John Klein: Cowboys, Sooners face uphill NCAA tasks
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
3/20/13 at 7:37 PM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Cowboys, Sooners face uphill NCAA tasks
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee didn't do Oklahoma State and Oklahoma any favors in the bracket.
Oregon, Pac-12 Tournament champion and as high as No. 10 in the rankings this season, may be one of the best No. 12 seeds since the NCAAs began seeding teams.
San Diego State was a championship contender down to the final week in the Mountain West, the highest rated RPI league in the country.
OSU will be seriously challenged in its opener on Thursday against Oregon in San Jose. OU will face one of the most talented teams in the country when it plays the Aztecs on Friday in Philadelphia.
"You're going to play good people no matter what your seed is," said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher.
In what many consider one of the most wide open NCAA Tournaments in recent history, there are few gimmes. There are teams all over the brackets capable of winning a game or two.
"I think there is a greater degree in closeness of competition," said Fisher. "We will probably have the most exciting tournament in a long time."
If you don't like your seed, or a tough opening game, then win a few more games in the regular season.
It could be argued, and has been by just about every bracket expert out there, that the Ducks are grossly underseeded. Many of the projections predicted Oregon as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed.
And, going into the final weeks of the season, some believed San Diego State would be a couple of lines higher on the bracket.
But, the Ducks and Aztecs are exactly the kind of teams you usually face in the NCAA Tournament opening game. You don't get into the NCAA Tournament unless you are very capable of winning a game or two.
"Oklahoma is a good team," said Fisher. "They are supposed to be a good team. They are in the tournament."
Unless you are a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, there's a good chance you'll play someone that is capable of beating you.
That's certainly the case in the OSU-Oregon and OU-San Diego State games.
The Cowboys are a slight favorite. The Sooners are a slight underdog.
There's no consensus either direction in those games.
"None of these games are easy," said Fisher. "None."
Oklahoma State is seeded about where it belongs. Many felt Oklahoma might be a slot higher than expected.
So, these are the kind of games you play. There are few easy games in the NCAAs.
"I told our team (the seed) is just a number," said Oregon coach Dana Altman. "You look at all of those teams between 5 and 12 they're all pretty good basketball teams."
That's the way it always works in the NCAA Tournament. That's why filling out brackets is so much fun. The difference between most of the teams in the bracket is relatively small.
This is all about matchups and playing at peak form.
If Oklahoma State plays at peak form it should win. If Oklahoma plays at peak form, it will have a very good chance to win.
The perception is that San Diego State is better than Oregon. But, the difference is not much.
Oregon went into the final week of the regular season with a chance to win the Pac-12 but lost twice.
"It was a tough week," said Altman. "A lot of negative things were said about us."
Then, the Ducks turned it on for the Pac-12 Tournament and won three straight in Las Vegas.
As a result, expectations for where the Ducks might land in the bracket were all over the place.
"Wherever they seed us, what seed we get, that's just part of it," said Altman. "We just go play."
San Diego State, similar to Oklahoma, lost three of its last five games. The Aztecs were hoping the late-season slide didn't cost them too much. It didn't.
The Aztecs, playing in their fourth straight NCAA Tournament, will have experience and talent.
"I hope experience does have some impact," said Fisher. "We have good players with experience. I would hope it has a subtle impact."
OU and San Diego State are not only similar in the way they finished the season. They are also similar in the reasons for the late-season slides.
Both the Sooners and Aztecs are good defensive teams that go through scoring droughts.
"We've got to score the basketball better," said Fisher. "Our defense, at times, is spectacular.
"We need offense. If we are scoring the ball we're pretty good. We've got to make some shots."
In even games, like the ones OU and OSU will play this week, little things become huge.
"It doesn't matter who you play, where you play or what seed you have," said Fisher.