Aggies, Sooners primed for sweet showdown
In a Big 12-SEC clash of the highest order, Oklahoma butts heads with Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 tonight.
Four days after the Aggies’ shocking last-minute comeback against Northern Iowa, oddsmakers – and college hoops fans across the country – have finally retrieved their jaws from the floor. Online sports book Bovada.lv now tabs the Sooners as 3.5-point favorites.
OU (27-7) didn’t require an instant classic to get back to this point for the second straight year. It merely leaned on all-world shooting guard Buddy Hield, the NCAA tournament’s leading scorer with 63 points in two games. The senior had 29 of his 36 points in the second half vs. VCU on Sunday.
While Billy Kennedy has been upfront about likening Hield to a LeBron James-type playmaker, Texas A&M’s coach must also account for the rest of the band. Hield, Ryan Spangler, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins have started 102 straight contests together. All four averaged double-digit points in 2015-16. All four have registered at least 1,000 career points.
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Such unity is incomparable, but the Aggies (28-8) boast a veteran-laden group as well. Senior guards Alex Caruso and Danuel House are always at the forefront of the attack, and key the relentless pressure that eventually laid the Panthers to waste. An equally important presence this evening: freshman center Tyler Davis, whose massive size adds a dimension rarely encountered by the Sooners during conference action.
Texas A&M has never advanced to the Elite 8. On the flip side, Oklahoma can point to eight such appearances. No defense will ever keep Hield completely under wraps, but the Aggies’ supporting cast inspires a bit more confidence. This just feels like College Station’s time to fully embrace the madness.
THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: TEXAS A&M +3.5
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