By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Oklahoma’s season did not end with Thursday’s Big 12 tournament loss to Baylor. There’s still at least one more game to play.
The 17th-ranked Sooners (23-9) find out when and where that will be when the NCAA tournament selection committee announces the field of 68 at 5 p.m. today.
The 12-member committee has been secluded since Wednesday in Indianapolis. Solitude keeps information from leaking out about who is in and who is out.
For OU, that is not a problem. It enters Selection Sunday at No. 28 in the all-important Ratings Percentage Index. ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi has the Sooners as a No. 5 seed in the East region and heading to Spokane, Wash., for second- and potentially third-round games.
The seed was one Lunardi had pegged before the Big 12 tournament began.
“I don’t think they can fall much below a five (seed),” he said. “I guess they could be a six. I just think they’re really good and ahead of schedule.”
The way OU closed the regular season seems to indicate that’s the case. The play in the conference tournament wasn’t great. But Baylor steam-rolling Texas the following night and reaching the tournament title game seems to aid OU’s cause.
Despite the loss, OU finished second in what’s considered college basketball’s best conference this season. Hard to believe a league as daunting could have a runner-up seeded lower than fifth.
CBS.com’s Jerry Palm has OU as a No. 5 seed as well. He thinks it will be in the South region and open play in San Diego. USA Today also believes the Sooners are heading west. It agrees with Lunardi that OU will be in Spokane next, but as a member of the West region.
None of that was any concern to OU coach Lon Kruger following OU’s abrupt Big 12 tournament exit.
The NCAA tournament seems to lack a definitive favorite.
“The number in front of a name this year, is probably maybe because of the great balance and the depth of teams in the country, may not be quite as significant as other years,” he said.
Getting OU back on track following the Baylor loss, which snapped a three-game winning streak, is his priority.
The performance against the Bears was a wake-up call. It wasn’t the score that was surprising it was how the Sooners failed to match the game’s early intensity.
In the first half, Baylor crushed OU on the boards and was quicker to loose ball.
“I think it just shows us, you know, how much better we need to get by next week,” forward Ryan Spangler said. “There’s a lot of things we need to work on. Defense is one of them. We need to keep picking up our defense like we have the last five or six games. But there’s just little things we need to work on to become a better team and come out firing.”
Throughout the season, the Sooners have responded after losses like the one to Baylor. The loss to Texas Tech on Feb. 12 was followed by five wins in the last six regular-season games. The only loss was at Kansas, where OU hasn’t won in a generation.
The Sooners understand why they got on the hot streak before the Big 12 tournament and why it ended.
Today, they find when and where they play again.
“I feel like this is a good loss for us, even though we wanted to win the Big 12 Championship. I feel like we needed to practice hard and catch ourselves,” guard Buddy Hield said. “We’re not as good a team as we think and we need to get back on track and just getting ready to compete hard, and I feel like next game the guys will compete hard. It should be fun next time.”
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