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Underdog status doesn't concern Oklahoma

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Lon Kruger

Syracuse, N.Y. – Oklahoma enters Friday's game against Michigan State as the highest seed still playing in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

However, the Sooners are not the favorite.

Most betting lines have No. 7 Michigan State picked to not only beat No. 3 Oklahoma, but to win the region, which also includes No. 4 Louisville and No. 8 N.C. State.

Before practice at the Carrier Dome on Thursday, the Sooners were hardly worried about which team was the favorite.

"We don't concern ourselves too much with that," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "It's OK; it's nothing we can control. Again, we have to play well to win. If we don't play well, we're not going to win. That's the way it should be in the Sweet 16.

"Again, as far as a favorite or not, I don't think that's a distraction to our guys. They know we have to play better than we did last week, and we'll keep playing better each week throughout the year. We've got a big challenge this weekend."

Oklahoma (24-10), finished tied for third place in the Big 12, thought by some to be the best conference in college basketball this season.

But Kruger isn't sure there is a Big 12 team that is quite like the Spartans.

"We've got our hands full," Kruger said. "Our guys have a great deal of respect for what they're doing. We haven't played against a team like that all year in the Big 12. Michigan State is great it in a lot of different ways. Transition is super, rebound the ball well, execute things on offense and stingy defensively. The challenge is big but one we look forward to."