By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.comBig12Sports.com Correspondent
There are two players who figure to get the attention of the opponent and who should draw the attention of those watching. And those two players might well decide which team wins.
No. 10 seed Oklahoma will rely on senior Romero Osby, a first-team All-Big 12 selection by the Conference's coaches. Osby, a 6-8 senior, averages 15.7 points a game and is the Sooners' unquestioned leader.
When Oklahoma (20-11) faces No. 7 seed San Diego State (22-10) in a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament's South Regional, the Aztecs' success will likely depend on how well Jamaal Franklin plays. A 6-5 junior, he leads San Diego State in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals.
"Good shooters shoot the ball well; good players impact the game when they do other things when they're not shooting the ball well, and that is certainly him," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said of Franklin. "He's going to impact the game regardless of how he's shooting the ball."
Franklin averages 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. While he does lead the Aztecs in assists, he also has the tendency to turn it over. Basically, he can make the spectacular play look easy and the easy play look spectacular.
"If he played in a big league like the Big 12 or the Big Ten or something like that I think he would get much more attention," Oklahoma senior point guard Sam Grooms said of Franklin. "But as far as a player, I think he is extremely good. He rebounds extremely well for a guard and just plays hard."
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher is enamored with Osby.
"If Osby is not the best player in the Big 12, I don't want to play the team that has the best player in the Big 12," Fisher said Thursday. "He's really, really good. He knows how to play. He's a hard guard. He can put it to the floor, he can shoot it on you facing you to 18, 20 feet. He gets to the free throw line.
"When he doesn't touch the ball, it's a rarity in their half court setup.
San Diego State is making its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance while the Sooners are back in March Madness for the first time since 2009. Both teams earned their at-large invitations through a blue-collar mentality.
There is also familiarity in the coaches. Oklahoma's Lon Kruger – who is the first coach to guide five different schools to an NCAA Tournament bid – was previously at Nevada-Las Vegas where he frequently battled Fisher and San Diego State in Mountain West Conference games.
Kruger (at Illinois) and Fisher (at Michigan) also coached against each other in the Big Ten Conference.
"We've become good friends," Fisher said. "His wife Barb and my wife Angie are good friends. When we go on event we find ways to have dinner or go for lunch and talk about non basketball stuff; how are your kids doing, and that sort of thing.
"I'm happy he's in the tournament. I wish we weren't playing one another in the first round." South Regional
No. 10 Oklahoma (20-11) vs. No. 7 San Diego State (22-10)
8:20 p.m. Friday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, TBSCoaches:
Lon Kruger, Oklahoma; Steve Fisher, San Diego State.Why they're here:
Oklahoma was an at-large selection from the Big 12. San Diego State was an at-large selection from the Mountain West Conference.Scouting the Sooners:
Oklahoma lost three of its last five and let double-digit leads slip away in two of those defeats. The Sooners, though, should be back at full strength as freshman Buddy Hield – who supplies energetic play – has recovered from a broken foot. Senior forward Romero Osby, an all-Big 12 first team selection, has been a rock all season. He averages 15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. Along with 6-9 Amath M'Baye, OU has two versatile big men who provide challenges for defenders. The Sooners are outstanding free throw shooters (76 percent).Scouting the Aztecs:
San Diego State is a blue collar team that knows how to grind out low-scoring victories. Jamaal Franklin, a 6-5 junior guard, is the only player in the country to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Senior Chase Tapley averages 13.4 points per game and is the only other starter averaging in double figures. The Aztecs aren't a great 3-point shooting team. Junior point guard Xavier Thames can be the x-factor in most games. When he's active and driving to the basket, he creates shots for Franklin and Tapley.