OU — Isaiah Cousins (6-4, So., 10.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
NDSU — Taylor Braun (6-7, Sr., 18.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Cousins has improved dramatically on the defensive end over the last half of the season and consequently the Sooners have been much better on that end of the floor. That’s why he figures to see plenty of time on Braun, whose size and ability to score against a variety of defenders makes him dangerous.
OU — Buddy Hield (6-4, So., 16.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
NDSU — Kory Brown (6-4, So., 6.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Hield has been the Sooners’ sparkplug during Big 12 play. In OU’s last seven games, Hield has hit 27 3-pointers. Brown is second on the team with 35 steals.
OU — D.J. Bennett, Frank Booker, Je’lon Hornbeak and Tyler Neal.
NDSU — Jordan Aaberg, Mike Felt and Chris Kading.
The Sooners have benefited greatly by having no injuries or prolonged slumps, and nowhere is that more apparent than in their bench play. All but Bennett can be big-time scoring threats and Bennett has improved his post defense, allowing Spangler to catch a breath late in the season. The Bison have had pretty good luck in that regard themselves but aren’t able to go as deep as the Sooners.
OU — 23-9 overall, 12-6 Big 12, No. 5 seed
NDSU — 25-6 overall, 12-2 Big 12, No. 12 seed
The Bison are no doubt a popular upset pick, with Braun and Bjorklund in particular creating matchup issues against the undersized Sooners. But Oklahoma has bounced back from poor performances well this season, losing back-to-back games just once in a tough Big 12. In the end, the Sooners depth —both in the starting five and on the bench — wins out.