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May 21, 2013

Key factors have left Sooners’ NCAA hopes in serious jeopardy

NORMAN — It’s been years since Oklahoma felt like it had to win the Big 12 tournament to prolong its season. It missed the NCAA tournament in 2007, but that year, OU was No. 33 in the Ratings Percentage Index. Leaving it out was a stunning omission.

If it happens again when the NCAA tournament bracket is released Monday afternoon, few will be caught off guard. The Sooners were No. 50 in the RPI Monday.

So, when and why did Oklahoma’s season go off the rails?

The date isn’t exact, but there was one particular series where holes started to appear.

On April 12, the Sooners started a three-game series at Baylor. They arrived there 27-6 with a 7-2 record in the Big 12 Conference and having won 15 of its last 17 games.

OU dropped two of three in Waco, Texas, with both losses coming on walk-off home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. They were two of the 13 losses OU (36-19, 13-11 Big 12) suffered over the final 22 games.

 

The schedule didn’t help: OU coach Sunny Golloway knew the schedule was back-loaded. Their last nine Big 12 games were away from L. Dale Mitchell Park. The Sooners needed to make hay earlier in the season to create a cushion. OU dropped two of three in those last three series at West Virginia and Kansas State, and in Tulsa and Oklahoma City to Oklahoma State.

“It’s a tough three-series row; there’s no doubt about it,” OU coach Sunny Golloway said. “We knew it was gonna be tough and we knew we had to play really well.”

Those were hot teams when OU faced all three. But when you look back at wins that got away, there are more obvious candidates. The 10-8 loss to Kansas on March 30 at L. Dale Mitchell Park was a game where OU rallied from a seven-run deficit, but blew a two-run lead late.

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