- Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City (March 3-6) – 23.7 miles
- Possible NCAA First/Second Round at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman (March 17-20) – 0 miles
- Possible NCAA Regional at Chesapeake Energy Arena (March 24-26) – 23.7 miles
- NCAA Final Four at American Airlines Center in Dallas (March 31 and April 2) – 187.0 miles.
BY JOHN ROHDE
Special to SoonerSports.com
Dec. 17, 2017
Amazingly enough, Saturday’s 91-83 victory over No. 3 Wichita State is the highest-ranked non-conference team Oklahoma has ever beaten on the road in men’s basketball.
Paired with their 85-83 victory over No. 25 USC at Staples Center eight days earlier, it also marked the Sooners’ second straight “road” victory over a ranked opponent (the USC game was technically neutral site, despite being played two miles from the Trojans’ campus).
How did the victors celebrate their shocking triumph over the Shockers? By renting a movie from Redbox for the bus ride back to Norman.
From the sound of things, it was a pretty mellow 177-mile trek back to Norman. The team maintained its composure, just as it did in front of a crazed gathering of 15,004 fans at INTRUST Bank Arena, an off-campus arena in downtown Wichita.
Once again, OU was led by true freshman point guard Trae Young, who was joined by fellow true freshman forward Brady Manek. The prize rookies combined for 50 points (37 in the first half) and nine 3-pointers.
A five-star recruit out of Norman North High School, Young is the nation’s leading scorer (28.8) and ranks third nationally in assists (8.9). He finished with 29 points and 10 assists and has now scored at least 28 points in seven straight games. Young erupted for 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first nine minutes of the contest.
Saturday was simply more of the same from the 19-year-old Young, the early frontrunner for national freshman of the year and potentially player of the year.
“Statistically, it’s really off the charts, given what anybody else has ever done – especially through their first nine games,” Sooners head coach Lon Kruger said of Young. “I think he’ll keep getting better, though, making better decisions and even better plays. It’s hard to say whether he’ll improve on the numbers. He’s just done a remarkable job given how many times he has the ball in his hands. … The biggest thing is he lets everyone else do what they’re most comfortable doing.”
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall heaped praise on Young. “I haven’t coached against a freshman that plays the game at that level,” Marshall said afterward. “Hedging, switching. We tried everything against him. Trae Young is not going to get rattled. He is too good.”
Young’s continued excellence comes as no surprise to teammates.
“It took me a couple of games, but I realize I’m witnessing one of the greatest Oklahoma basketball players of all-time (in Young),” said OU sophomore guard Kameron McGusty, who poured in 13 points and three 3-pointers in just 16 minutes Saturday. “The way he shoots it, the way he gets to the cup, the way he passes it and blows by everybody, it’s just crazy. He’s going to go down as a legend here. It’s a blessing to play with him and to witness it with my own two eyes.”Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
Special to SoonerSports.com
Nov. 28, 2017
During the first week of practice in early October, Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger admitted his team would lean heavily on true freshman point guard Trae Young.
“He’s going to be the center of a lot of what’s going on,” Kruger said at the time. “He’s good with the ball, he keeps pressure on the defense all the time and he likes distributing the ball. He’s got a good feel for the game. Add all that together, he’s a guy who make others around him better.”
The 6-2, 180-pound Young welcomed the responsibility.
“No, I don’t mind at all,” Young said. “I’ve always grown up being the leader on my team. I think that’s definitely put me in a position to be ready for moments like this, being able to come in right away and be leaned on a little bit more than a lot of freshmen.”
Young certainly was ready for the moment on Sunday morning against Oregon at the PK80 Invitational at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Ore.
The most heralded recruit in Kruger’s seven seasons at OU, Young erupted for 43 points – 30 in the second half – as the Sooners posted a 90-80 victory in a contest played roughly 112 miles north of the Oregon campus.
OU indeed leaned heavily on its prize rookie.
“We wore him out today, that’s for sure,” Kruger said with a chuckle Sunday night as his team was about to fly back to Oklahoma.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
(Reprinted from 2017 Commemorative Yearbook & Enshrinement Program)
Sept. 8, 2017
Bill Self was asked if he remembered what happened when his Oral Roberts team played on Dec. 2, 1994. Self paused briefly, then asked for the opponent.
