In the first meeting this season it was too much Blake and not enough Texas.
Anyone remember when Texas used to be ranked in basketball? The last time Oklahoma played them (Jan. 12) the Longhorns were ranked 11th. Since that 78-63 dunkfest in Norman Texas has posted a very unimpressive 5-4 record and has found themselves on the bottom side of the NCAA bubble. That is what scares me the most!
While I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Lonhorns struggle on the hardwood during the past month and a half I also fear that those woes may provide the proper fodder for a monumental upset. After all there isn't a better way to get off the NCAA bubble than by knocking off the current best team in the nation. Texas is going to come out swinging tonight and if they go down they will go down swinging as well. It is going to be a dogfight!
In that previous meeting the Sooners held Texas to 33% shooting while hitting 50% of their own shots. Blake posted 20 points and 10 rebounds while three other Sooner players scored in double figures. At that point Oklahoma was ranked #6 and now the only thing keeping them properly being introduced as the nation's top team are the Texas Longhorns.
Texas has three players scoring in double figures led by A.J. Abrams. Abrams is a streaky shooter and when he's on he's one of the best scorers in the country but when he's off Texas finds itself in trouble. Just behind Abrams is Damion "Benedict Arnold" James puts up 15.6 points to go along with his 9 rebounds. The onetime sooner recruit is the closest thing Texas has to a Blake Griffin but it is still a stretch. Finally, Gary Johnson gives Texas 11.4 points per game for the Longhorns.
While Texas had no answer inside for Blake Griffin in the first match-up the weak link in the Longhorn's game seems to be in the guard play. Abrams will occasionally have strokes of greatness but if he's off the Texas guards are less than average. Justin Mason is just okay and Dogus Balbay was inserted into the starting lineup mid-season to give them that extra 2 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists they need to bump them all the way up to average.
Here's the problem with average. Under the right circumstances an average team can do great things. Oklahoma's biggest challenge is going to be not allowing those circumstances to arise. To do so the Sooners must...
* Feed the Beast - Blake Griffin is the best post player in the country. Give him the ball and let him do his thing.
* Spread the Floor - Austin Johnson, Willie Warren and Tony Crocker have to make Texas focus on more than just defending Blake Griffin.
* Make Free Throws - At some point the hack-a-Blake game plan is going to come to fruition. Regardless of whether it does in Austin or not the Sooners must take advantage of every trip to the free throw line.
* Defend the Perimeter - If Texas is going to beat Oklahoma then its going to happen with outside shooting. The Sooners need to pressure the ball on defense and contend every shot to disallow Abrams and company from getting into a rhythm.