News On 6 sports reporter JB Long is at the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City providing updates, insight and thoughts on the tournament.
By JB Long, News On 6
Saturday, March 21
Book your travel plans for Memphis, Sooner fans. OU is heading to the Sweet 16.
Michigan's Zack Novak = foolish.
DID YOU SEE THAT DUNK?!?
Well, you don't need me to tell you that Blake Griffin is playing like a man possessed.
We're seeing small glimpses of his personality that he keeps so-well hidden, too. How about that bicep-check following the "and one"?
Taylor is also playing above the rim, which leads me to one of the best signs in the building. Hopefully, CBS has shown it:
Steve Kerr, former Arizona Wildcat and Chicago Bull, and current GM of the Phoenix Suns is on hand for Oklahoma and Michigan.
There was just a brilliant exchange between the Memphis and Maryland fans in the final minutes of what has been a Tigers blowout start-to-finish.
First, the Memphis contingent sarcastically chanted "A-C-C" at the Terps, mocking the chant that has become that conference's calling card. It was also in response to Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez, who said yesterday that the Tigers would have a losing record in the ACC.
Responding the only way they could given the score, Maryland fans managed a rendition of "Rock Chalk Jayhawk," reminding Memphis of the heartbreaking championship loss to Kansas in last year's tournament.
I'll take that exchange over "Warm up the bus!" or "Let's play football!" any day.
The Wolverines have made an appearance inside the Sprint Center, seated as a group behind the Maryland bench to watch the final 8:00 of the Terps-Tigers game.
Coincidentally, they're sitting next to a group of four male OU cheerleaders. Haven't seen any harsh words exchanged yet, though.
Much like Thursday, the Sooners have opted to stay in the locker room throughout the time leading up to their game.
An hour before game time, here are a few interesting OU-Michigan tidbits:
-These two programs have only met twice, with the Wolverines claiming both victories. Oklahoma and Michigan first met in the 1988 Maui Classic, and then again in 2004 in the second round of the NIT.
-A win today would put the Sooners in the Sweet 16 for the eighth time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. It would also be Jeff Capel's first trip to the Sweet 16 as a head coach.
-OU faced one other Big Ten program this season, posting an 87-82 overtime victory over Purdue in the NIT Season Tip-Off.
If you've been watching television coverage of the tournament, you've probably noticed that there are purple-and-white Vitaminwater cups everywhere. The NCAA makes us pour all beverages into these cups before taking them courtside. Perhaps a safety measure, to keep the rowdy beat writers from chucking cans or bottles onto the court. But more likely, an opportunity to make a buck off branding and product placement.
The irony, of course, is that the only beverage I haven't been able to get my hands on in three days here at the Sprint Center... Vitaminwater. It isn't offered anywhere in the media area.
You won't find two more animated basketball coaches than we're watching right now in John Calipari of Memphis and Maryland's Gary Williams.
Neither uses his chair on the bench, preferring to pace the sideline and scream at the top of his lungs instead.
A few of us on press row are discussing whether Williams curses more than he sweats. Pretty tough call.
A quick straw poll of a dozen Oklahoma media members covering the Sooners in Kansas City today turned up no takers for the upset-minded Michigan Wolverines.
Not sure that's a good sign, especially considering what happened last night in the Cleveland State, Wisconsin and Siena games.
But if OU does advance to the Sweet 16 in Memphis, could today's game be a preview of how the Sooners might fare against Syracuse?
(The Orange would of course have to get past Arizona State in their own second-round contest.)
Jim Boeheim's team is known for its zone defensive principles. Syracuse plays a much longer and more athletic style than what OU will see out of Michigan this afternoon. However, if perimeter players like Austin Johnson and Tony Crocker can develop a shooting rhythm and some confidence today, that could pay dividends next week as well.
Memphis and Maryland are underway in the first of back-to-back No. 2 versus No. 10 games here in Kansas City.
The Tigers are off to a much better start today, leading 13-4 at the first break.
A quick word on Memphis' CUSA rival Tulsa, which lost to Auburn 74-55 Friday night in the second round of the NIT...
TU should feel like a program moving in the right direction. A 25 win season is an accomplishment in any conference. If Jerome Jordan sticks around for his senior season and the Golden Hurricane can improve their depth and guard play, I think Tulsa has laid the foundation for NCAA at-large consideration with another strong season in 2009-2010.
Welcome to the second round of the NCAA Tournament here in Kansas City.
Today's games: Memphis and Maryland, followed by Oklahoma and Michigan.
If the Wolverines-Sooners pairing sounds like a football match up, OU fans will be happy to hear that Capel and company are a touchdown favorite.
For keys to the game, as well as locker room interviews with Willie Warren and Austin Johnson, check out my video preview. And speaking of Warren... doesn't he look a lot like former Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson? Turns out, a few of his teammates think so, too.
We'll have updates throughout the day from the Sprint Center. As always, I'm happy to field your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.