inside, Le'Bryan Nash can have his way with nearly any defender. He is a physical specimen at the college level with the ability to back down his defender as well as take anyone off the dribble or fire up a shot from 18+ feet. But, the real compliment to Brown is none other than Marcus Smart.
In the first matchup, it was evident that Smart tends to be the aggressor which has often led to foul trouble for this freshman. His natural tendency is to drive the lane which in turn frees up Brown or Phil Forte for an open look from the outside. Making sure that a close out game is there defensively will be key for the Sooners if they hope to sweep the Cowboys. In other news, if Smart adds a jump shot to his game, he could be virtually unstoppable.
Oklahoma will be looking to boost their resume as they are currently projected as a #7 Seed in the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma St. poses a big threat but is a part of why the Sooners boast the 9th toughest schedule in the nation. The game will tipoff at 12:47 PM CST as rivalry week comes to a close.