Despite losing eight of their final 10 games to close the season, the Oklahoma Sooners still earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play the Rhode Island Rams on Thursday at 11:15 a.m. CT in Pittsburgh.
The Rams won the regular season championship in the Atlantic 10 Conference but were upset, 58-57, by Davidson in the A-10 Tournament championship game. Additionally, the Rams tout a record of 25-7 and are currently the No. 25 team in the AP Poll.
This has been an incredibly frustrating season for this team, which has often lacked energy and cohesion over the past two months of play. Trae Young, who despite leading the nation in both scoring and assists, has been clearly frustrated with both himself and his team — and for good reason. The Sooners have been especially inept away from home, as they have not won a game away from the Lloyd Noble Center since Dec. 30. In Oklahoma’s most recent outing, the Sooners were out-rebound by Oklahoma State to the tune of 53-27, continuing a trend that has been quite upsetting.
Did this team deserve to make it? Probably not, but the quality wins over the likes of Wichita State, Kansas, Texas Tech, TCU (twice) and Kansas State helped immensely. Also, did y’all really think they were leaving Trae Young out of this tournament? Probably wasn’t gonna happen. Still, an 18-13 team seeking an at-large bid is always going to sweat out on selection Sunday. Needless to say, the team was relieved to hear the news of making the Big Dance on Sunday afternoon.
The Rams are led in scoring by senior guard Jared Terrell, who is averaging 17.5 PPG while sinking nearly 42 percent of his three-point attempts on the season. Rhode Island only has one other player, fellow senior guard E.C. Matthews, who averages double figures scoring at 12.8. However, that’s no real indictment of this Rhode Island team offensively, as the Rams do have three other players — Jeff Dowtin, Stanford Robinson and Andre Berry, who average at least nine PPG.
Of Rhode Island’s seven losses, six came against teams that are in this year’s NCAA Tournament field. The team’s best win is likely a Nov. 23 victory over Seton Hall in the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Rams are ranked 49th in KenPom.com’s efficiency margin, 66th in offensive efficiency, 38th in defensive efficiency, 146th in pace, 87th in ‘luck’ and 96th in strength of schedule ut of 351 schools. Our own Austin Brown is also a blogger over at Mid-Major Madness, so he’ll be filling us in on the Rams as we get closer to this one. I have spoken with him about it already, and he is unsurprisingly pessimistic regarding OU’s chances in this matchup. Oklahoma doesn’t tend to do too well against gritty teams. Unfortunately, the Rams definitely fit that bill.
If the Sooners get past Rhode Island, they’ll most certainly face the No. 2-seed Duke Blue Devils, who feature the likes of Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley.