The Oklahoma Sooners have a good Buddy. Whenever he is needed, the young man in whom they place enormous confidence is always there.
Their go-to guy is Buddy Hield, who can do just about anything on a basketball court. He can shoot, rebound or handle the ball; whatever is necessary.
Hield is considered the favorite to win the John R. Wooden Award as the player of the year in college basketball. There are other national awards that he may win as well.
The Sooners’ second-round NCAA Tournament game against Virginia Commonwealth shows what he means to the team. Oklahoma jumped out to a 21-7 lead over the Rams despite the fact Hield, who averages 25 points per game, did not have one of those 21 points.
In fact, Hield did not score for the first 10 minutes of the game and made only two of eight shots in the first half. Still, Oklahoma led 44-31 at halftime.
In the second half, the Rams made a run at Oklahoma. Ignoring the fact they were playing the Sooners in Oklahoma City, VCU managed to tie the game with 11 minutes remaining.
After already getting off to a strong start in the second half, Hield put the Sooners on his shoulders and led them to an 85-81 victory. He scored 19 of his 36 points in the final eight minutes and tallied 29 of his team’s final 41 points.
After VCU took a 65-63 lead, Hield scored eight points in less than two minutes. Two of those were three-pointers and gave the Sooners a lead they would not relinquish.
To be sure, Hield had some help with Jordan Woodard scoring 17 points and Isaiah Cousins adding 15. But it was the timing, the efficiency and the leadership of Hield that makes him the kind of player that is fun to watch.
“He’s got really great focus at that moment when the shot needed to be made or a play needed to be made,” said Sooners’ Coach Lon Kruger, the former head man for the Florida Gators. “He’s done it so many times for us throughout his career, especially this year and again today. It seemed like every shot that he had that we needed, he stepped up and made it.
That seems to describe someone who might be the best college basketball player in America. There are other great players, such as Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine.
The difference is fans have the chance to make up their own minds on Hield. Oklahoma now goes to the Sweet 16. Valentine is preparing for the NBA after he and his team were dumped by 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee State.
That’s not a knock at all on Valentine. This is about reporting on the phenomenon that is Buddy Hield.
He is the real deal.