2008-2009 Season

NCAA Second Round: Michigan vs. Oklahoma Preview

NCAA Morgan St Oklahoma Basketball

: Michigan (21-13) vs. Oklahoma (28-5)
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
When: Saturday, March 21st, 5:50 PM EST
Spread: Oklahoma by 6.5
Preview: Stat Sheet, U-M KenPom Profile, Oklahoma KenPom Profile
: MGoBlue

Michigan’s reward for beating Clemson is a date with the best player in the country, Blake Griffin. The 6-foot-10 physical specimen averages 22.1 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. I’m sure if you have tuned into ESPN at all this year you are familiar with Blake and how he can dominate a game while at the same time fascinating fans with his breathtaking dunks. Frankly, I don’t see any way that Michigan can hold Blake under 20 and 20. They key is stopping everyone else.

So who else is there? Oklahoma is not a particularly deep team, here are their main contributors:

  • Austin Johnson: The 6-foot-3 point guard has lots of length and averages 8.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, and 2.9 rpg while knocking down 34% of his triples.
  • Willie Warren: The 6-foot-4 freshman was a McDonalds All American and there is no doubt that he can play. Warren averages 14.7 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.2 rebounds per game. Warren has a great combination of strength and athleticism and he also hits three point shots at near 38% clip.
  • Tony Crocker: Crocker is the 6-foot-6 wing man for Sooners who for some reason always wears long sleeves. Crocker averages 9.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
  • Taylor Griffin: The elder Griffin is a very similar player to his little brother except he is about 3 inches shorter. Taylor will be a tough match-up for Michigan at the four and I would expect that he has a pretty decent day as well.
  • Bench: Juan Pattillo, Cade Davis, and Omar Leary make up the Oklahoma bench and none of them are necessarily impact players off the bench. Pattillo is probably the best and he is a wing forward who averages 7 points per game.

The first key for Michigan is to stop Willie Warren and the rest of the Oklahoma backcourt. If Warren and Griffin are clicking it’s going to be a long night but if Michigan can shut down the Oklahoma backcourt like they did against Clemson then they have a shot.

Oklahoma lost four of their last six games before the NCAA tournament after the 25-1 start so they aren’t unbeatable. The question is what those teams (Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma St.) did to earn the victory. Blake was limited by a concussion against Texas and Kansas so the key games to focus on are Missouri and Oklahoma St.

Missouri beat the Sooners with turnovers. Oklahoma turned the ball over on 32.4% of their possessions and that was enough for a 9 point Missouri win despite Oklahoma rebounding 50% of their misses. Oklahoma State also got outrebounded but managed a one point home win.

The common denominator in these two losses was poor three point shooting by Oklahoma. The Sooners shot 4 of 18 and 3 of 19 from three point range in their two late season losses. If they aren’t hitting their three point shots they are a beatable team. On the season they shoot about 35.6% from long range, which is a shade over the national average, but they appear to be wildly inconsistent.

Oklahoma’s Strengths

  • Two point shooting. Oklahoma shoots a ridiculous 56.2% inside the arc which is no doubt thanks to Blake Griffin. This high 2-point field goal percentage also gives then an eFG% of 55.2 which is 5th in the nation.
  • Getting to the line. Oklahoma’s free throw rate (FTA/FGA) is 47.3% which ranks fifth nationally. This is mostly thanks to Blake Griffin but Willie Warren and Taylor Griffin also do a good job of getting to the stripe.
  • Rebounding. This is clearly a strength but I would have thought their rebounding percentages would be higher. They rebound 36.5% of their own misses (52nd) and 68.4% of their opponents’ misses (122nd) — these numbers are certainly solid but as a team they don’t appear to be as good on the offensive glass as Clemson.

Oklahoma’s Weaknesses

  • Turnovers. Oklahoma only forces turnovers on 17.8% of their opponents possessions (313th nationally) so Michigan should be able to hold onto the ball. They also turn the ball over on 19.5% of their own so maybe the 1-3-1 could frustrate them a little.
  • Free throw shooting. Oklahoma shoots only 67.9% from the line and more importantly Griffin only shoots 59% at the stripe.
  • Depth. Oklahoma’s bench plays only 20.8% of their minutes (331st)


  • Conferences. Oklahoma played only game against a Big Ten school all year, an overtime win over Purdue. Michigan hasn’t faced the Big XII all year. I’m not sure how the two conferences will match-up but I know Michigan State handled Kansas and Oklahoma State.
  • Coaching. The coaching match-up has to benefit Michigan. Jeff Capel is a very good coach but this is John Beilein’s bread and butter — the NCAA tournament.
  • Rest. Michigan has been better all season long when they are playing on a lot of rest and the numbers are a bit scary the other way. I guess the good thing is that Oklahoma is playing on light rest as well.

Pomeroy and Vegas both like Oklahoma by about six points, but at least Pomeroy gives us a 27% chance. It is definitely not much but at this point all you can ask for is a chance. Beilein has been here before, taking on a 2 seed in second round. Back then it was Wake Forest and Chris Paul and West Virginia was outrebounded but they prevailed in a double overtime thriller.

Thoughts, predictions, and in-game discussion belong in the comments. Go Blue! Burn the ships, even if the story isn’t true.

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