Austin Reaves #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners shoots the ball. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP
Former Conference rivals meet again when Missouri and Oklahoma play for a chance to face the top team in the nation in the next round. Who will come out on top from this Big Eight reunion? Read on for an in-depth analysis and a free pick courtesy of SBR.
Missouri Tigers vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Saturday, March 20, 2021 – 07:25 PM EDT at Lucas Oil Stadium
It will be a Big Eight reunion when No. 9 seed Missouri and No. 8 seed Oklahoma meet in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers and Sooners were in the same conference from 1919 to 2012. Then Missouri left for the SEC, while Oklahoma remained in the expanded conference, now known as the Big 12. The two teams have stayed in touch, playing in non-conference games as recently as last season.
The reward for the winner of the opening game will be a likely matchup with the top team in the nation, undefeated No. 1 seed Gonzaga, who opens with the winner of a play in game between No. 16 seeds Appalachian State and Norfolk State.
Both teams limp into the postseason. Missouri has lost six of its last nine games and enters with a 16-9 record, 8-8 in the SEC. Oklahoma lost its last four regular season games, then went 1-1 in the Big 12 Tournament to stand at 15-10, 9-8 in the league.
Both teams have shown they can hang with top teams. Missouri has wins over Illinois, Arkansas and Alabama this season. Oklahoma has beaten Kansas, Texas and swept West Virginia in two games, including a double-overtime battle.
They’ve also shown they can lose to pedestrian teams. Oklahoma was topped by 9-20 Kansas State as well as Xavier. Missouri has losses to Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnOehn7d05Q?feature=oembed]
Turning Around a Slump
While Missouri has struggled since its 13-3 start, coach Cuonzo Martin thinks his team can “regroup and refocus” for March Madness.
“We have all the parts,” Martin said. “We’ve just got to be consistent in what we do.”
That means figuring out what’s been ailing the defense. After holding opponents to .409 from the field and .309 from three in the first 16 games, Missouri has seen foes shoot .474 and .368 since.
It also means a bounce back for big man Jeremiah Tilmon, which could be key for our sports betting. The 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 12.3 PPG and 7.0 rebounds this year but he’s struggled since returning from a two-game leave of absence. In his last five games, his averages are down to 9.4 PPG and 5.0 rebounds. His shooting percentage is also down to .538 over that span, 80 points lower than his season average.Kobe Brown #24 of the Missouri Tigers shoots the ball. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images/AFP
The Value of Experience
Oklahoma is one of the few teams that has an experience advantage over Missouri. While the Tigers start three seniors and a junior, Oklahoma’s lineup features four seniors and one junior. Remember that when looking at the NCAAB odds board. The Sooners are led by senior guard Austin Reeves, who leads the team in scoring (17.7 PPG), rebounding (5.7) and assists (4.7).
While the Sooners have struggled down the stretch, the team feels that it’s very close. Oklahoma’s last seven losses all came by single digits, including a four-point loss at Kansas—one of two losses to the Jayhawks by a total of 11 points—and a double overtime loss to Oklahoma State—one of two losses to the Cowboys by a total of nine points.
“The margin between winning and losing is so slight,” coach Lon Kruger said. “If we get a stop and one bucket in any of those last four games prior to the conference tournament, we win those instead of losing them just like we won those games the month prior.”Elijah Harkless #24 of the Oklahoma Sooners grabs a rebound. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP
Both teams are similar when it comes to analytics. Oklahoma is No. 37 in the country in offensive efficiency. Missouri is No. 33. The Sooners are No. 48 in defensive efficiency. The Tigers are No. 57.
Oklahoma has been struggling on the offensive boards down the stretch, but Missouri doesn’t appear to match up well to take advantage of that weakness.
With Missouri’s recent struggles on defense, Oklahoma seems to have an edge on that side of the floor. Look for the Sooners to slow things down and finally get that elusive close win to move on to a date with Gonzaga.
Sooners -2(-110)Visit Site
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.