NCAA Second Round: Michigan vs. Oklahoma Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
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.

Pre-Game Reading:

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  • Ken in Las Vegas

    What an amazing ride. I can hold my head up high knowing that we have greater heart than 99% of teams out there. Things are only going to get better, and this site has built a community (brotherhood even) of devoted Michigan fans. From the tipoff against Michigan Tech to today, I have truly enjoyed every minute.

  • A Case of Blue

    Great season. I’m already excited about next year, which is not what I said at this time last year. I believe in Beilein and the team, and there’s nowhere to go but up from here!

  • Dave

    very impressed with gibson in these 2 games………definitely going to be an amazing year next year as long as manny stays…….very excited…….its going to be fun to see what happens from here on out

  • Not just that BL11, his email on paypal was meaning he’s probably a student. Meaning after contending with a Michigan class load and homework load, he then puts up his blog posts. That’s work. I’m a cowriter on a political blog. We have several writers and there are weeks that we have one maybe 2 posts in the week. For Dylan to be able to do this by himself and put up as much as he does is amazing. With all his work this season, I’m sure he could really use the pizza and beer money!

  • Dylan

    I’m hitting the road tonight. Post game and a couple other posts will be up tomorrow and the next few days.

  • Jayson

    btw…who thinks that Blake Griffin looks like one of those vampire things from I am Legend??? what an ugly dude…

  • Mario

    After watching WVU in Beilein’s last few years there, I was so excited to see him come to Michigan, and the win over Clemson and the effort against OU today proves why. We’re way ahead of schedule and it’s only going to get better from here. It was an awesome ride this year all the way through, and I don’t think anybody could have expected it to go this well… And Dylan, this blog is a great read and I (and I’m sure all the rest of your readers) really appreciate the work you put into it…. Looking forward to next season and go blue!

  • Merlin

    Very very proud of the team. Sent Dylan a tip as I am also very proud of what he has accomplished with this blog. I remember my posts at the beginning of the year-why are there no fans at the games. I am sure next year will be a different story.

  • Kevin in GR

    Dylan: Thanks for all you’ve done in regards to UM Hoops and for providing a forum for us to come together! I’m sure this takes a ton of work to maintain and update. You’re work here is very much appreciated!

    The Team: What a great year! They exceeded the expectations of most and fought until the bitter end! Now that they have a taste of the tourney, they will be hungry to get back and will know what to expect. With some added size (Cronin/Morgan/McLimans), depth (Morris/Vogrich/Wright/Gibson) and experience, the future is looking bright! Their tourney appearance/performance should also help with recruiting. One thing to be careful about going into next year will be expecations….At least this years team though seems to play their best with their backs against the wall, so hopefully that will carry over into next year. Thanks to Lee/Merritt/Shephard for all that they’ve done for UM in their careers.

  • San Diego Blue

    I can’t imagine either Sims/Harris leaving this year. I don’t think the refs were bad tonight, the charges against Manny could have gone either way, but they were reasonable calls. I think we got away with a lot of contact down low on Griffin… So it I’d say it was even (I didn’t like the call on Sims boxing out Griffin and the charges were frustrating).

  • AG2

    What a season. This was by far the most well coached Michigan team I have ever seen. This team’s heart was outstanding. They NEVER looked nervous, they NEVER acted like they were just happy to be there, they were BALLERS.

    When you strip away the dead weight from the tainted players, this was Michigan’s best season since Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard in 1994. Would it have been nice to win, sure by in the end 64 of the 65 teams lose.

    Next season, while I will be sad to see Merritt, Lee, and Shepard go, we should be better than ever. This year’s biggest problems were size and lack of a point guard who could score. Next year will address both those issues, and another great shooter in Vogrich.

    That being said, I expect the Big Ten to be even more stacked next season, not that ESPN will notice. Depending on who goes pro, I think only OSU could take a step back. I think Michigan could have a good look at winning the Old Spice Classic. Plus, the Big Ten might finally win the Challenge.

    Until then, I’ll push for the Big Ten to outshine the ACC and Big East for the rest of the tournament. Although ultimately I have Pitt winning it all. Not too confident about that one.

  • Kevin in GR

    Maybe a rematch with Clemson in the ACC Challenge?