Informed it was Texas A&M, Self answered instantaneously. “It was a home game against (coach) Tony Barone and we lost on a late tip-in,” Self said, and he was correct. Hosting the Bank IV Classic at the Mabee Center, ORU overcame a 15-point deficit, but missed two attempts in the closing seconds and lost 60-58 on a tip-in with 25 seconds left.
Asked if he recalled the significance of that game, Self deadpanned, “You mean other than losing?”
Self’s team indeed had lost. Again. For the 18th straight time. It was a losing streak that stretched nearly 11 months, spanning the last 15 games of Self’s first season as a Division I head coach and the first three games of his second season.
The skid mercilessly came to a halt with a victory against Appalachian State the night after losing to Texas A&M. Self’s team promptly lost four of the next five, closed out the season by losing five straight, then started his third season with a two-game losing streak.
At this point, Self’s career record stood at 16-40 (.286). Though he was employed at a parochial institution, Self’s immediate future as a coach didn’t appear to have much of a prayer.
Early struggles were anticipated, however. ORU had just completed a two-year process of dropping its brief NAIA status to re-qualify for its previous NCAA Division I standing as an independent.
Self had spent the seven previous seasons serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater of Oklahoma State, roughly 70 miles west. His first four seasons (two as a part-time assistant) came under Leonard Hamilton and the last three were full-time stints for Eddie Sutton, whose powerful influence essentially clinched a 30-year-old Self getting hired at Oral Roberts.
Back then, painted across each baseline on the court inside the Mabee Center was the message “Expect a Miracle.” It was Sutton who playfully suggested to Self that the court’s baseline message be changed to “It’s Going to Take a Miracle.”
With such a precarious start, there was no telling where Self’s fledgling career was headed. He certainly didn’t seem destined for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., but here he is at the tender age of 54.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
Aug. 4, 2017
When the Oklahoma men's basketball team heads Down Under on a 12-day, four-game venture, the trip will offer many benefits. The most beneficial aspect came before the Sooners even boarded the plane.
Teams are permitted 10 practices in preparation for overseas trips. Under normal circumstances, a team is not allowed to commence formal practices until 42 days prior to its first competition, which meant OU would have waited until Oct. 1 this season. Thanks to this trip to New Zealand and Australia, the Sooners opted to spread practice sessions from July 9 through last Wednesday.
This is particularly beneficial when your roster features just one senior and four newcomers. It's also incredibly handy when a team can't wait to turn the page after an indescribably frustrating 2016-17 season (11-20 overall; 5-13 in Big 12 Conference) that featured nine losses of two possessions (six points) or less.
“Last year was an eye-opener,” OU seventh-year coach Lon Kruger said. “It was kind of humbling from the standpoint we have to do things different, we have to do more, we have to invest. When you lose a lot of close games, you realize, ‘Hey, we've got to do more in preparation.' And that's healthy for all of us.”
Rather than having to wallow two extra months, the Sooners were able to hit the reset button by practicing in July rather than October.
“It certainly benefits the players,” Kruger said. “The timing for this group is especially good with new guys coming in and guys returning who will have enhanced roles over a year ago. These (pre-trip) practices have been pretty similar to what we do in October. They're much different than what we would be doing during the summer if not going on a trip when you're only allowed two hours a week with players.”
One player expected to have an increased role will be sophomore guard Kameron McGusty, who started 17 of 31 games as a true freshman last season, averaging 24.9 minutes, 10.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and shooting 35.2 percent from 3-point range. In conference play, McGusty led the Sooners in scoring with 14.4-point average, shot 38.0 percent on 3-pointers and was named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer team.
“We'd like to forget about last season, but at the same time, that motivates us,” McGusty said. “Nobody on our team wants to go through something like that ever again. It's what keeps us in the gym. It's what keeps us working hard. It keeps us focused in workouts and going hard in the weight room and at practice. It (stinks) that it happened, but at the same time, it's a motivator. We really can't complain. We have to live with it. You can't look at the past.”Continue reading...
May 30, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS – Three schools from the state of Oklahoma -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts -- are among those who will compete in the 64-team field for the 2017 NCAA Division I baseball championship.
No. 2-seeded Oklahoma (34-22) will compete in the Louisville (Ky.) Regional while No. 3-seeded Oklahoma State (30-25) and No. 4-seeded Oral Roberts (42-14) are in the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional.
