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North Dakota State
The 5-12 matchup is usually one of the more exciting ones as there is always an upset, and in last year's case, three No. 12 seeds won. Most people are viewing Oklahoma as the most susceptible team for an upset, mostly because they haven't been in many conversations this year, despite finishing second in the Big 12. North Dakota State made the tourney just once before and that was back in 2009. Oklahoma is just -4 point favorites in this one.
The Sooners score a lot, but they also don't play much defense, which can be exploited by the efficient Bison. OK didn't do too much to impress with their non-conference schedule, losing to Michigan State and Louisiana Tech, and also struggling against Seton Hall and Texas-Arlington. They picked it up in Big 12 play with sweeps of Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Of course, they also lost at home to Texas Tech.
The Bison ran through the Summit League and beat IPFW in the championship game. They had a few difficult non-conference matchups, losing 79-62 at Ohio State, but also winning at Notre Dame and against Delaware. They started off slow with a 2-3 record, but have now won 23 of 26 games.
NDSU is a smart team that will have to show up in this game. They shoot a nation-best 50.9% from the field which says it all. The Sooners lackluster defense could be a problem. Another thing NDSU has is seniority with their three best players all being seniors and three more coming off the bench. The starting three all provide size (all at least 6-7) and present interesting matchups for the Sooners.
Taylor Braun is NDSU's leading scorer, leading three-point shooter and also best rebounder. That doesn't say a whole lot though, as the Bison struggle to rebound as a team. TrayVonn Wright was their best player in the Summit tourney, but also Marshall Bjorklund can be tough down low.
The question for the Bison will be if they have the athleticism to deal with the high-tempo Sooners. Ryan Spangler will be a tough matchup down low, especially with his rebounding ability (9.4 RPG). Then there's Cameron Clark, who can also dominate the paint against this team. The Bison will still have to deal with the super athletic backcourt of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Woodard and a viable bench led by Je'lon Hornbeak. This team may not have the experience of NDSU, but they make up for it with quickness.
Leading scorer Hield will probably be the biggest problem as he can beat almost anyone to the hoop, yet does most of his damage on the perimeter hitting close to three 3-pointers per game.
The advantage for the Bison is that they have a smart team. That should come to play on the offensive end because bad shots and turnovers feed the beast of Oklahoma. If they don't do that, this game can come down to the wire.
In a regular matchup without seedings, one would always pick Oklahoma to win this game, but because of the 5-12 dynamic, it's not easy to give the Sooners a free pass. The Bison have a legit squad that can pull off an upset.
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