The 8/9 game in the South Regional features, as 8/9 games often do, two teams that showed some flashes of Tournament-worthy play between rough patches.
Both Ole Miss and Oklahoma racked up the wins in non-conference play before experiencing prolonged struggles in conference. The Rebels beat Baylor and lost just once. Oklahoma beat took down UTSA, Wofford, Florida, USC, and Creighton with just one loss to Wisconsin.
Give OU the advantage on the non-conference resume but it was dreadful in conference. Rarely do you ever find a team in the NCAA Tournament that finished four games under .500 in conference play, but that’s what Oklahoma did. A home win vs. Kansas was the only victory over a Big-12 NCAA Tournament team and the Sooners were bounced in the first-round of the tournament by last-place West Virginia.
The Rebels finished 10–8 in the SEC with two wins over Auburn and at Mississippi State. Ole Miss lost five in a row, recovered to win four straight, but then finished by losing five of seven. It too was bounced in the first-round of the conference tournament in a loss to Alabama. Still, I guess you give Ole Miss the conference resume, almost by default.
None of that really matters in determining who will be better on Friday. Often times, a good team can get bogged down in conference play. Familiar coaches and players can bother certain teams and it becomes a seemingly endless grind.
But it does end and the NCAA Tournament begins. Fresh competition can bring the best out in teams fortunate enough to get the nod from the committee. For that reason, I’m looking at Oklahoma.
The national media has been taking shots at OU all week as team that shouldn’t even have gotten a bid, much less a 9-seed. Truth is, Oklahoma was pretty darn good for half the year; it was just the wrong half. There’s no problem if a team is terrible for the first half, as long as it comes on in the second. Turn it around and people whine and complain that team got in.
At its best, Oklahoma is better than Ole Miss at its. It’s got four seniors, go-to guys, some scoring balance, and the 24th-best defense in the country, in terms of opponent field goal percentage. I like the Sooners straight-up. The extra point-and-a-half just sweetens the deal.
Play: Oklahoma +1.5