The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson took questions from readers in today’s Power Lunch Chat. You can join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here’s a look at today’s Q&A:
ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
How do you see OU and OSU faring? I hope I am wrong, but I would not be surprised to see them both lose their first game.
I think OSU has a good chance to go to the Sweet 16. I know Oregon is a tough first-round matchup, but the Ducks don't have a ton of wins on their resume that wow you. If OSU plays like it is capable, it should win. Then, I like the Cowboys to beat St. Louis in the second round.
As for OU, I'm a lot less sold on the Sooners. Their late-season ups and downs don't bode well in my eyes. After practice yesterday, many of them talked about the fact that they felt like it was just little things that needed to improve. It looks like more than little things to me. San Diego State has been up and down, too, but I just feel like OU is going to lose.
How does your bracket look?
I ended up having Louisville and Miami in the final game, and I picked Louisville to win. But I have to say, there were a lot of games that felt like tossups to me.
This could be one of those years that you'd have just as much luck winning your office pool by picking teams with your favorite colors as actually picking them by who you think will win. College basketball feels as up in the air as I can remember.
Who do you have as your Final Four?
My Final Four, as I recall, is Louisville, Miami, Kansas and Ohio State. Ohio State is the one I'm least sold on, by the way.
It seems all decent teams in the field have good guard play, so what teams have good big men that might make a difference?
Truly good big men are difficult to find in college basketball because they all go to the NBA as soon as they can.
Gonzaga has some bigs who could be problematic for teams. I also think Kansas with Jeff Withey could have an advantage because of what he brings. Plus, I just think Kansas having such a senior-laden team will have an advantage because of that. It's not often you see a starting lineup of a top-level team with as many seniors as the Jayhawks have.
How long do you anticipate Lon Kruger remaining the coach at OU? Is OU a destination job for him?
I'm not sure it was a job he coveted. Berry Tramel wrote a column over the weekend that said Kruger turned down OU twice before Joe Castiglione and Co. convinced him that they were serious about hiring him and about doing right by the basketball program.
That said, I could absolutely see Kruger retiring at OU. He's been in the business for a long time, and now that he's back near his Kansas roots, I would have a hard time seeing him pick up and go somewhere else in four or five years. I don't know how long he stays at OU, but I could definitely see him being there five, six or seven more years.
Why is a 15-20 team in the NCAA Tournament? Are they going to get destroyed?
Liberty is in with a 15-20 record because it won its conference tournament and its conference's automatic bid. It's as simple as that. If Liberty didn't win that tournament, it wouldn't be in the NCAA Tournament.
Frankly, if I had any say in low-level conferences, I'd give their automatic bids to the regular-season champion, not the conference tournament champion. I've always thought it was odd that a team that wins a 14- or 16-game regular-season crown, then has one down day in the conference tournament loses its chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
I know it makes those conference tournaments so much more exciting, but don't those conference want to send their BEST team to the NCAA Tournament? I've never understood why conferences like Liberty's do that.
The best guard out there is Shane Larkin, I have the Miami in the Final Four — your thoughts?
I love Miami, too. I have them in my Final Four, as well, and I have them playing for the national championship. Losing to Louisville, but still. It'd be a huge deal if the Canes make the national title game.
I don't know if I'd say Larkin is the best guard in the game because there are a lot of really good ones out there. I've watched him play a couple times, but probably not enough to say if he's the best in college basketball. I know I've seen him more and that has an impact in what I'm about to say, but Marcus Smart has a hand in so many different areas of every game for OSU. Even when he's not scoring, he's still impacting the game with defense or passing or whatever. To me, that's been pretty darn impressive to see, especially out of a freshman.
What are your predictions in % that Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, and Le’Bryan Nash stay at OSU next year?
Seems unlikely that all of them will still be there. My feeling is that Brown and Nash need to stay. I don't think either of them is ready to play in the NBA. Smart in the NBA? It's more of a sure thing. I think his decision is going to come down to what he wants to do. He seems like a kid who might decide to stay in college another year and try to make a run at championships. But at the same time, if he's a lottery pick, I couldn't blame him for jumping to the NBA.
I thought the OU women got a favorable seed/location. Your thoughts?
The OU women are a No. 6 seed in the OKC regional. I'd say that the location is definitely favorable. Now, the Sooners have to go to Columbus, Ohio, and play what are essentially neutral site games, first against Central Michigan, then against the winner of UCLA-Stetson.
Because of OU's lacking depth, winning two games in three days will be no easy task. But if they can survive the first two rounds, they'll definitely feel at home in the regional. And they wouldn't have to face a potential matchup with Baylor until the regional finals.
ON THE OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AND THE NBA:
Thunder-Nuggets: Big game tonight. Your thoughts on the matchup?
Huge game. Should be a fun one to watch, for sure. For whatever reason, OKC seems a lot better against the Nuggets when they're in OKC. Then when the games are played in Denver, the teams play on more equal footing. Not sure what to chalk that up to, but that's been the trend of late.
This is a potential playoff matchup, so it would behoove the Thunder to continue its home domination. Let the Nuggets know that getting a win in OKC will be nearly impossible. That could be a big psychological advantage in the playoffs.
After watching the Celtics last night, it made me think what a small lineup of Russ, KD, Jeff Green, Collison, and Ibaka would do against the Heat. I still love his game.
Uncle Jeff had himself a game last night. No doubt about that. But if Green isn't traded, there's no way the Thunder does all the things that it's done the past few years. The trade brought in defensive toughness in Kendrick Perkins, allowed for the development of Serge Ibaka and even opened the door for James Harden. ...
I like Jeff Green as much as the next person, but that trade set in motion so many things that have made the Thunder who it is today. If you like what you see now, you have to be OK with Jeff Green being somewhere else.
What do you see the Thunder doing with the Toronto pick?
A lot of people would like to see the Thunder take Marcus Smart with that pick, and while I think he fits the Thunder mold, I'm not sure where he would fit on the team. Starting point guard is already sewed up, and Reggie Jackson is putting a strangle hold on the backup job more and more every day.
So, would the Thunder use the Toronto pick to get its third-string point guard? That seems unlikely. So, that opens the door to a lot of options. The Thunder always seems to make great decisions on draft day, so while it's impossible to know who the team will pick — or even what players will make themselves available — I feel certain that they'll make a good decision with that pick. Heck, they could even use it in a trade scenario. Nothing is off the table with Sam Presti and Co.