The national top eight seeds are Oregon State (49-4), North Carolina (47-12), Florida (42-16), LSU (43-17), Texas Tech (43-15), TCU (42-16), Louisville (47-10) and Stanford (40-14).
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) leads the way with eight teams selected. Both the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Big 12 Conference have seven participants in the field. The Big Ten Conference ties a conference record with five, while the Pac-12 Conference has four in the field. The American Athletic Conference (AAC) has three and the Big East Conference, Big West Conference, Conference USA, Missouri Valley Conference and Southland Conference all have two teams each.
Florida Gulf Coast and Davidson are each making their first appearances in the championship in 2017. Holy Cross is in the tournament for the first time since 1978, while Yale earns its first bid since 1993 and West Virginia is in for the first time since 1996.
Florida State now has the longest consecutive streak with its 40th straight appearance, with the Miami (Florida) streak of appearances ending at 44. Other long consecutive streaks: Cal State Fullerton (26) and Rice (23).
While 15 of the regional sites are scheduled to be played Friday through Monday, June 2-5, competition at the Stanford Regional will begin Thursday, June 1 and will conclude either Sunday or Monday, June 4 or 5. BYU, which won the automatic qualifier by capturing the West Coast Conference tournament championship, does not participate in any athletics competition on Sundays. Therefore, if the Cougars advance to the regional final, that game will take place June 5; otherwise that regional championship game is scheduled for Sunday, June 4.
Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced on www.NCAA.com/cws, Tuesday, June 6 at approximately 8 a.m. (ET). The 71st Men’s College World Series begins play Saturday, June 17, at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
April 12, 2017
In his 31 seasons as a collegiate men’s basketball coach, Lon Kruger never has had one season be so contrary to the next.
His 2015-16 Oklahoma team went 29-8 overall, advanced to the Final Four in Houston and completed its season April 2 – just two days shy of the latest date possible.
His 2016-17 Sooners went 11-20 overall, were eliminated in the opening round of the Big 12 Conference tournament and completed their season March 8 – the earliest date possible.
The 18-win, 25-day discrepancy is by far the most significant one-year differential in Kruger’s career – good or bad.
“Sure, there were disappointing results,” Kruger said. “It was difficult from the standpoint of not getting results, for sure. And yet the challenge with this group was to keep their enthusiasm level up. When you’re not winning games, you still have a different type challenge, you still have objectives. You can go on, keep getting better individually and play better as a group. The good feeling, even though we didn’t get the results we wanted, is I thought they were playing their best basketball in the last three weeks. Individually, several were playing better and with more confidence.”Continue reading...
BY PAT FORDE
March 29, 2017
Kentucky has the best and worst fans in college basketball. Both of them in large quantities. More good than bad, definitely, but the bad is not an insignificant number.
When the Wildcats are eliminated in the NCAA tournament, guess which faction takes over? The lunatics. The freaks. The no-lifers whose sole coping mechanism is to lash out and blame someone because the young adults wearing their school’s jerseys lost a game to young adults wearing another school’s jerseys.
And their target is almost always the officials.
At best, complaining about officiating for more than an hour or two after a loss is an incredibly lame waste of time. At worst, it’s what Kentucky fans are doing this week to referee John Higgins, the targeted villain from the Wildcats’ 75-73 loss to North Carolina Sunday in the South Region final.
Tuesday, we heard about the bombardment of false and defamatory messages about Higgins’ business on his company Facebook page. Trying to ruin Higgins’ day-job livelihood was a terrible look for Big Blue Nation.
Wednesday it got worse, with ESPN.com running a story about death threats being made to Higgins and non-stop phone calls to both his business and his unlisted home number. Higgins met with law enforcement officials to discuss the threats, according to the report.
That is the lowest of the low.Continue reading...
BY JEFF EISENBERG
March 28, 2017
One of this week's Final Four starters is a bearded 300-pound 7-footer from Poland who’s as skilled as he is big. Another is an ultra-athletic wing from South Carolina starring in his home state. A third is a fiercely competitive swingman from Canada known for his scoring and intensity.
