NCAA Tournament – First Round – Midwest Regional
(3) Oklahoma State (20-9, 11-2) vs. (14) Liberty (23-5, 11-2)
- Time: 3:25PM PST | 5:25PM CST | 6:25PM EST
- Location: Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis, IN
- TV: TBS
When you are a coach and you look at your bracket and you draw Liberty, you know that the numbers that are the said seeds are thrown out the window as coach Ritchie McKay has built a fortress in the Atlantic Sun that competes on the national level.
The Flames took down Mississippi State in the first round two years ago and this season, they beat the Bulldogs again as well as South Carolina. Liberty had a near miss at Missouri and played Purdue tough before losing 77-64 in the season opened.
Oklahoma State has star power in Cade Cunningham who looks like the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft as of right now. The Cowboys defeated six ranked teams in a 19-day span and their NET ranking is No. 10. Oklahoma State can make a deep run in this tournament and get to the Final Four as the hurdle of a game Liberty Flames team is the first order of business.
Vs. The Spread
- The Cowboys are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games
- The OVER has been the norm in 7 of the Pokes’ last 8 games
- The total has gone OVER in 7 of Oklahoma State’s last 8 games in March
- The Flames are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games
- LU is 0-7 all-time vs. Big 12 opponents
- The total has gone OVER in 4 of the Flames’ last 5 games in March
Last Time Out
Oklahoma State lost to Texas, 91-86, in the Big 12 championship game despite a stellar effort from Cade Cunningham who scored 29 points while Isaac Likelele netted 13 and Kaleb Boone popped in 12. The Pokes shot 50.8 percent from the floor, but were out rebounded, 39-30, by the Longhorns.
Liberty won it’s unprecedented third straight A-SUN title as the Flames extinguished North Alabama, 79-75, on March 7. It was the Flames’ 12th win in a row and point guard Darius McGhee was the tournament’s MVP.
|Teams||Spread||Money Line||Total Points|
|Liberty||+7 (-110)||+280||O 139.5 (-110)|
|Oklahoma State||-7 (-110)||-350||U 139.5 (-110)|
Advantage, Oklahoma State
This is a team built for a Final Four run around the talents of Cade Cunningham (20.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 41.2%-3) and a group of seven players around him who all play their roles well and work within the framework of coach Mike Boynton’s system. Watch Avery Anderson, III, (16.1 ppg, 54.3%) as well as he gets to the rim and doesn’t shy away from taking the clutch shot. The Cowboys will push the ball inside the paint and try to find Kalib Boone inside as well where he shot 64.5 percent.
Key Cowboys Stat:
Isaac “Ice” Likelele is a senior guard who will be a steadying force for Oklahoma State throughout however many games that the Cowboys put together in this tournament. Likelele has averaged 34.1 minutes and has shot 49.1 percent from the floor. The Cowboys have weapons on offense and they will use all of them in different ways to attack Liberty’s defense. Rondel Walker and Bryce Williams also lead OSU’s 3-ball game behind Cunning ham with 32 and 33, respectively.
The Cowboys have to take care of the basketball as they average 15.9 turnovers per game. That might not come into play as Liberty isn’t about as much ball pressure inside the Pack Line Defense.
Oklahoma State is 27th in offensive average possession length at 15.8 seconds per possession while Liberty’s Pack Line Defense is 255th in defensive possession in stalling offenses at the pace of 17.7 seconds per game. Coach Ritchie McKay is a disciple of Virginia’s Tony Bennett as he was Bennett’s assistant at both Washington State and UVa. Opponents average only 59.6 points per game and make only 40.9 percent of their shots.
Key Flames Stat:
Point guard Darius McGhee (15.6 ppg, 4.4. rpg) could be the key to whatever success the Flames have here as he has made 93 triples, third in the nation, this season. McGhee gets plenty of support from Chris Parker (10.3 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Elijah Cuffee (9.6 ppg, 41.7%-3) as both are shot makers and are capable of stepping up beside the 5-9 guard and scoring the ball. Blake Preston (8.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg) is a presence inside as well in making 63.2 percent of his shots.
The Flames are like Virginia in that their defense is the calling card, but this team is excellent offensively as well as they average 74.9 points per game while shooting 49 percent and 39.1 percent from the three-point line. That average offensive possession length of 19.5 minutes helps them control the tempo and should make for an interesting contrast of styles with the speedy Cowboys.
Winner: Oklahoma State 75, Liberty (+7) 69