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Rhode Island

March Madness



The first game of the Round of 64 features teams that finished the season with a thud. A lot of people don’t think Oklahoma should be in this situation having lost eight of its last 10 games, while Rhode Island has slipped as of late losing four of its last eight, which is about the same in the Atlantic 10. The Rams were early -1.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

At a time, Rhode Island had won 16-straight games and many thought would have a chance at grabbing a 4-seed, but that quickly disappeared after losing by 30 points to St. Joe’s in the home finale. The Rams have nice wins over Seton Hall and Providence in non-conference, but that’s about it in terms of legit wins not in conference play. Against better competition (Nevada, Virginia, Alabama), they couldn't do enough.

The Sooners are an extremely hard team to read after an incredible non-conference that included wins at USC and Wichita State and then a sweep of TCU in the first couple weeks of Big 12 play. But once the defense picked up on Trae Young, things quickly changed and Oklahoma lost its last 10 games away from home. For that stat alone, it makes sense not to back Oklahoma in this situation.

But does Rhode Island have the bodies to limit Young? Probably. The Rams don’t have a ton of size, which means they can throw multiple guys at Young throughout the game with players like EC Matthews, Stanford Robinson and Jared Terrell. They had the best three-point defense in the A10 and allow just 33.1% for the season. The Rams also force a lot of turnovers, which isn’t good news for Young, who had issues losing the ball in the second half of the season.

As for RIU’s offense, it has the players to score, especially in this game. Led by seniors Terrell and Matthews, this team should have no problem scoring. But to take control of the game, the Rams will need more of a post presence between Andre Berry and Cyril Langevine because that’s something the Sooners struggled with most of the season even with Khadeem Lattin down there.

Outside of Young, Oklahoma hasn’t had consistent production with guys like Christian James and Brady Manek taking a lot of threes, but making less than 40 percent of them. Those numbers aren’t terrible on the surface, but a lot of those looks were wide open from what Young created, yet they still couldn’t hit 40 percent. Without much of a presence down low, there isn’t much to turn to in the paint, either.

Simply put, if you bet the Sooners you’re hoping Young catches fire and his teammates make some shots. That’s a hard thing to bet on with how they’ve looked, especially against a team that ranks well in three-point defense. The question then becomes how good the Big 12 is and how much the strength of the conference affected how good Young could be. That said, every defense in the Big 12 isn’t elite, so making only 30 percent of threes in the last couple months of the season can’t be ignored for Young.

Our Pick - Oklahoma +2

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