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NCAA Tournament Predictions: Rhode Island vs. Oklahoma

Oklahoma relies heavily on freshman sensation Trae Young, but could the backlash over their selection fuel them to a first-round win? (Getty Images Embed)

March Madness is back, and that means RoundballDaily.com is ready to help you make your bracket love you as much as you love it.

Who’s going to win the matchup between Rhode Island and Oklahoma? Check out our complete breakdown and prediction below.

7. Rhode Island (25-6, 15-3/Atlantic-10)

The Rams are in the middle of a renaissance under Danny Hurley, surging to 25 wins, an Atlantic-10 regular season title, and an NCAA Tournament appearance for the second straight year.

URI relies heavily on its guards, such as 6-3 senior Jared Terrell, and they’ve got a bunch of them who will be sic’ed on Trae Young.

Last year, the 11th-seeded Rams thumped Creighton and then led No. 3 Oregon throughout before falling in heartbreaking fashion, 75-72.

Three of the top five scorers from that squad are back this year, including senior guards E.C. Matthews (12.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), and Jared Terrell (17.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg).

This is a guard-heavy group, with sophomore Jeff Dowtin (9.7 ppg, 5.6 apg), Stanford Robinson (9.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Fatts Russell (6.9 ppg) also making major contributions.

URI stumbled down the stretch, losing three of its last five games, including a 78-48 massacre at the hands of mediocre Saint Joe’s and a loss on Sunday to Davidson in the A-10 title game.

This team was ranked as high as No. 15 in the polls at one point, and has the talent to compete with anyone in the nation.

10. Oklahoma (18-13, 8-10/Big 12)

As you may have heard, Oklahoma was helpless down the stretch, face-planting to a 2-8 record and falling to rival Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. How the Sooners cracked the field and the Cowboys didn’t? Neither God nor Dickie V will ever know the answer to that question.

Also as you may have heard, OU has one of the most dynamic and fun-to-watch players in the country in freshman guard Trae Young. The Norman native became the first player in NCAA history to lead the country in both scoring (27.4 ppg) and assists (8.8 per).

When he burst onto the scene at the beginning of the year, Young looked like the No. 1 pick in the draft, and the Sooners looked like Final Four contenders.

Once teams started to figure out how to defend him, and Young responded by forcing up terrible shots, Oklahoma fell apart.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma is bound to hear a lot of noise about how they don’t belong in the bracket. In-state rival Oklahoma State (which beat them twice) has as big a beef as anyone. But often times when teams stumble into the Dance perhaps undeservingly, the backlash provides just the right type of fuel to propel them on a run (think VCU in 2011 or Syracuse in 2016).

That, combined with the fact that the Rams are also sputtering down the stretch, gives us reason to take the Sooners to win this game.

We think Oklahoma knocks off Rhode Island, but their run comes to an end in the second round at the hands of a much deeper and much more well-balanced Duke team.

Who wins this game?

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