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Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Crimson and Cream Machine

Our Oklahoma friends give us the lowdown on tonight’s matchup.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Mississippi vs Oklahoma Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Virginia Cavaliers take on the Oklahoma Sooners in second round action in the NCAA tournament. The Sooners cruised to an easy and dominating win over 8-seed Ole Miss in the first round, and we reached out to our friend Jack Shields at Crimson and Cream Machine to get more info on Virginia’s upcoming foe. Huge thanks to Jack for taking the time out to chat in a busy time of year.

You can see my answers to his questions here.

Streaking the Lawn: Uhhhhh, so where did that offensive performance come from? Were you shocked about how that went for the Sooners?

C&C Machine: Part of it had to do with a serious mismatch created by Kristian Doolittle. He was too quick and athletic for Ole Miss’ bigs down low, and he was far too strong and physical to be defended by their guards out on the perimeter (and frankly, too physical on the interior as well). Essentially, the Rebels had no answer for him, and this resulted in some good looks for his teammates out on the perimeter. What did surprise me was how many of those outside shots went down for the Sooners.

Additionally, Christian James and Rashard Odomes were so much bigger than Ole Miss’ guards and were just able to muscle their way into good looks around the rim.

STL: What was the key to the hot shooting on Friday, especially from beyond the arc?

C&C Machine: Part of it had to do with the open looks created by the OU’s ability to score in the paint. Beyond that, Christian James displayed more confidence than we’ve seen from him in quite some time. In fact, that was probably his most impressive game since December or even November. If he can keep his head in the right place, OU might actually be able to make a game out of it on Sunday.

STL: Assume Virginia fans have watched no Oklahoma basketball this season. Who is the player to know on offense and on defense?

C&C Machine: On offense, you have to go with Doolittle because of recent form. It took about 2/3 of the season for OU to figure out that he was their best player, but he has now total double figures scoring in the team’s last 11 games and has averaged 16.7 PPG during the stretch. He’s not a three-point shooter, but he does have an impressive mid-range game and finishes well around the basket.

Defensively, I’ll go with Rashard Odomes, who is a long perimeter defender with active hands. Center Jamuni McNeace, who was one of the best rim protectors in the country before dealing with nagging ankle/foot issues, would be another.

STL: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Virginia slows the tempo down a bit. How do you think that will affect the Sooners, if at all?

C&C Machine: In a very negative way! A healthy Kansas State probably shares the closest resemblance to UVA of anyone on the schedule, and things went poorly in both meetings this season. OU was just never able to find any semblance of an offensive rhythm and never seemed to have a prayer (even before the scores became lopsided). It just took OU completely out of its comfort zone, and the same can be said of OU’s matchups with Texas Tech and Wisconsin.

STL: Oklahoma has seen some tough defenses this season (Texas Tech, Wisconsin), and Virginia comes in at No. 4 in KenPom. What concerns do you have with facing the Pack Line, if any?

C&C Machine: OU’s offense tends to unravel when the going gets tough, and you end up seeing a ton of bad shots, turnovers and a general loss of confidence when that happens. I think a lot of that has to do with the slow tempo taking them out of their comfort zone (as mentioned above).

STL: Ok, who you got, and why?

C&C Machine: I expect OU to come out with a determined effort after gaining a bit of confidence on Friday. Because of this, I think the Sooners will hang around until the early portions of the second half before UVA slowly suffocates them. I actually think the Sooners will cover the current 11-point spread, but an upset doesn’t quite seem realistic due to the nature of the matchup.

Huge thanks to Jack and C&C Machine!