by RENALDO DORSETT
It will be a bittersweet Sweet 16 for Bahamian basketball fans as two of the country’s top NCAA prospects will square off in the next round of “March Madness.”
Buddy Hield and his Oklahoma Sooners will host Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr and his Michigan State Spartans, Friday March 27 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.
For the winner, it will be the first time a Bahamian player emerged to the Elite Eight since Magnum Rolle did so with the LSU Tigers in 2006 in his Tigers’ finish as national runners up.
In the East region,the Sooners are the No.3 seed while the Spartans are seeded No.7.
The final two Bahamian players left in the tournament, Nairn was the first to advance to the Sweet 16 when his team pulled off the region’s biggest upset with a 60-54 win over the No.2 ranked Virginia Cavaliers.
Nairn finished with two rebounds in 17 minutes of play.
The Spartans advance to the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in the last eight seasons under coach Tom Izzo.
“I can’t tell you how excited and proud I am for these guys, especially these seniors and juniors. They have been through a lot. I’m not sure of all the great teams we’ve had if I’ve ever had one in a day that changed what we do with the game plan and execute as well as they did,” Izzo said, “I’m just proud of them and excited and looking forward to moving on.”
In the region’s feature nightcap, the Sooners topped the No. 11 Dayton Flyers with a 72-66 win.
Hield finished with 15 points, three rebounds and five assists.
His layup off a feed from Woodard at 5:56 that made it 57-56 and gave the Sooners the lead for good.
Oklahoma rallied with its defense, holding Dayton scoreless for 9:04 and without a basket for 10:32 in the second half.
The Sooners are past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009 when they were led by Blake Griffin to the Sweet 16.