John E. Hoover: Looking into the crystal ball
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 8:07 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Looking into the crystal ball
When 2013 arrives, every day will come in a plain, brown wrapper.
That's the beauty of the future. To see what's inside, we must unwrap it ourselves.
So without the benefit of crystal balls or Mayan calendars, what can sports fans expect this year? What business remains unfinished at the close of 2012? What stories will compel us to watch? What personalities will captivate us?
Let's take a glimpse into the future.
With college basketball season turning the calendar, a handful of storylines have drawn our attention.
- First-year coach Danny Manning's Tulsa team (7-6) already has won more than most predicted. Manning's recruiting efforts are writing the script for future teams. But as Conference USA play begins, what's the upside for the 2012-13 Golden Hurricane? How good can this team be this year?
- Oklahoma State has its best team in years, and perhaps just in time to get coach Travis Ford off the hot seat. But a No. 22 ranking and 10-1 record in November and December is one thing. Will the Cowboys' young, talented roster hold up in Big 12 Conference play? Get a sneak peek versus Gonzaga on New Year's Eve.
- It's a familiar refrain: Lon Kruger has Oklahoma on the right track. But in his second season, Kruger's team goes into the final weekend of 2012 at 7-3 and coming off a staggering home loss to Stephen F. Austin. Next week, Big 12 play starts at West Virginia. Early predictors put OU back in the NCAA Tournament, but clearly much work remains this season.
- Oral Roberts starts 2013 at 5-7 after a ridiculously hard nonconference schedule. ORU begins Southland Conference action next week. It will be an upgrade over the Summit League, but to what degree? The Summit has a conference RPI of 20th. The Southland's is 19th.
The success of Oklahoma City's NBA franchise has fully ensnared Tulsans. That momentum should be sustained in 2013 as the defending Western Conference champ steps into the New Year with the league's second-best record.
Challengers exist throughout the West, from the upstart L.A. Clippers to the sage San Antonio Spurs to the hired-gun L.A. Lakers.
If the Thunder expects to return to the Finals and challenge Miami again for the title, coach Scott Brooks and GM Sam Presti may have to take off the blinders - and risk upsetting good team chemistry - with a trade ahead of the Feb. 21 deadline.
- The Bassmaster Classic comes to the BOK Center and Grand Lake on Feb. 24-26. Fishing not your thing? That's fine. Maybe money is, and the Classic is projected to bring $26 million to the local economy. Yay fish!
- Conference USA's postseason men's and women's basketball tournaments are in Tulsa this year March 13-16. The women play at the Convention Center and the BOK Center, and the men play all their games at BOK. Crowds for the event three years ago were dismal. Yay fish!
- The Patriot Cup is Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25 in Owasso. A major fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation, the 2012 event featured pros like Rickie Fowler, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin golfing alongside celebrities such as Vince Gill, Craig T. Nelson and Brandon Weeden.
- Saint Francis Tulsa Tough returns June 7-9. It's a cycling event featuring professional and amateur races and recreational rides. Local merchants along the various routes last year said they anticipated a 20-25 percent boost in business.
Boys of summer
- Favorite son Josh Holliday takes the baseball reins at Oklahoma State. Son of long-time OSU assistant and head coach Tom Holliday, Josh already has reanimated a proud fan base. But can the first-time head coach recapture the glory?
- Wildly successful Oral Roberts coach Rob Walton, another OSU alum, is now Holliday's pitching coach. So the Golden Eagles step up - into the Southland Conference, which is miles ahead of the Summit League - with first-time head coach Ryan Folmar. What's at stake? Only the second-longest streak of NCAA Tournament appearances in college baseball history.
- Hey Sooner fans. You got what you wanted. Blake Bell is your quarterback. All he has to do now is replace Landry Jones, the winningest quarterback in school history (39 victories as the starter going into the Cotton Bowl), the third-leading passer in NCAA history and No. 1 all-time in the Big 12 (16,368 yards) and owner of three bowl victories, three wins over Texas and three Bedlam triumphs. Can Bell fill those shoes?
- Oklahoma State is a bad call and a fourth-down play away from being 9-3 despite starting three quarterbacks. So who gets the job next year? Wes Lunt was named the starter last spring but got hurt, then never regained his spot. J.W. Walsh was great in relief but got hurt and was relegated to spot duty. Clint Chelf makes his fifth start in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Once again, spring practice in Stillwater bears close scrutiny.
- Cody Green won a Conference USA championship despite inconsistent passing (a .548 completion rate, 17 touchdowns, 10 interceptions). Green endured a sore passing shoulder much of the season, but his inaccuracy will continue to present problems in the passing game. With attrition on the line and in the backfield, will Green play well enough in 2013 to keep his job? Or will talented freshman Dane Evans step in?
The big questions
- Which schools will switch conferences in 2013? You know it's coming. Keep an eye on the evolving ACC, with another on the disintegrating Big East. Also, watch what happens in the Mountain West, particularly with Boise State. However that shakes out, Tulsa will find itself either in a watered down Conference USA, a fortified Mountain West or something new entirely.
- Tulsa's future may depend on whom the Golden Hurricane hire as athletic director. Ross Parmley's ignominious exit leaves a gaping hole at a time when strong leadership is vital. The wrong hire, or even a slow hire, could have ramifications that affect the future of the school's athletic department for 20 years or more.
- College football fans will rejoice the death of the BCS. The 2013 season marks the 16th and final season of the postseason system that caused so much angst and yet helped grow the game to unprecedented popularity. A four-team playoff and an expanded field of BCS bowls - sorry, "access bowls" - is on the horizon for 2014. So is a whole bunch of money, about $500 million a year. That ought to settle all that conference realignment, right?
Photos by MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World (Bell); MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World (Manning) and Sue Ogrocki / AP (Durant); Photo illustration by ETHAN ERICKSON / Tulsa World