Under first-year head coach Brad Underwood, Oklahoma State is back in the Big Dance as a 10 seed in the Midwest Region. The Cowboys will open against the Big 10 Tournament Champion Michigan Wolverines. This will be the fourth meeting between Michigan-OSU. Tip-off is set for Friday, March 17th at 11:15 A.M. in Indianapolis.
Let’s take a look at the first and potential second-round opponents for the Cowboys.
No. 7 -seed Michigan Wolverines
Head Coach: John Beilein
Conference: Big 10
Key Wins: SMU (76-54), Michigan State (86-57), Wisconsin (64-58), Purdue (82-70)
Bad Losses: Ohio State (70-66), Illinois (85-69)
Michigan comes in as one of the h ottest teams in the country, winning 10 of their last 12 games. The Wolverines are led by senior Derrick Walton Jr, who has appeared in all 35 games this season for Michigan, and leads the team in scoring with 15.2 ppg. John Beilein’s team is a balanced scoring attack, with four guys averaging over 10.0 ppg. Junior D.J. Wilson will be the biggest threat on the glass for the Wolverines, notching 5.4 rpg. Michigan brings in a lot of momentum, and they are playing as well as anyone in the country right now, KenPom rates Michigan as the No. 21 team in terms of efficiency.
If Oklahoma State gets past the Wolverines they’ll face the winner of Louisville-Jacksonville State.
No. 2-seed Louisville Cardinals
Head Coach: Rick Pitino
Key Wins: Duke (78-69), Kentucky (73-70), Purdue (71-64), Wichita State (62-52)
Bad Losses: None (All losses came to tournament teams)
Making their 42nd tournament appearance, the Louisville Cardinals are no stranger to March Madness. With 10 final four appearances, and their most recent National Championship coming in 2013; the Cardinals will be a heavy favorite along with Kansas to win the Midwest Region. Louisville is known for its size and athleticism, boasting four guys over 6’10. Louisville will be led offensively by 6’3 Sophomore Donovan Mitchell, averaging 15.7 ppg. Defensively, Louisville ranks 41st in the country in scoring defense, allowing 65.8 ppg. The Cardinals will use their size and length to alter opponents shots, and 7-footer Anas Mahmoud is leading the team with 60 blocks this season. KenPom is a big fan of Louisville, ranking them No. 6 overall. If the Cowboys can beat Michigan, this could be a big-time 2nd round matchup.
No. 15-seed Jacksonville State
Head Coach: Ray Harper
Conference: Ohio Valley
Key Wins: Belmont (65-59), Tulsa (84-73)
Bad Losses: University of Louisiana-Monroe (83-88), Samford (77-81), University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (57-73)
The Ohio Valley Champions round out Oklahoma State’s quarter of the bracket. The Gamecocks will play powerhouse Louisville in the 2 vs. 15 matchup. Led by Malcolm Drumwright offensively, the 6’2 junior is averaging 12.6 ppg. Other offensive threats include Greg Tucker (11.3 ppg) and Erik Durham (11.1 ppg). Jacksonville State has a pretty balanced attack offensively, and will stick with the same 6 or 7 guys most of the game. They are not a deep team by any means, so they will need to have play almost a perfect game on both sides of the basketball and avoid foul trouble to compete with Louisville. Defensively, Ray Harper’s team will be led by Norbertas Giga on the glass. The 7-footer averages 8.1 rpg and will join Christian Cunningham (54 blocks on the season) in the front-court.
College Basketball analyst Jay Bilas likes Oklahoma State’s chances in the first round against Michigan.
You can tune into Oklahoma State’s first round matchup on Friday at 11:15 on CBS. Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, and Tracy Wolfson will be on the call. Go Pokes!