Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 17, 2014

Sooners land No. 5 seed in NCAA tournament

Oklahoma will open NCAA tournament play against No. 12 North Dakota State in Spokane on Thursday

(Continued)

OU basketball notebook

Clark named team MVP:
Prior to the NCAA tournament selection show, Oklahoma held its team banquet on the Lloyd Noble Center floor. Players were recognized for many awards, but senior forward Cameron Clark took home the biggest prize — most valuable player.

“That was great. All my teammates voted for me. It’s just a great feeling,” said Clark, who averaged 15.3 points a game this season. “I invested time with the coaching staff. That helped me develop as a player. My teammates pushed me to be a leader. Fortunately I got the MVP. I’m thankful to my teammates and my coaching staff.”

The players also presented OU coach Lon Kruger with a plaque commemorating the Associated Press Big 12 Coach of the Year he received last week.

Solid against the field: One of the reasons OU (23-9) received a No. 5 seed was its schedule strength. Turns out 16 of its 34 games were against teams that are in the NCAA tournament field.

OU went 10-6 in those games. Thirteen of them were against the six other Big 12 teams — Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas and Baylor — that made the field. The Big 12’s seven berths were the most of any league.

“Speaks pretty well. It’s been a great league. Eighteen times you line up and you know if you don’t play well you’re going to get beat because you’re playing against good players,” Kruger said.

The Sooners non-conference schedule featured three NCAA tournament teams — Michigan State, Mercer and Tulsa. OU lost to the Spartans in November in New York. It beat Mercer and Tulsa at Lloyd Noble Center.

Big 12 heavy region: The good news for OU is that it’s done playing Big 12 Conference teams for a while. The bad news: advancing could mean facing more of them.

Two other Big 12 teams join OU in the west region. Oklahoma State is the No. 9 seed and Baylor is the No. 6.

Both the Sooners and Cowboys would have to win two games each to set up a third edition of Bedlam. This would be in Anaheim, Calif.

Baylor would have to reach the Elite Eight before it could potentially bump into its conference brethren. 

Back so soon: Going to Spokane, Wash., will be a return trip for sophomore forward Ryan Spangler. He played at Gonzaga, which is located in Spokane, in the 2011-12 season. Spangler, who is a Tuttle native, transferred to OU following that season.

“I think it’s good. I’ll be able to show everybody where to eat I think,” Spangler joked. “I think we’ll have a lot of supporters there. It’s a chance for us to get some more wins. Like coach has been saying, one tournament at a time. This is a two-game tournament and we’re trying to win it.”

Deja vu?: Should OU get by North Dakota State on Thursday, a possible third-round matchup with San Diego State lurks on Saturday.

The Aztecs, who are the west region’s No. 3 seed, hung a 70-55 loss on the Sooners in the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament in Philadelphia.

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