Texas vs Oklahoma
This game will feature two of the most highly touted draft prospects in Mo Bamba and Trae Young. Both have received incredible hype and both are trending in different directions coming into this game.
Oklahoma has run into its worse stretch of basketball lately losing four in a row including a loss at Texas. The Sooners have not played much defense in any of their four losses and their offensive rhythm has been thrown off due to the poor play of Trae Young. Young has gone 7-41 from three-point range in the last four games. Clearly something needs to change there if Oklahoma wants to have success against Texas.
Texas has also been on a losing streak, losing three of their last four with the lone win coming against the Sooners. Texas’ struggles are not as alarming as Oklahoma’s. Texas is the youngest team in the Big 12 and one of the youngest in the country. They don’t even average a year of experience among their players (0.97). Texas is a young team that has a lot of growing up to do as well as a lot of upside. Stealing a game on the road against Oklahoma would help Texas establish themselves as contenders for the Big 12 next season.
Oklahoma needs to shoot the ball better in this game. Not too many teams can win games if they shoot 13% from three point range like they did in their last meeting with the Longhorns. Trae Young has been outplayed by the opposing team’s Point Guard in the last four games he’s played in. Even Oscar Robertson noticed how bad Young has been playing and took the liberty to call him to offer some words of encouragement. With Trae Young not producing up to the incredibly high standards he set for himself earlier in the year, Christian James and Jamuni McNeace have tried to step up and become play makers for their team. Young hasn’t been the sole problem for Oklahoma lately, their defense has been atrocious. On this four game losing streak they’ve allowed 79, 75, 88 and 88 points. Giving up that many points makes it hard to win games especially when you play a live by the three, die by the three offense. Trae Young will be looking to improve on his four game slump by starting the game out hot and burying threes early.
Texas has relied on huge performances from Mo Bamba and Dylan Osetkowski for most of the season. These two should be able to put on a show against an Oklahoma team that has weak interior defense. The thing that has hurt the Longhorns the most in the past three games is that no one else seems like they want to step up. This all comes back to the fact that they are one of the youngest teams in all of college basketball. They need someone like Kerwin Roach to step up in this game to try and create some shots outside of the paint. Texas needs to be versatile in order to secure a win in Norman this weekend. The last three losses for the Longhorns have come against teams with a strong inside presence on both offense and defense. Texas should see more success against an Oklahoma team that is more guard oriented.
Keys to the game
Oklahoma: Trae Young needs to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. The Sooners have fallen into the same situation that the Oklahoma City Thunder fell into with Russell Westbrook. They have one of the most electrifying and talented players in the country on their team and Trae Young is well aware that he is that player. Young often has the most shots out of anyone on his team even if he is not hitting anything that day. He is a volume shooter and should use that to his advantage in this one. If he can knock down some open shots early, Texas will likely start to double him or switch their defense to hope to contain Young. That’s when Young should start setting up his teammates for open shots. I predict a double-double from Young in this one with 25 points and 12 assists.
Young from the last game against Texas should serve as inspiration enough for him to have a better game, yikes.
Texas: Feed the beasts down low. Mo Bamba and Dylan Osetkowski should be able to eat early and often in this game. Neither had much success shooting the ball in the last match up with Oklahoma, but they had success on the boards and drawing fouls. Oklahoma is likely preparing for the Texas guards to have a big game against them, as the duo of Kerwin Roach and Matt Coleman put up 41 in the last meeting between the teams. This should allow the middle to open up which will let Bamba and Osetkowski perform at a high level.
If Texas can hold Oklahoma to 13% from three point range again, the Longhorns should take this one easily.
Maybe I’m a sucker for a revenge story, but I think Oklahoma comes out on top here. Trae Young is hungry to get his shot back on track and pile in the points as he knows he can. This game should come down to the final two minutes. Texas may lose in this one, but they aren’t going to just roll over and die. Both teams are riding a losing streak so something has to give here and I think Oklahoma will win this one to get themselves back on the right path before tournament time.