Oklahoma Sooners (22-11). vs. St. Joseph's Hawks (21-12).
When: Friday, 7:10 p.m.
1. His One Shining Moment?: True freshman Blake Griffin hasn't gotten the same amount of hype that super froshes Derrick Rose, Kevin Love or Michael Beasley have received, but his 15 points and 9 boards per game are the biggest reason the Sooners are back in the NCAA Tourney field after a mediocre 16-15 record last season. Griffin displays freakish athleticism and a good arsenal of low post moves and has been slotted as high as the 9th pick in NBA mock drafts if he decides to leave school following this season. To outsiders, it would seem that Griffin is poised to use the tournament as a launching pad to a pro career. But even if his stock soars in the next three weeks, Griffin may well postpone his date with the NBA lottery and return to Norman for one more season. The main reason? Griffin is having a blast playing with his older brother Taylor, who will be a senior for the Sooners next season. I know blood is thicker than water, but Blake will soon have to decide if it's also thicker than an eight-figure contract.
2. So Nice They Named Him Twice: Griffin may be the superstar on this team, but senior center Longar Longar is the glue. The Sooners were 0-2 this season in games Longar missed due to a stress fracture. For comparison's sake, Oklahoma went 2-0 without Blake Griffin in the lineup. How's that feel, superstar? Longar's journey from war-torn Sudan to Oklahoma by way of Egypt is a terrific story, but here's the real scoop you're waiting for. His middle name (disappointingly) is not Longar; it's Salvatory.
3. Can I Get an Encore, Do You Want More?: When Jeff Capel was hired as head coach at Oklahoma two years ago, many Sooner fans were concerned that the 31-year-old would be a too inexperienced to run a program that had been to the NCAA tournament in 20 of the past 24 years. The Capel era began auspiciously, with the loss of heralded Kelvin Sampson signees Scottie Reynolds and Damion James. With the cupboard bare, Capel struggled to keep the Sooners above .500 last season. But then Capel stepped up and signed McDonalds All-Americans Blake Griffin in this year's class and Willie Warren in next year's class. It turns out that young ballers tend to respect both Capel's Duke pedigree and his hip-hop stylings (he's been known to quote Jay-Z in post game interviews). I can't see Jim Boeheim or the toupee-wearing Bill Self dropping a HOVA reference in a recruit's living room without it seeming at least a little contrived. This season Capel showed that he's got some coaching chops to go with his street cred. The Sooners were 5-1 in games decided by three points or less. — Dave Grogan
ST. JOSEPH'S HAWKS
1. How Many Passes before You Shoot? Hawks sophomore guard Garrett Williamson came to Saint Joseph's from Lower Merion, where he was the second all-time leading scorer, behind Jelly Bean Bryant's kid. Somehow in the transition to college, he turned "scorer" into "defensive specialist" and has averaged fewer than three shots a game. That means more shots for freakish senior Pat Calathes, who grew a foot before his senior year in high school and is now a 6'10" ball handler and perimeter threat.
2. Home Away From Home. The Hawks closed down Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, their home of 59 years, with the regular season finale against Xavier and will play all their home game at Penn's Palestra next year while the home gym undergoes $30 million in renovations. Just in time, too. Saint Joseph's was a below-average 6-3 at home this year, and just days after the final regular season game, heavy rains caused a leak in the roof during the women's A10 tournament. The dozen fans that attended seemed unfazed.
3. Don't Call Me Author, Either. Head Hawk Phil Martelli's new memoir, Don't Call Me Coach, ranks #62 in Amazon.com's Books>Sports>Basketball>College & University as of the writing of this note. #61 (Mitch Albom's book on the Fab Five) and #63 (Rick Majerus' My Life on a (greasy) Napkin) aren't even available to buy on Amazon. Can someone get Kige Ramsey to pimp this? We promise a lifetime supply of metallic decals. — Jeff Martin