Earlier in the day, the VCU Rams upended their opponent to move on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Enjoying a bit of time off, the team piled into the Chesapeake Arena to catch a glimpse of their next round opponent, the Oklahoma Sooners, live and in person.
Sure 10-2 upsets are rare. But, what do the Sooners need to do in order to advance to the second weekend of play?
Find Open Looks Along The Perimeter
The Rams no longer run a havoc style of defense due to the departure of former head coach, Shaka Smart. However, VCU still possesses the ability to create numerous turnovers and force jump shooters off the perimeter. Playing a tight man-to-man defense switching on nearly very screen, only 29.9% of the shots fired were from range against Virginia Commonwealth. Couple that with the idea that opponents connected on a mere 33.6% of the attempts behind the arc and we see a recipe for disaster for a jump shooting team like Oklahoma.
This season, Oklahoma has attempted 784 three pointers converting 42.6% of the time. The number ranks second in the nation behind only Michigan State. It's clearly the favorite mode of scoring for the Sooners. If they hope to advance into the Sweet 16, they'll need to find a way to get open looks for Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Jordan Woodard on the perimeter.
Clean The Glass
In the first round, the Sooners were out rebounded by Cal State Bakersfield leading to a closer game than many OU fans had hoped for. Historically, Oklahoma has not faired well when being out rebounded by any opponent. A failure to secure a defensive rebound leads to second chance opportunities while also eliminating the possibility of fast break points.
On Sunday afternoon, VCU brings an undersized front court to the table. The 6-7 Mo Alie-Cox remains the most efficient player on the blocks and must stay out of foul trouble. The duo of Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman rip down ten percent of the teams missed shots on the offensive glass.
Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin must use their size to gain an advantage to win the battle on the glass this go around.
We've seen how quickly a team can fade when the bench fails to contribute. Fortunately the Sooners have found multiple second string contributors including Christian James who had a solid showing in the Big XII Tournament. Looking to pick up where he left off, James made a difficult lay in for his only two points of the outing in five minutes of play. Yet, Dante Buford continues to impress. The freshman recorded nine points and 18 minutes against Cal State Bakersfield.
On the other end of the spectrum, VCU has eight players averaging 14 minutes or more. Attribute the rotation to their style of play but nonetheless, the Rams have the depth to wear out a thin team like Oklahoma.
If Lon Kruger continues to limit the playing time of the injured Lattin, someone needs to step up. Could it be Buford once again?