Trae Young led the nation in scoring and assists while single-handedly carrying the Sooners into March Madness.
After racking up 25 victories heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Rhode Island Rams know a thing or two about shutting down an opponent’s best player. But their next assignment is no ordinary challenge as they find themselves tasked with stopping Oklahoma sensation Trae Young in their Midwest Regional first-round game Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
NCAA Tournament Odds and Betting Analysis
March Madness bettors should consider that oddsmakers are expecting this to be a tightly-contested game, which doesn’t do the Rams any favours; they’ve failed to cover any of the three games they’ve played this season with a line of three or fewer points either way. But the Sooners are no better off coming into March Madness, having covered just three times in their previous 16 games overall. And the Sooners are a dismal 1-6 ATS in their previous seven neutral-site encounters.
The teams are trending in opposite directions from a totals perspective. Rhode Island has come in under the total in five of its previous six games overall, and is 1-4 O/U in its last five contests following a straight-up defeat. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has exceeded the number in nine of its last 11 contests against non-conference, five of its past six neutral-site contests and is 5-2 O/U in the last seven meetings with teams from the Atlantic 10 Conference.
For as much attention as the Sooners received for their electrifying offence – one which ranked fourth in the nation in scoring average (85.2) – a shoddy defence prevented Oklahoma from making inroads in the competitive Big 12 Conference. The Sooners coughed up an average of 81.6 points per game this season; only 14 teams allowed more. And if Oklahoma can’t tighten up the defence, it won’t matter what Young does at the other end of the court.
Rhode Island Rams
The Rams pride themselves on being one of the top defensive units in Division I; they allowed just 67.9 points per game (61st in the country) while limiting teams to an average of 11.4 assists, ranking in the top 40 nationally. Rhode Island is also elite at controlling the turnover game, boasting a plus-5.1 average turnover margin that ranks third overall. The Rams are making their 10th tournament appearance but haven’t advanced past the opening weekend since 1998.