  • Nick

    Well, I said I had a feeling LLP would light it up tonight…haha…i don’t know what that feeling was…I jinxed him i guess.

    They showed like none of the game out in the west…it was so frustrating. I got to watch like 8 total minutes of action. Great season despite the loss though…I have only been a passive Michigan basketball fan for the last several years cause it was so frustrating after Ellerbe. This team really got to me…I loved watching them. Especially the scrappers: CJ Lee and Zack Novak. I’ll miss Lee. But I can’t wait til next season. We could really be great if our new recruits fill in the voids this team had as well as some think they can.

  • jgunnip

    I haven’t read any of the comments but….. HECK OF A SEASON!!! that was so much fun to watch. can’t wait for next year! great season BLUE.!!!! HAIL!!

    ps. does anybody know when the team getes back into town? i want to go and welcome them.

  • It was great to be part of the tournament this year and although losing stings, the program is positively back. This team is one legitimate point guard away from being a real contender(D. Morris ?).

  • Adam

    I know they are spending tonight in KC. Boy I am still kind of bitter about the way things ended. Sad that Manny didn’t have a chance to play. Partially officials but mostly because of freaking Griffin. Man I hate that guy. I thinking mgblog summed it up best:

    Oklahoma, possessor of the most terrifying quasi-ginger manbeast* in college basketball lo these many years.

    Screw that ginger. “Queme los barcos” … next year

  • Adam

    What a great season. We may have lost regardless because Oklahoma is a very good team, but it makes me sick that the refs didn’t even give Michigan a chance. That was one of the most poorly officiated games I have ever seen in my life. It was so one-sided you would think Michael Jordan played for the other team. Michigan is already a weaker team than Oklahoma, they didn’t need the refs giving them extra help with all of the foul calls. I was sick to my stomach watching the refs try to take the game from Michigan.

    Michigan played a HELL of a game to keep that close IN SPITE of the officiating. I am very proud that they played tough and kept on fighting regardless of how unbelievably poor the officiating was. Good season, and Go Blue! You guys deserved better than that!

  • Kevin

    Great season, couldn’t have asked for much more. Only downside of the season was that Michigan making the tournament screwed up all of my brackets…couldn’t pick against em. It’s a problem I love to have though. Great season! Go Blue! Thanks Dylan!

  • 1st time poster

    Truly a great season especially for those who have been fans since the last time UM made the dance. Dylan and the all the other students should feel lucky. I’m an Alum and was a student during the Amaker years…that was a bummer.

    Also, it really finally feels like Michigan is moving in a really good direction. It seems the players are really willing to give it their all for Beilein because they know he gives them a lot to play for. Its been said before but most of us were not really expecting this. I remember right after Ekpe left most people were hoping that we would make it to .500.

    Thanks Dylan! Go Blue!

  • Bill

    First time poster here…. Dylan, I have read your blog daily since I discovered it back in October. This site perfectly complemented an incredible season by our Wolverines. I look forward to reading through the off-season and into the 2009-2010 season. Cheers!

  • JDub

    Great season, though I had restless sleep and dreams of calls going our way (hence the early posts). I would love to see that game played again with different officials, but such is life.

    My Michigan sports fanhood started as a freshman in 2003, so it’s the first taste of bball success I have had. It’s addictive and I’m already looking forward to more.

    Keep wearing that Maize and Blue everyone.

  • Mith

    It’s neat that some of you are getting your first taste of UM hoops success. I’ve followed since the mid 80s, so I’ve been fortunate enough to see some really good teams from about 85 through 98. I think they only missed the tourney twice in that span.

    It sure looks like the program is back. It is important to temper expectations, they won’t be a national powerhouse overnight. Hopefully they can show year to year consistency, get into the tourney on a regular basis, and start to contend for B10 titles.

    Great season, BLUE!

  • Tom Too

    You can bet some High School Sophomores and Juniors watched the game last night and said to themselves, “I want to play for Beilein and Michigan.” This is going to do wonders for recruiting.

    Dylan – Great Site. You make UM Basketball that much more enjoyable to follow.

  • JimC

    One good thing about that game is that it helps keep Manny & Deshawn around. I don’t think they want to go out like that.

    Guess we’ll have to pull for PU, WI & possibly even Sparty now.

  • Mason

    Snyder reports that Sims and Manny will return next season, although i must admit that i had little doubt…