Mount St. Mary's (0-0) at (17) Oklahoma (0-0)
Saturday, November 14th, 2:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Lloyd Noble Center (12,000) -- Norman, Oklahoma. Television: None. Home Record: MSMU 0-0, Oklahoma 0-0. Away Record: MSMU 0-0, Oklahoma 0-0. Neutral Record: MSMU 0-0, Oklahoma 0-0. Conference Record: MSMU 0-0, Oklahoma 0-0. Series Record: Oklahoma leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: Two teams with high expectations clash in Norman today, as the 17th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners host the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers in non- league play at the Lloyd Noble Center.
The Sooners produced in a big way in head coach Jeff Capel's third year at the helm of the program, as they notched their fifth 30-win campaign in school history. Oklahoma also placed second in the Big 12 (13-3), while advancing to the Elite Eight of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. The Sooners return eight letterwinners from last year's squad and should be every bit as competitive in 2009-10.
As for the Mountaineers, they too were successful in 2008-09, going 19-14 overall and placing second in the Northeast Conference at 12-6. MSMU even earned itself a spot in the postseason, as it participated in the inaugural CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Head coach Milan Brown now welcomes back three starters and some key reserves from last year's club, making the Mountaineers a trendy pick to win the Northeast Conference this season.
MSMU and Oklahoma have met three times previously, with the Sooners winning each encounter, including an 81-57 trouncing in Norman during the 2007-08 season.
The backcourt is where the Mountaineers' strength resides thanks to the return of Jeremy Goode and Jean Cajou. The 5-9 Goode led the Mountaineers in scoring (14.9 ppg) as well as assists (4.1 apg) last season and should challenge for NEC Player of the Year honors in 2009-10. As for the 6-3 Cajou, he showed he could score as well, averaging 12.6 ppg, and he also led the team with 51 three-pointers last season. In the frontcourt, Kelly Beidler is set to return to his regular role, and Shawn Atupem is primed for a starting spot alongside him. The 6-5 Beidler produced 10.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg as a starter a season ago, meanwhile, the 6-7 Atupem contributed 9.6 ppg and 3.5 rpg coming off the bench.
Oklahoma's success last season was in large part due to the play of 6-10 Blake Griffin, the No.1 pick in the NBA draft that dominated just about every game, averaging 22.7 ppg and 14.4 rpg. Griffin and two other starters are now gone, but coach Capel still has plenty of weapons to work with. Willie Warren is set to become the go-to-guy after being a unanimous choice as the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2008-09. The 6-4 Warren, who turned in 14.6 ppg and 3.1 apg, is a slasher with good passing and three-point shooting skills. Tony Crocker is also back to provide leadership at the perimeter, as the senior has started 95-of-102 games since arriving in Norman. The 6-6 guard is a streaky shooter that produced 9.6 ppg last season. Tommy Mason-Griffin, a McDonald's All- American, is a true playmaker and he rounds out the starting three in the backcourt. Another McDonald's All-American that will crack the starting lineup as a rookie is Keith "Tiny" Gallon, a 6-9, 290-pound forward that will help pick up some of the scoring lost with Griffin.
Both teams have plenty of weapons, but the Sooners are simply the more talented team and should end up winning this game on their home floor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma 70, Mount St. Mary's 50
11/14 10:32:21 ET