This year’s 20 Final Four starters are a diverse group. With the Final Four tipping off on Saturday, here’s a list of starters on each team ranked from most to least valuable:
1. Sindarius Thornwell, G, South Carolina
The catalyst for this year’s most surprising Final Four team, Thornwell has scored at least 24 points in all four of South Carolina’s NCAA tournament victories. The 6-foot-5 senior has always been dangerous attacking the rim, but this year he shoots more consistently from the perimeter and gets to the foul line more often off the bounce.Continue reading...
BY GARY PARRISH
March 24, 2017
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- John Calipari was at The Peabody late Wednesday. On the top floor. Surrounded by about 100 old friends. In the Skyway that overlooks downtown Memphis -- a place where he went 137-14 in his final four years coaching the Tigers while making four consecutive Sweet 16s, three straight Elite Eights and the national title game of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
He was a king here once. That’s not an overstatement.
Calipari, for years, was the most popular person in the city by a wide margin. And anybody who dared question him -- for enrolling a known gang member, for pulling a scholarship from a signed prospect, for barely suspending a player charged with domestic violence -- was labeled a “miserable.” He was the man pointing and essentially saying “fake news” before that other man started pointing and saying “fake news.” And Memphians ate it up. In Cal We Trust, the diehards insisted. Those were fun and weird times.
But everything changed the moment Calipari changed addresses.
When he left Memphis for Kentucky on April 1, 2009, while the NCAA was investigating Derrick Rose’s fraudulent standardized test score that ultimately caused the 2008 season to be vacated, UK fans who previously called Calipari a slimy cheater embraced him with open arms while Memphis fans who treated him like a god decided he was the devil. It’s all ridiculous, of course, because Calipari’s not much different in 2017 than he was in 2007. His zip code changed. But he didn’t. And I’ve never understood how hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions, can have their view of a human flip so drastically based on where that human works.
But that’s sports, right?
In any other world, it makes no sense for Oklahoma City fans to despise Kevin Durant for spending nine great years with the franchise and then deciding, accurately, that he would have a better chance to achieve his dreams with Golden State. But in the sports world, it feels mostly normal.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 23, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas coach Bill Self is one of this year's 14 finalists for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Voters don’t tend to nominate or induct coaches who can’t coach. Yet seemingly every March, Self suffers the slings and arrows of sarcastic soothsayers.
“Don’t pick Kansas in your bracket,” sayeth the naysayers. “KU won’t make it past the first weekend. No one chokes in March quite like Kansas.”
With Thursday night’s 98-66 dismantling of No. 4-seeded Purdue at the Sprint Center, the Jayhawks will face Oregon in the Midwest Regional Final at 7:49 p.m. on Saturday to advance to the Final Four next weekend in Glendale, Ariz.
This will be Self’s ninth regional final of the millennium.
He coached mid-major Tulsa to the 2000 South Regional final.
He coached Illinois to the 2001 Midwest Regional final during his first season with the Fighting Illini.
Come Saturday, Self will coach his seventh regional final with Kansas.Continue reading...
BY JONATHAN WASSERMAN
NBA lead writer
March 21, 2017
NBA scouts have plenty of reasons to continue watching the final 16 teams in the NCAA tournament.
Seven prospects left in the field could potentially land in this year's lottery, including two players who'll be competing for No. 1 overall consideration.
But every year, March Madness also brings out talent that's gone overlooked during the course of the regular season. Through the first weekend, we've already seen several under-the-radar prospects break through into the 2017 draft discussion for the first time all year.
We ranked the top names still playing based on long-term NBA potential—not their current college impact.
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 18, 2017
TULSA -- Josh Jackson and Miles Bridges grew up roughly an hour apart in Michigan, but they will showcase their talents at the BOK Center in Tulsa at 4:15 p.m. CT on Sunday when Kansas (29-4) and Michigan State (20-14) meet in a Midwest Regional second-round game.
Jackson and Bridges nearly wound up as teammates in East Lansing, Mich. Kansas won last year's recruiting battle for Jackson, but Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game will determine who won the war to advance to this year's Sweet 16 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
MSU coach Tom Izzo and KU coach Bill Self have crossed paths on the recruiting trail multiple times through the years. They co-existed in the Big Ten Conference for three seasons when Self coached at Illinois (2000-03) before heading to Kansas.
Izzo recalled how he made his sales pitch to Jackson, deemed the country’s No. 1 college prospect last year according to Rivals.com.
“I just got on my hands and knees and begged him. That’s what I did, and that wasn’t as good as Bill’s,” Izzo said.
