OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO) -The Oklahoma Sooners prepare to start the NCAA Tournament against California State-Bakersfield. For Oklahoma, the atmosphere will differ from many teams in the tournament given the fact they will be playing less than 30 minutes down the road from Norman.
"Sometimes during a conference game, you play a home game and you think that kind of takes care of, you know, we're up the road, we're at home, we're okay," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "But you still have to play well enough to beat a good team, and that's what we've got in Bakersfield tomorrow."
The Road Runners won the Western Athletic Conference tournament title thanks to a balanced scoring attack and aggressive defensive approach.
"They've got five guys in double-figures. A big guy inside that can score in the low post and step out to stretch the floor a little bit. Four good players, scorers around him. They get up into you defensively. Coach Barnes teams always very sound defensively," Kruger said.
When it comes to Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, CSUB looks to lock him down in a similar fashion as West Virginia did in the Big 12 tournament.
"Well, it's a lot of things we've already been doing this season when teams have their leading scorer. A guy that they go to a lot," Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes said. "But you can't score without the ball. And I think West Virginia did a great job of denying him the ball, face-guarding him a lot."
"I've got to do a better job of adjusting more quickly," Hield said. "If they face-guard, I have to still get the ball and be aggressive, keep pressure on them, draw fouls early, show them they can't pressure me all night and try to make things much easier for me."
The Sooners got three games deep in last year's tournament, and look to use that experience to their advantage against a 'Runners team that will play their first ever NCAA Tournament game.
"We know what it takes to win now," OU forward Ryan Spangler said. "But at the same time, we know what it takes to lose. So, we're going to do everything we can to get back there and try to go further."
In the history of the tournament, a 15-seed has only defeated a two-seed seven times. The Roadrunners have the confidence that they can possibly be the eighth.
"I think they are a good team, but they are not great. You know, they are beatable," Bakersfield center Aly Ahmed said.
Such big words from a smaller school don't concern the Sooners too much.
"You've got to say what you've got to say to give yourself confidence and try to give yourself momentum," Spangler said. "We've proven ourselves all year. And tomorrow and in this whole tournament we will prove ourselves again."
The Sooners and Roadrunners will square off at 3:00 Friday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.