Northwestern Wildcats (9-4) at #17 Oklahoma Sooners (9-1)
The winning streak has stretched to five in a row! Last night I was on UCONN +15.5. This game was a tight one all night long and was a one-point game with under five minutes to play. Arizona made me sweat it out though as they finished the game on a huge run and ended up winning by fifteen. Gotta love winning by the hook to keep the streak alive! Today I will be focusing on a team that might just knock Kansas off of its Big 12 crown this year, the Oklahoma Sooners.
This is the year that Kansas won’t win the Big 12 conference. There, I said it. The Jayhawks have won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title for twelve consecutive years. One short of tying UCLA’s all-time record of thirteen straight. I predict that this season, that streak comes to an end.
The Jayhawks have looked shaky this season as they have two home losses against some weak competition. But that’s not the only reason why I am picking them to lose. I think the Oklahoma Sooners are just a better team. Oklahoma is tragically under-ranked at #17 and expect them to be a force in the Big 12 and could even see them as a one seed in the NCAA tournament.
I know that is a bold statement this early in the season, but this team is that good. Why you ask? Trae Young. The freshman sensation is leading the country in both scoring and assists. Something that no player has EVER done in NCAA college basketball. Like, ever. The kid is unbelievable and has unlimited range. He looks a lot like Steph Curry coming out of Davidson, as soon as he crosses the half court line he is a risk to jack up a shot, and bury it in your face.
The Sooners already have some huge wins this year. They won at Wichita State, something that is near impossible to do, they beat last year’s Final Four team the Oregon Ducks handily, and have a road win against a very game USC Trojan’s team. That win over Wichita might be the best single win for any team in the country this year. If Young stays healthy, you can pencil these Sooners in for at least a trip to the Sweet 16.
The Northwestern Wildcats made their first-ever trip to the big dance last season. And they even managed to win a game and pushed eventual National Runner-Up, Gonzaga, to the brink in the round of 32. There were lots of reasons to be optimistic about his team coming into the season, and many thought the Cats would end up back in the tournament against this year.
I’m not sure that has worked out to plan just yet. It’s not that they are playing bad, they are actually a solid team at 9-4. They are just losing to all the good teams they play. The best win of the season for the Wildcats has been over Valparaiso, a team that has almost no shot of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. They also have a couple of bad losses, to Georgia Tech, and Texas Tech.
Northwestern will start its Big 10 conference schedule shortly after this game, and this is the last opportunity they will get for a major non-conference win. The Cats badly need a big resume-building win to get into the NCAA tournament. They aren’t winning the Big 10, Michigan State has that all but wrapped up before even a single conference game has been played, so they will need to pick up some big wins if they want to hear their name called again on Selection Sunday.
Oklahoma is really, really good. If you haven’t seen them play a game yet this year you are truly missing out. They lead the nation in scoring at over 94 points a game, and I don’t know how many teams are going to be able to keep pace with them. You saw it against Wichita State, they can run you out of your own building on the offensive end. And they get to play this game on their home court.
I don’t see how Northwestern can hang with the Young and the Sooners today. They will try and slow the pace down and make a half-court game out of it. But that didn’t work for Wichita State, a much better team, so I can’t imagine it will work for the Wildcats. The Sooners could blow this one out and win by twenty. Even if the game is tight for a while, they score so fast that I am not worried about the nine-point number. Give me Oklahoma in a fast-paced beatdown of Northwestern, -9 points at home.