Self’s secret to winning the recruiting battle? “Well, it’s just so much warmer in Kansas than Michigan, I guess,” Self said with a laugh. “I don’t know. He would have been an unbelievable impact player wherever he went, and I do know that it was not an easy decision for him. But hey, we’ve lost enough guys to Michigan State, we should win one every now and then.”
The reason Jackson chose KU? “I grew up a State fan,” Jackson explained, “but I believed I had a better chance of winning a national championship at Kansas.”Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 18, 2017
Perhaps we all should have used chalk while filling out this year’s NCAA basketball tournament bracket.
There’s so much chalk flying around right now, you’d think we were actually watching the NCAA gymnastics championships – which would be great news for the perpetually top-ranked Oklahoma men’s and women’s teams.
Chalk picks are boring. No upsets. Nothing but favorites across the board.
According to Kevin Kaduk of The Dagger, an unfathomable 36 entries in Yahoo's NCAA basketball tournament bracket went a perfect 32-for-32 in the opening round. One other entry also went 32-for-32, but inexplicably picked only three Final Four teams and failed to pick a winner in the national championship game, taking his classroom grade from an A-plus to an Incomplete.
If these perfect pickers were Berkshire Hathaway employees for billionaire Warren Buffet, each would have received $1 million for their spotless brackets after one round. (One Buffet employee went 31 for 32 and pocketed a $100,000 top prize.)Continue reading...
BY JEFF EISENBERG
March 18, 2017
What’s the only upside to a humdrum, uneventful first round of the NCAA tournament in which teams seeded No. 4 or better went 16-0?
It should give way to a second round loaded with quality matchups.
Saturday’s second-round slate is headlined by a pair of tests for No. 1 seeds and two intriguing clashes of style between No. 4 and 5 seeds. Here’s a look at Saturday’s eight games ranked from most to least compelling:
1. 1-Villanova vs. 8-Wisconsin (1:45 p.m. CST, CBS): The reigning national champs will get a huge opening-weekend test from a Wisconsin team gunning for its fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance. The Badgers lost five of six late in the regular season to fall out of Big Ten title contention, but they’ve righted themselves in the postseason. Bronson Koenig sank eight threes two nights ago, Nigel Hayes is averaging 16 points in his last three games and Ethan Happ could be a difficult matchup for an undersized Villanova team lacking a true center. Guard play will be an advantage for Villanova, but the Wildcats really need title game hero Kris Jenkins to rediscover his shooting stroke.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 16, 2017
TULSA -- In the last 11 seasons, Kansas has been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament seven times, which is more than any other program and that same span.
The Jayhawks’ impressive run of top seeds began in 2007 and they faced the winner of a play-in game between Niagara and Florida A&M. Niagara won to advance into the 64-team bracket, and three days later summarily got thrashed 107-67 by KU.
In those days, there was only one play-in game with the last two No. 16 seeds battling to become a sacrificial lamb as the No. 64 seed in the bracket.
In these days, there are four “First Four” play-in games in Dayton, Ohio. The last four No. 16 seeds battle for two spots, as do the last four at-large berths.
When the “First Four” made its debut in 2011, No. 11-seeded play-in winner VCU went 5-0 rather than the normally required 4-0 to advance to the Final Four, where it lost to Butler in a national semifinal at Houston.
In 2012, South Florida won its play-in game as a No. 12 seed, then posted an opening-round upset over No. 5-seeded Temple.
In 2013, La Salle won a play-in game as a No. 13 seed and upset No. 4-seeded Kansas State in the opening round, then got to the Sweet 16 with a victory over Mississippi.
In 2014, No. 11 play-in winner Tennessee destroyed No. 6 UMass 86-67, while fellow No. 11 play-in winner North Carolina State nearly won, losing to No. 6 Saint Louis in overtime.
In 2015, No. 11 Dayton survived a play-in game on its home court against Boise State 56-55 and then eliminated No. 6 Providence in the opening round before losing to Oklahoma.
In 2016, No. 11 seed Wichita State won its play-in game and promptly eliminated No. 6 Arizona.
A team that gets to face a play-in winner initially was portrayed as a huge break for whoever awaited the victor, but VCU obliterated that theory the first time the “First Four” was ever staged. Since then, a No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6 seed has been victimized every year.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 15, 2017
From the jump, the 2017 NCAA Tournament will begin with an upset.
