Pick – Analysis
Oklahoma is up against destiny in this Game it seems like. Albany looked all but done in the America East Championship Game, yet somehow prevailed with a last-second three-pointer by Peter Hooley. The Australian, Hooley, said it was the best moment of his life, after losing his mother to cancer a few weeks prior.
Unfortunately for the Great Danes, this Oklahoma team is a bit better than Stony Brook and getting 51 points probably won’t be enough in this Game. Albany dominated their Conference this year and has won 19 of their last 20 Games. Even in losses earlier in the year, this team tends to stay close in every Game and that includes a 64-60 loss at Providence in their season opener.
The Sooners grabbed a 3-seed mainly because of 12 wins in the RPI Top 50, which not many can say. It helps to play in the Big 12, but their non-Conference slate doesn’t look all that great. OUtside of Butler and UCLA wins, this team lost early-season Games to Creighton and Washington, neither of which turned out very good. Maybe wins over ever relevant team in the Big 12 disguises that, but their trouble in non-Conference play has to be considered, especially after losing to North Dakota State and San Diego State in the first round the last two seasons. In fact, the only time this team has done anything in the NCAA Tournament in the past decade was when Blake Griffin took them to the Sweet 16.
But this is going to be a tough matchup for the Great Danes after struggling against a team like Stony Brook, and this OU team is better than the one we’ve seen the last couple years.
The fire starter for Albany’s offense is 6’6″ Sam Rowley (14 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and he loves to post up, but against one of the most efficient defensive teams in the country (best in Big 12), that’s going to be hard. He’ll be matched by two hulking guys in TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler. Spangler will probably start on Rowley and his athleticism could stifle Rowley around the basket. Game-winner Peter Hooley (13.7 PPG) is Albany’s second-best option and he’ll probably draw the attention of Buddy Hield. Guards Evan Singletary and Ray Sanders are really the only other scorers on the Danes, so it may come down to someone getting hot from deep for them, whether it’s one of the guards listed or someone like Wheeler Baker off the bench.
Oklahoma loves to run and is great in transition, but Albany is going to have another problem and that’s guarding Thomas and Spangler. Both guys have big bodies that know how to work the post down low. Albany gave up 20 points and 14 boards to Stony Brook’s big man in their last Game and he is similarly sized to what Oklahoma brings. That’s the first advantage and then the Danes still have to try and keep Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins in front of them. That’s a tall task for guys that are used to America East competition.
Albany hasn’t really seen this level of team yet all year and if Hooley can’t hit his shots or Rowley struggles down low, this Game could get ugly. The Sooners may be overrated, but this shouldn’t be a matchup they struggle with.
Our Model has Oklahoma winning by 30+ points.