Wooden Award favorite Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners kick off their 2016 NCAA Tournament with a matchup against the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners. Although we have seen a few No. 2 seeds get upset in the first round in recent years (Georgetown 2013, Duke & Missouri ‘12), that will not be the case here. CSU Bakersfield’s only game this season against a team in the field of 64 was a loss to Fresno State, and Oklahoma is one of the best in the whole bracket.
No. 15 CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners (24-8) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (25-7)
When: 4 p.m. ET (Friday)
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City)
Line: Oklahoma -13.5
Keys for CSU Bakersfield
The Roadrunners’ defense ranks No. 14 in the nation in terms of points allowed (63.2 ppg). They will have to dial up the pressure and limit the high-flying Sooners as much as possible. There is no scenario where CSU wins in a shootout, so the sloppier the WAC Tournament champions can make this game the better. The Roadrunners will need a total team effort in order to keep this game close, and their five players who average double-digit scoring must work hard to get an open look each possession. The frontcourt tandem of Aly Ahmed and Kevin Mays will have to attack the glass harder than they have all season in order to give the Roadrunners an outside chance at a victory.
Keys for Oklahoma
Oklahoma should not waste this opportunity of playing a stingy defense in its first round matchup. Smothering defenses have proven to be the Sooners’ kryptonite this season, and although they should coast to victory in this matchup it should provide good practice for the later rounds. Buddy Hield is obviously the lifeblood of this Sooners squad; so getting him off to a hot start is just what Oklahoma needs to make a deep run in the West region.
Any sliver of hope that the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners had was stripped away once the location of this game was announced. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s home court is going to be rocking with Sooners fans from start to finish. After a first round exit in last year’s NCAA Tournament the veteran Sooners are not going to take any game lightly. The Roadrunners are about to get devoured by Buddy Hield and company.
Prediction: Oklahoma 84, CSU Bakersfield 68
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)