The No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup has become the tournament's most magnetic opening-round game, and we won't have to wait long for an upset.
The first two games in this year's tournament are No. 5 vs. No. 12 showdowns Thursday with No. 5 Notre Dame facing No. 12 Princeton at 11:15 a.m. CT and No. 5 Virginia against No. 12 UNC-Wilmington at 11:40.
Here are the all-time records since the tournament's 16-seed format began in 1985:
History shows No. 5 vs. 12 has the exact same overall record as No. 6 vs. No. 11 (8246), which mathematically defies the odds.
It's also worth noting that No. 8 vs. No. 9, viewed as the opening round coin-toss game, is dead-even at 64-64, so I suppose the selection committees deserve a pat on the back for that.
The No. 12 seed posted its first upset the same year the seed made its tournament debut when Penn defeated No. 5-seeded Washington State 62-55 in 1980. (Officially, the NCAA defines a tournament upset as "when the winner of the game was seeded five or more places lower than the team it defeated.")
As captivating as the 5-12 matchup has been, however, no No. 12 seed has ever advanced to the Final Four. Missouri came the closest, losing to No. 2-seeded Oklahoma 81-75 in the 2002 West Regional final at San Jose, Calif.
This year could bring the tournament's first opening-round sweep for No. 12 seeds. The No. 12s previously won three of four against the No. 5s in 2002, 2009, 2013 and 2014.Continue reading...
So many websites. So many games. So many decisions to make while filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket.
Feeling a little water-logged from hours of swimming on the web since this year's 68-team field was announced Sunday?
Looking for a site with all the NCAA Tournament information you need? The absolute necessities and the simple basics -- a printable bracket with the sites, dates, starting times, TV networks, plus quality insight on every opening-round game?
Tired of being lured in to all those "click bait" sites that require hitting "NEXT" page after page after page, which definitely is no fun when 68 teams are involved?
CBS Sports, USA Today, Yahoo! and ESPN are all terrific sites for the tournament. But when it comes to March Madness, I've found it best to go directly to the source.
That source is the NCAA.
So, look no further. The best website for NCAA Tournament nuts and bolts is ...
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 12, 2017
As a point of reference, here is the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s official seeding list No. 1 through No. 68 for this year's field:
Top 10 mistakes made by this year's tournament selection committee:
10. Syracuse deserved a bid … Nah, just kidding. The top team to not get an at-large bid was Illinois State (27-6), which was No. 69 in the committee’s overall seeding for the 68-team tournament. However, the Redbirds’ RPI ranking of No. 33 was higher than 15 teams that received at-large bids.
9. Vanderbilt became the first team ever with 15 losses to get an at-large bid. Not only that, the Commodores are a No. 9 seed and face No. 8 seed Northwestern, which is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups are supposed to be intriguing. Maybe this one should be decided by SAT scores.
8. Michigan State had 14 losses, was seeded No. 40 overall, which equates to the final No. 10 seed, yet the Spartans somehow were given a No. 9 seed in the Midwest Regional. Not good news for No. 1-seeded Kansas.
7. Middle Tennessee State, where former Oklahoma State guard and Oklahoma City University coach Win Case serves as an assistant to head coach Kermit Davis, deserved an at-large bid rather than an automatic berth at No. 12. No harm done, however. At least we now know which team to pick in the obligatory No. 5 vs. No. 12 upset special when the Blue Raiders face Minnesota in the South Regional. In fact, every 5 vs. 12 matchup potentially could be upsetting. Ranking the other three in terms of likelihood: UNC-Wilmington over Virginia in the East; Princeton over Notre Dame in the West; Nevada over Iowa State in the Midwest.
6. Speaking of OSU, the Cowboys deserved better than a No. 10 seed. Yes, they’ve lost three straight, but they were against Iowa State (twice) and Kansas. OSU was ranked No. 35 overall by the committee, which equates to the third No. 9 seed. So what happened?Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
Alex Brown is in his 30th year as an athletic trainer at Oklahoma, and don’t dare ask him to rank his most memorable moments with the men’s basketball program. Such determinations are difficult when you have worked with three Final Four teams, three national players of the year, eight All-Americans and advanced to 21 NCAA Tournaments.
