The opening game in the South region of this year's NCAA tournament on Friday between Oklahoma and Ole Miss attributes a pair of teams that acquired off to good starts this season yet weren't able come sustain every one of that momentum when they obtained into conference play.

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Oklahoma (19-13) was impressive early, walking 11-1 in non-conference games, including wins versus fellow NCAA Tournament teams Wofford and also Florida. However Lon Kruger's Sooners couldn't store it going against huge 12 teams, walk 7-11 and getting upset by West Virginia in the an initial round of their conference tournament.

Likewise, Ole miss out on (20-12) acquired off come a fast start under first-year head coach Kermit Davis. The Rebels walk 10-2 in non-conference play and also won their very first three SEC games, including victories over ultimate conference tournament champion Auburn and archrival Mississippi State. But due to the fact that then, Ole Miss has actually gone simply 7-5, including a disappointing loss come Alabama in the second round that the SEC Tournament.

The winner that this game likely gets No. 1 particle Virginia in the second round on Sunday.

East Region: No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners (19-13) vs. No. 8 Ole miss Rebels (20-12)

Time: 12:40 p.m. (Friday)Where: early american Life Arena (Columbia, S.C.)TV: truTV




Keys because that Oklahoma

The Sooners' game plan is simple: beat the style of defense that acquired them in the NCAA tournament in the very first place. According to KenPom, Oklahoma ranking 23rd nationally in opponent-adjusted protective efficiency, regardless of playing the seventh-toughest schedule in terms of opposing offenses faced.

Oklahoma also needs Kristian Doolittle to continue his recent stretch of strong play. In the last 6 games, Doolittle has actually averaged 17.3 points and also 8.7 rebounds over that span, during which the Sooners are 4-2. Doolittle's recent development has reduced the punch of Jamuni McNeace, who has been bothered by an ankle injury many of the season. Oklahoma also will need sizeable contribute from top scorers Christian James (14.4 ppg) and also Brady Manek (12.0).

Keys for Ole Miss

The Rebels will have to rely on your talented backcourt. Ole Miss has a trio the guards that average dual digits in points. They're led through Breein Tyree, Terrence Davis, and Devontae Shuler.

Tyree perfect tied for 2nd in the SEC in scoring (18.2 points every game). He together with Davis (15.1 ppg) give head coach Kermit Davis the conference's peak scoring duo. Shuler chips in 10.2 points per game and also hits ~ above 40 percent the his 3-point attempts.

Final Analysis

This is a matchup of teams that have different styles. Ole miss out on wants to rate up the game and also rely top top its safety play. Oklahoma wants to grind the out and also smother groups with its defense.

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In a tournament setting, a matchup favor this might go either way. But in the end, ns think Rebels' guards prove to it is in the difference. And don't overlook Ole miss forward Bruce Stevens, that at 6-foot-8 should have the ability to hold his own versus the Sooners' huge men and administer some assistance on offense (50.5 percent shooter) as well.

Prediction: Ole miss out on 61, Oklahoma 58

— written by Antwan Staley, who is component of the Athlon Contributor Network and has substantial experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has actually written because that Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm beach Post and is a reporter for agree Player Insiders. Monitor him on Twitter