As of Monday, March 18, 2013
© Copyright 2013
Gwinnett Daily Post
Preview: San Diego State vs. Oklahoma
Lon Kruger is the first coach to guide five different schools into the NCAA Tournament and he will see a familiar face on the other sideline when 10th-seeded Oklahoma faces seventh-seeded San Diego State on Friday in a South Regional second-round game Philadelphia. Kruger and San Diego State coach Steve Fisher matched wits for seven seasons when Kruger was coaching Nevada-Las Vegas of the Mountain West Conference. Fisher had the edge in the matchups, going 13-5 against Kruger's UNLV squads.
The Aztecs are part of the tournament field for the fourth straight season, the best such streak in program history. San Diego State struggled down the stretch, losing five of its last nine games and dropping a 10-point decision to powerful New Mexico in the semifinals of the Mountain West tourney. Oklahoma was one-and-done in the Big 12 tourney, falling to Iowa State for its third loss in five games. The Sooners are ahead of schedule with Kruger guiding the school back into the tournament in his second year on the job, ending a four-year drought for Oklahoma.
TV: 9:20 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (22-10): The Aztecs are a guard-oriented squad and the roster is full of athleticism. Junior guard Jamaal Franklin is the standout and the first-team all-Mountain West selection does it all, leading the Aztecs in scoring (16.7), rebounding (9.5), assists (3.1) and steals (1.5). Senior guard Chase Tapley is a clutch player and made a team-leading 66 3-pointers while averaging 13.5 points. Junior point guard Xavier Thames (9.8 average) is a solid floor leader and is healthy after experiencing midseason back woes. San Diego State isn't a strong interior team despite the tenacious effort of forward JJ O'Brien (7.4 points, 4.6 rebounds).
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (20-11): First-team all-Big 12 selection Romero Osby is the key to the Sooners making a tourney run. The senior forward has given Oklahoma its best inside play since All-American Blake Griffin was on campus and leads the team in both scoring (15.8) and rebounding (seven). Osby has scored at least 17 points in each of the past eight games and is averaging 21.5 points during the stretch. "It means a lot," Osby said of making the tourney for the first time in his Oklahoma career. "Just the fact that we haven't been able to go there the last couple of years, and last year was a tough year for us. But we could see that we were turning the corner a little bit." Senior guard Steven Pledger (11.8 points) and junior forward Amath M'Baye (10.1 points, 5.2 rebounds) are also key players for the Sooners.
Oklahoma is making its 27th NCAA tourney appearance and has reached the Final Four four times, most recently in 2002.
San Diego State is 2-8 in NCAA Tournament play, both victories coming in 2011 when the Kawhi Leonard-led squad reached the Sweet 16.
Kruger also coached Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV into the tourney and won at least one game with all four schools.
PREDICTION: San Diego State 64, Oklahoma 62