“All my favorite moments usually are road wins, but NCAA Tournament wins are always special,” Brown admitted. “Just going to the NCAA Tournament is special. My favorite day of the year is Selection Sunday.”
Brown also doesn’t share locker room banter, which falls under privileged information. “Hey, I can’t tell everything,” Brown said with a laugh before adding, “You’ll have to wait for my book.”
Nor should you ask Brown to reveal his most challenging moments as an athletic trainer. “There’s too many to mention,” Brown said.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects an individual’s health records and information, but many medical moments happen in plain sight and the Sooners have endured some doozies:Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 5, 2017
This season’s All-Big 12 men’s basketball awards will be revealed today, starting at noon. Voting was done by conference coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Listed below are the correct answers. Let’s see how close the coaches are to getting it right.
You will notice a whole lot of Kansas listed here, but such things tend to happen when you’re ranked No. 1 nationally, own a 28-3 overall record, finish 16-2 in league play and win your 13th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title by four games in what the Sagarin Ratings calculate to be the nation’s top-ranked conference.
G – Frank Mason III (Kansas)
G – Monte Morris (Iowa State)
G – Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State)
F – Josh Jackson (Kansas)
F – Johnathan Motley (Baylor)
G – Jevon Carter (West Virginia)
G – Naz Mitrou-Long (Iowa State)
G – Devonte' Graham (Kansas)
F – Jeffrey Carroll (Oklahoma State)
F – Jarrett Allen (Texas)
Player of the Year: Frank Mason III (Kansas)
Newcomer of the Year: Manu Lecomte (Baylor)
Freshman of the Year: Josh Jackson (Kansas)
Coach of the Year: Bill Self (Kansas)Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
March 3, 2017
Kansas and Oklahoma State are the only two teams to already have clinched their seeds for the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament next week at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
It just so happens these same two teams close out the regular season by meeting at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
By virtue of winning their 13th straight Big 12 regular-season crown, the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks (27-3 overall; 15-2 in Big 12) have locked the No. 1 conference tournament seed while the surging Cowboys (20-10; 9-8) have secured the No. 5 seed. Heading into Friday night's Iowa State at West Virginia game, no other Big 12 seeds had been determined.
OSU will play the No. 4 seed at 11:30 a.m. next Thursday. KU will follow that contest by facing the No. 8 vs. No. 9 first-round winner around 2 p.m. If the Cowboys and Jayhawks both win, they’ll meet in a tournament semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday.
So, with next week’s schedule already locked in place for the Cowboys and Jayhawks, why does Saturday’s game in Stillwater even matter? Plenty of reasons:Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
Feb. 25, 2017
With Oklahoma’s 81-51 triumph over Kansas State on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center, Lon Kruger picked up his 600th career victory as an NCAA Division I basketball coach.
Coincidentally, he achieved the milestone against the school where he previously excelled as an athlete and coach.
And like the 599 wins that came before, Kruger deflected attention away from himself while being careful to include everyone who helped make his achievement possible.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Kruger said of his journey to No. 600. “It’s been great, all the relationships and all the people you’ve met and worked with. And the players, of course, are at the heart of all of it. That’s why any of those wins come about.”
Kruger has served at six different colleges – Texas-Pan American (1982-86), Kansas State (1986-90), Florida (1990-96), Illinois (1996-2000), UNLV (2004-11) and Oklahoma (2011-present). He is the first head coach to take five different Division I schools to the NCAA Tournament (Pan American being the exception); all five of those schools made multiple appearances; all five had at least one tournament win; four advanced to the Sweet 16 (Illinois being the exception); and he made it to the Final Four with Florida in 1994 and with OU last season.
Few coaches have done as much re-construction work as Kruger. At each collegiate stop, he inherited a program that had struggled the year before, sometimes woefully. Schools where he took the reins were a combined 78-99 (.440) the season prior to his arrival and no program was coming off a winning season in conference play with a combined league record of 26-54 (.325).
Did any relocation project seem more challenging, frustrating, exasperating and/or disappointing than the others?
“All the situations are unique one way or another, of course,” Kruger said. “In terms of our approach, we’ve approached them all the same. It’s always about people. It’s always about relationships. It’s always about recruiting, finding the right fit in those situations. It’s always a bit different at each place, but it’s always comes down to people, for sure.”Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
Feb. 25, 2017
Reaching this year’s Final Four would be a lengthy journey in terms of achievement for the Oklahoma women’s basketball team, but it could end up being a ridiculously short trek in terms of actual miles traveled.
