Oklahoma players are well aware of North Dakota State’s role as a popular upset pick in Thursday’s games (6:27 p.m., truTV).
“There’s a lot of people picking against us,” sophomore point guard Je’lon Hornbeak said. “The president didn’t even pick us. I was a little hurt between him and Phil Jackson going to the Knicks, that was just like a double whammy for me. It’s OK, though. People didn’t pick us last year, they didn’t pick us to win a lot of these games this year.
“It’s nothing new to us.”
Barack Obama has annually picked his bracket with ESPN’s Andy Katz. The president picked Michigan State to knock off Louisville in the championship game.
BISON ARE PATIENT
North Dakota State leads the nation in field-goal percentage, .509, and the Bison got to that status by taking good shots. And that means not getting in a hurry.
“They run the shot clock down, then get shots they want,” said OU center Ryan Spangler. “They run the offense well, so they get open shots. They’re getting close to the rim. They’re getting good shots and easy shots.”
The Sooners’ defensive gameplan?
“Just try to deny a little bit,” Spangler said. “Get up into ’em, make ’em dribble. The biggest thing is, when they get inside 10 seconds on the shot clock, we can’t just give up. That’s when we gotta buckle down and not let ’em get easy shots.”
OU’s open-practice policy has intrigued the media assembled in Spokane. Both Lon Kruger and his players were asked about Kruger inviting fans and media to every Sooner practice in Norman.
Cam Clark said he likes it because it shows outsiders how hard the Sooners work. Spangler said it allows the players to show the fans how much they’re appreciated.
“We take pictures with them, just talk to them, let them shoot with us,” Spangler said. “So yeah, I think it just shows how much they appreciate us and how much we appreciate them.”
Kruger has had open practices for 30 years.
“I kind of feel like it’s not our program, it’s the community’s program and it’s the university’s program,” Kruger said. “We have always done it that way. We never thought twice about it...I think we sometimes take ourselves a little bit too seriously.”
COUSINS DOES CAMERA WORK
Sooners sophomore guard Isaiah Cousins turned the tables a bit on the media Wednesday.
When the OU locker room opened, Cousins was toting a GoPro camera, chronicling the Sooners preparations for the NCAA Tournament.
The camera came courtesy of CBS, which is following the Sooners and three other teams — Wichita State, San Diego State and Creighton — as part of its NCAA March Madness Confidential.
When Cousins was interviewed he handed the camera off to teammates.
SPANGLER HANGS WITH FORMER TEAMMATES
Spangler spent some time with former Gonzaga teammates Tuesday night in Spokane after the Sooners arrived.
“Just hung out with some old teammates that will always be my friends,” Spangler said. “It was good. We talked, caught up, shot the basketball a little bit at the gym. Just catching up on what we’ve missed the last couple of years.”
Spangler transferred from Gonzaga to Oklahoma after his freshman season.
The Bulldogs will play Oklahoma State on Friday.
“I told them they need to beat them,” Spangler said. “I just told them to be smart, play like Gonzaga always plays and fight them as hard as you can. I told them OSU’s a good team but just fight them.”
North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips: “It’s funny, because you’re hoping and praying for a 12 seed, you’re all excited you’re making the tournament at our level, you sit around for a week thinking about what you might get. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling, feeling great about life. Then the draw comes out, and you think, ‘What did we get our self in to?’”