The Oklahoma Sooners and Michigan State Spartans will square off Saturday night at the Barclays Center in New York for the title game of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The Sooners survived their semifinal game over Seton Hall with an 86-85 win over the Pirates. The Spartans, the No. 1 team in the country, rolled through Virginia Tech will relative ease in a 96-77 victory over the Hokies.
Here is a full breakdown of the final of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The Sooners are looking to build off a season in which they went 20-12 last year and made it into the field for the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners are led by a pair of guards in sophomore Buddy Hield and senior Cameron Clark. Hield had a smaller role with the Sooners last season, but he is currently the Sooners' leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game. The veteran leader of the team is Cameron Clark. Clark is one of only two seniors on a young Sooner squad, and he is also the teams second-leading scorer.
The Sooners expect to face some tough challenges in the Big 12 this season, but they are hoping to prove early on in their nonconference schedule that they will be ready for the test. Tonight will be a great measuring stick for them as they face the No. 1 team in the country.
The biggest key for the Sooners is to not get killed on the boards by Michigan State. The Spartans possess great size inside with senior center Adrien Payne, and his ability to get lots of rebounds for the Spartans allows them to get out and run on the fast break. The Spartans are ranked second in the country in assists per game, and it is easy for them to move the ball around and get easy baskets when they are on the break.
If the Sooners can get some offensive rebounds and keep their possessions alive for some second-chance opportunities, not only will it improve their offensive efficiency, but it will help slow down the Spartans in transition and improve their chances on defense.
Michigan State Spartans
The No. 1 team in the country made an early statement when they knocked off then No. 1 Kentucky in their second game of the season. The Spartans are loaded, not only with talent, but with experience to match it. The Spartans are very balanced in how their talent is spread out as well.
Michigan State has a pair of guards in sophomore Gary Harris and senior Keith Appling, who are certainly one of the best duos in the entire nation. Harris exploded on the national stage against Kentucky and showed fans that when he is healthy, he is certainly one of the premier guards in the country.
The big men inside that the Spartans feature, like I mentioned before, are also very talented. Not only do the Spartans feature senior Adreian Payne inside, but they also have a very talented player in junior Branden Dawson. Dawson is only 6'6", but he is still able to dominate on the glass. The combo forward is averaging 9.6 rebounds per game for Michigan State.
There is a reason the Spartans are the No. 1 team in the country. There are a few top teams that can match them in talent, but the Spartans exceed them in experience. Head coach Tom Izzo has always been a winner with the Spartans, and this will be one of his best teams yet. The Spartans are national title contenders, and that is bad news for the Sooners.
The Sooners are a solid basketball team, but the Spartans have little trouble with solid teams. It takes a top team like Duke, Kentucky or Kansas to compete with the Spartans. Oklahoma will put up a little bit more of a fight than we saw with Virginia Tech in the semifinals on Friday night, but not by much. The Spartans should have little trouble going out Saturday night and capturing the title for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.