On the four most important weekends of the season, if everything falls into place, OU’s road to the 2017 Final Four would require traveling just 234.4 total miles (one-way).
First and second round sites won’t be revealed until the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Selection Show airs at 6 p.m. on March 13, but all other locales were determined long before the 2016-17 season commenced.
The Sooners knew precisely where their postseason schedule potentially could take them. Head coach Sherri Coale didn’t need to draw it up on a dry erase board. No need for Google Maps.Continue reading...
BY DAVID WHARTON
Los Angeles Times Contact Reporter
Feb. 12, 2017
The point of the first-ever March Madness bracket preview was to instigate some discussion, for good or bad.
The NCAA’s selection committee did its part on Saturday by offering a sneak peek — on national television — of the current top 16 seeds, four in each regional.
Villanova grabbed the overall No. 1 spot in the East, with Kansas, Baylor and Gonzaga heading the other three regionals. UCLA stood at No. 15 with a projected first-round trip to New York.
Let the water-cooler arguments begin.Continue reading...
Feb. 6, 2017
Gonzaga remained No. 1 in both major polls after its two closest pursuers dropped games in another upset-filled week of college basketball.
Still, it got closer at the top.
Gonzaga’s 90-point lead over Baylor in the AP Top 25 last week shrunk to 54 over new No. 2 Villanova.
In the USA Today poll, Gonzaga holds a 23-point edge over the defending national champion Wildcats. The Zags were 36 points in front of former No. 2 Kansas a week ago.
The Zags (24-0) picked up 59 of AP’s 65 first-place votes and 1,619 points. They had 46 first-place votes and 1,594 points when they reached No. 1 last week. Gonzaga earned 28 USA Today first-place votes with Villanova collecting the remaining four.
Baylor dropped from second to sixth after losing to Kansas and Kansas State. Kansas remained at No. 3 after a 1-1 week. Louisville has climbed nine spots in the last two weeks to reach No. 4.Continue reading...
January 28, 2017
There were a lot of reasons to expect Kansas to be overmatched in Saturday’s showdown with Kentucky. The Jayhawks were coming off a 16-point loss. They were shorthanded. They were on the road in front of 23,000 screaming fans.
But there were three very specific reasons to expect Kansas to win: Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson.
For all the talk of Kentucky’s electrifying backcourt, it was the Jayhawk guards who weathered an early Big Blue storm and won the night over the full 40 minutes.Continue reading...
January 27, 2017
In this season’s edition of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, the two leagues will enter Saturday’s slate in juxtaposing positions.
If the current trend holds, the Big 12 could send 80 percent of its membership to the NCAA tournament. The Big 12, ranked first in the conference rankings on ESPN’s BPI, has eight top-50 teams and zero outside the top 100 of the BPI. That’s a remarkable reality for the nation’s most potent league.
The SEC will fight to sneak four, maybe five, teams into the NCAA tournament. And Kentucky, the jazzy billboard in front of the league’s strip mall, lost at Tennessee on Tuesday and jeopardized its shot at a top seed.Continue reading...
BY JOHN ROHDE
Jan. 20, 2017
Judging from the reaction inside the locker room following Wednesday night’s game at West Virginia, you would have thought the Oklahoma men’s basketball team had just advanced to its second straight Final Four.
The program’s Twitter account (@OU_MBBall) shared 77 seconds of the postgame celebration after the Sooners stunned the No. 7-ranked Mountaineers 89-87 in overtime before a silenced crowd of 11,895 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.
“Those spontaneous celebrations, it’s hard to put a value on those,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “When your guys get a chance to do that, you never cut those short. That was pretty special.”Continue reading...
Jan 13, 2017 13:57 EST
Three top-15 matchups headline Saturday's action
With conference play in full swing, we’re in for some tasty matchups this weekend. Three top-15 games lead the slate. Let’s break them down.
No. 7 Duke at No. 14 Louisville
Noon ET, ESPN
Duke comes in fresh off of a 16-point loss to Florida State, and it has little time to recollect itself: a date with Louisville awaits. There are few days off in the ACC.Continue reading...