No. 10 seed Oklahoma (18-13) vs. No. 7 seed Rhode Island (25-7): 11:15 a.m. CT, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsbugh, PA (18,087)
Commentary: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Dana Jacobson
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa)
Line: Rhode Island -2 (as of 3:40 CT)
About Rhode Island
- The Rams won the Atlantic 10 regular season title and are making their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. URI lost to Davidson last Sunday in the A10 Tournament Championship after besting VCU and Saint Joseph’s earlier in the tournament.
- URI coach Dan Hurley (younger brother of Duke legend and current Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley) was voted A10 coach of the year, and point guard Jared Terrell made first-team all conference.
- The most famous URI basketball alum is Lamar Odom, but they also once had an All-American named Dick Hole. Seriously.
- Tempo - Whichever team can determine the pace of play will have a massive advantage. Oklahoma ranks No. 4 in the country in tempo while Rhode Island ranks No. 148. OU’s offense is at it’s best when they can get out and run in transition. Look for OU to try to turn the game into a shootout and for URI to try to slow it down and turn it into a half-court game.
- Trae Young - Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He leads the nation in scoring and assists, and he will have to play stellar if OU wants to have any chance of pulling the upset. Conversely, URI’s entire defensive gameplan will revolve around taking the ball out of Young’s hand. Terrell will likely be the primary defender on Young, but don’t be surprised if URI throws a few different looks at him in an attempt to rattle the freshman playing in his first NCAA Tournament game.
- Supporting cast - In addition to a phenomenal performance from Young, OU will need the rest of the team to step up if they want to win. As I said earlier, OU will try to turn the game into a shootout. That will only be possibly if the Sooners, you know, make shots. Brady Manek, Cam McGusty and Jordan Shepard all have the capability to get hot from beyond the arch, and all three will need to find their stroke on Thursday. If URI tries to double or triple team Young, someone else will need to be able to make them pay for it.
I think this is one of the most intriguing first-round matchups in the entire tournament. I could see it going a number of ways. Trae Young has shown he is capable of decimating teams. He’s also shown that he can be rattled by certain defensive game plans, particularly when his teammates don’t step up and help carry the load offensively. Rhode Island is a very, very good team that I could see making a dark horse run deep into the tournament. I hope Thursday isn’t Trae Young’s final game as a Sooner, but I have a strong feeling that it might be. That being said, this is March. If you can’t believe in Sooner Magic, what can you believe in?
Oklahoma 84, Rhode Island 81
This, folks, is how one hedges a bet. If OU wins, I look smart on the internet. If OU loses, my bracket stays intact.
P.S. - We did a Q&A session with the folks over at Rhody Rampage that you should check out.