I can't think of any tournament-worthy team from a major conference that has been more of an afterthought this season than Oklahoma. The Sooners, a No. 10 seed entering Saturday according to Jerry Palm, beat Iowa State. Beat 'em big. An 86-69 final in a game that wasn't that close. The Sooners improved to 19-9 overall and 10-6 in the Big 12 while ISU is now 19-10 and 9-7, respectively.
Oklahoma won in part because it tied an incredible NCAA record: most free-throw makes without a miss in a game. The Sooners went 34-for-34 from the charity stripe, tying the mark co-owned by Samford (1990) and UC Irvine (1981). So, so wish it had set the record.
Regardless, a good win. The season series between the Sooners and Cyclones is now tied. I wonder if a Big 12 tourney meeting is down the road. There's no doubt that Lon Kruger -- who is knocking on the door of taking his fifth program to an NCAA tournament -- is in better shape than Fred Hoiberg. Oklahoma's No. 25 in RPI, opposed to Iowa State's 54 mark.
Both teams are 2-5 against the top 50, but Oklahoma's five road Ws to Iowa State's three could prove a difference -- unless the teams meet again.
And while Romero Osby (who had 22 points) and Steven Pledger (14 and six assists) were vital, it's key to remember that outstanding OU frosh Buddy Hield has missed the past five games. Yet OU has earned bubble wins over bubble teams Baylor and Iowa State in that time.
Hard to argue the Big 12 tourney-selection pecking order doesn't go like this now:
I'm not sure the Big 12 can get six in. I doubt it does, in fact. But, for the first time this season, Oklahoma has moved into a clear-cut spot where it's fourth. And the road is easy to finish up the season 21-9 before the Big 12 tourney. OU gets a home game vs. West Virginia on Wednesday, then finishes up at TCU next Saturday. Win those, and there's room to spare for a loss in the Big 12 tourney.
As for Iowa State, the reeling continues after that controversial loss to Kansas at home. I hate to say it, but it's looking like those two overtime losses to KU this season could prove to be the physical and emotional separation from NIT and NCAAs for the Cyclones. It's not over yet, though. This team can still fight its way in.
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