OU meets key NCAA Tournament criteria
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
2/27/13 at 8:21 AM
OSU basketball's NCAA Tournament seed could be boosted by strong finish
John E. Hoover: Sooners better not overlook Texas
NORMAN - Lon Kruger will talk about the NCAA Tournament. Just this week, Oklahoma's coach said: "It's always an interesting, entertaining tournament. The fans get into it. Players are a little more hyped. Everybody's more excited come tournament time. This year isn't going to be any different."
He will not, however, address OU's place in it. He is rigid in his "one game at a time" ways, preferring to focus on what the Sooners must do to beat Texas at 8 p.m. Wednesday than what they must do to avoid an 8-versus-9 seed NCAA first rounder.
He'll leave March Madness projecting to the bracketologists. There used to be one of those - ESPN contributor Joe Lunardi. Now there are at least five. You can find their brackets on CBS, NBC, SI and USA Today websites, besides Lunardi's on ESPN.com.
They all agree that for the first time in four years, the Sooners are back in. They even agree on a Midwest Regional assignment, as well as a Dayton, Ohio, first-round destination. Four of them have OU in the dreaded 8-9 matchup, with top-seed Indiana waiting in round two.
These aren't the whims of guys killing 16 hours a day at their computers, calculators and Berry Blaster Slurpees within reach. There is some reason being applied.
"There's zero precedent for a major conference team with as RPI as good as this being left out," SI.com bracket specialist Andy Glockner wrote of OU this week.
According to collegerpi.com, the only team from a so-called major conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, SEC and Pac-12) that had a top-40 RPI and did not make the NCAA tournament was Cincinnati in 2006.
OU's RPI has hovered around 20 for several weeks. It's still there heading into tonight's game at Texas.
What's more, the RPI remains one of the NCAA Tournament selection committee's most useful tools.
"If you look on the NCAA website and see the nitty gritty or see our team sheets, it's RPI driven," Mike Bobinski, the Xavier athletic director who serves as committee chair, said recently. "So it's clearly in there and it's a tool that's important to what we do."
Bobinski estimates there are "probably about a dozen" tools at the committee's disposal. OU checks out positively with regard to several of them.
Bobinski mentioned a team's nonconference performance. The Sooners lost to Gonzaga. No shame in that, since the Zags could be a 1-seed. No shame in losing at Arkansas, either. Potential top-seed Florida fell in Fayetteville.
The Sooners also lost to Stephen F. Austin. And while that won't look good on paper, the Lumberjacks own a top-80 RPI. They could represent the Southland Conference in the NCAA.
Fact is, OU's nonconference schedule merits a top-25 ranking in the CBSSports.com database. That plays into another tool the committee is sure to use - strength of schedule. The Sooners' overall SOS ranks in the top 10.
Bobinski mentioned road records. OU is 5-5 on opponents' home courts. Not bad, though the Sooners would be wise to win at both Texas and March 9 at TCU to close the regular season.
Bobinski mentioned the effect injuries had on teams. The Sooners lost starter Buddy Hield on Feb. 11, but have gone 2-1 since. They have won four of their last five in all, and that bodes well in a process that typically rewards teams that sprint, not stumble, to the tape.
If you don't trust selection committee trends, consider how well OU stacks up with regard to Big 12 Conference history.
Over the past five years, the only team with a winning Big 12 record not to earn an NCAA invite was Kansas State in 2009. The Wildcats went 9-7, but wound up in the NIT with an RPI of 81.
The Sooners are 9-5 in conference. One win over their next four games against Texas, Iowa State, West Virginia and TCU guarantees them a winning record.
Win two of their remaining games, the 18-8 Sooners get to 20 victories. Twenty-win teams from the Big 12 have been left out of the NCAA three times in the past five years. Non-winning conference records helped doom Colorado in 2011 and Baylor in 2009, while the 2009 Wildcats were done in by their 81 RPI.
You can take all of this to Kruger, and he'll say what he said after the Feb. 16 overtime loss at Oklahoma State: "We've got a lot of games left and a lot of work to do. We'll approach it like we always need one more."
That does not prevent the numbers, formulae, history and bracketologists from portending good things for his team. Barring a terrible collapse over the next two weeks, the Sooners are in terrific shape.
How OU stacks up
Either way, this should be OU's strongest asset on Selection Sunday.
Strength of schedule
The Sooners didn't play any non-conference heavyweights aside from Gonzaga, but went light on the cupcakes. That paid off.
72-66 over then-No. 5 Kansas, Feb. 9
That's it in terms of wins over opponents ranked at the time. Oklahoma State is currently No. 15, but the Cowboys were unranked when OU beat them Jan. 12. The Sooners' record against teams in the RPI's top 50 is 2-5.
Won four of the last five
This should help the Sooners as well, especially if they finish strong against a relatively soft schedule (at Texas, vs. Iowa State and West Virginia, at TCU).
Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||M’Baye ||6-9 ||10.3 ||5.7|
|F ||Osby ||6-8|| 14.3|| 7.1|
|G ||Hornbeak ||6-3|| 5.5|| 2.6|
|G ||Pledger ||6-4|| 11.6 ||3.2|
|G ||Grooms ||6-1|| 4.3 ||2.6*|
Texas (12-15, 4-10)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||Holmes|| 6-7 ||6.8 ||6.4|
|F|| Lammert ||6-9|| 4.6|| 3.9|
|F ||Papapetrou ||6-8|| 8.5 ||4.6|
|G ||Kabongo|| 6-1|| 15.5 ||4.0*|
|G ||Holland ||6-2|| 3.8 ||1.5|
*assists per game
Oklahoma at Texas
8 p.m. Wednesday
Frank Erwin Center, Austin
Radio: KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: OU meets key NCAA criteria
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355