Oklahoma Sooners star shooting guard Buddy Hield is an interesting player, and probably the most talented remaining in the NCAA Tournament field. The senior made headlines when he decided to return to Norman for his senior season last year, fresh off a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life.
Hield finished second in the nation in scoring in 2015-16, averaging 25 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and an eye-popping 46.5 percent from three-point range. Despite that, there were cries about him just being a shooter, with more than half of his shot attempts coming from beyond the arc.
Still, as his performance in the tournament this year will show, Hield is more than just a shooter, even if most of his shots from from three-point land. In the Sooners’ four tournament games, Hield is averaging 29.2 points per game while shooting almost 56 percent from the field and almost 46 percent from three-point range. Yes, 40 of his 67 shot attempts have come from beyond the arc, but listen to this.
Hield’s tournament performance is the best by an individual player since 2008. That year, a stud point guard from little-known Davidson College averaged 32 points while shooting 47 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range. This young man would go on to lead No. 10 Davidson to the Elite Eight and would play another season with the Wildcats before being selected seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2009 NBA Draft, despite cries that he was “just a shooter.”
Today, that point guard is the reigning NBA MVP, won a championship last season and has his team on the verge of beating the regular season wins record set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. His name? Stephen Curry.
Now take a look at Hield’s performance in this year’s big dance. Granted, he isn’t scoring as many points as Curry did in 2008, though he is pretty close, and his percentages are on the whole better. He’s not a playmaker or defender like Curry is and is a very traditional 2-guard, but his performance speaks for itself.
Hand in the face? No problem, he’ll shoot anyway and probably make the shot.
Deep three? What’s that? Like Curry, Hield as range that borders on unlimited and isn’t afraid to take the hard shots if it means giving the Sooners more points.
And now, Hield is in a position to send Oklahoma to next week’s national championship game. Oklahoma faces a tough defensive squad in Villanova in Houston on Saturday night’s Final Four matchup, and stopping Hield is the Wildcats’ key to victory.
But Hield is highly experienced and has been near-impossible to slow down thus far, and the Sooners are much different than Davidson’s 2008 team, where it was essentially the Stephen Curry Show all day and every day.
That said, at this point in the NCAA Tournament, it’s not a question of if Buddy Hield will lead Oklahoma to the championship game, but how he’ll do it.
Should that indeed happen, it will be interesting to see how his draft stock soars even higher than it is already.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports