Berry Tramel’s expose’ on the 25th anniversary of Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas in the 1988 NCAA men’s basketball championship game got me reminiscing to what I was thinking before the game, during the game and since the game:
BEFORE THE GAME
- Kansas has no chance. OU is too good and too hot.
- The No. 1-seeded Sooners averaged 103.5 points per game during the regular season and have an average victory margin of 17.0 in the tournament.
- OU has beaten the No. 6-seeded Jayhawks twice during regular season, by eight points each time, and is favored by eight in the title game. Too much symmetry for KU to overcome.
- Kansas has Danny Manning, and he sure is good, but the Sooners have three first-round draft picks in Stacey King, Mookie Blaylock and Harvey Grant, plus 3-point specialist and defensive standout Dave Sieger and point guard Ricky Grace. That’s 5 against 1.
- The Jayhawks has coach Larry Brown, the man I worshipped growing up in Colorado while he played for the ABA Denver Rockets and later coached the ABA-NBA Denver Nuggets.
- None of this matters, of course, because KU has no chance.
- If OU can handily win a national semifinal against Arizona – which had Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Kenny Lofton, Jud Buechler and Tom Tolbert – it certainly can beat Kansas.
- Oklahoma has become the first Division I school to play for the national championship in football and basketball in the same academic year.
- What a great day for the Big Eight Conference. Two teams playing for the national title in same town where the conference is headquartered, plus Kansas State had advanced to the Midwest Regional final and lost to KU.
- With a Final Four of Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona and Duke, there wasn’t a Big East team within 1,000 miles.
DURING THE GAME
- It’s really not fair Kansas gets to play the national title game just 41 miles from its home gym. OU fans are outnumbered roughly 5-to-1.
- Kemper Arena has grown on me. It’s an arena that won architectural awards, but when I first saw it 10 years earlier for the 1978 Big Eight Holiday Tournament at Christmas, I drove past it three times thinking it was a giant septic tank.
- Manning sure is good, but it still won’t be enough. Let’s get this thing over with and see if the Sooners can get to 100.
- Man, what a first half. 50-50. Best half of basketball I’ve seen at any level.
- The Sooners will probably score another 50 in the second half, but KU sure won’t because it can’t possibly keep shooting 75.8 percent from the field.
- Um, when is Milt Newton going to miss?
- Kevin Pritchard sure is playing better than I thought he would, so is Chris Piper.
- Clint Normore is playing out of his gourd. He’s a football player who’s not even listed in the basketball media guide, fercryinoutloud.
- OU will start hitting shots any minute now.
- KU will start missing shots any minute now.
- I was right, the Jayhawks didn’t keep shooting 75.8 percent. They cooled all the way down to 63.6 percent (35 for 55) for the game.
- Newton never does miss from the field, going 6 for 6 (2 for 2 from 3-point range) and finishing with 15 points.
- OU shot 50 percent from the field during the regular season, but shoots just 42.9 percent on championship night, including 35.5 percent in the second half.
- Sieger hits seven 3-pointers and has seven assists, but it’s not good enough to win.
- Blaylock has seven steals, but it’s not good enough.
- All five OU starters score in double-digits, but it’s not good enough.
- Grace shot horribly – 4 for 14 from the field and 1 for 7 from 3-point range – in probably the worst game of his career.
- Are the Sooners the greatest team to not win the national title?
- Manning has 31 points, 18 rebounds and five steals, but it seems like much more than that.
- Manning sure is good.
SINCE THE GAME
- I miss the Big Eight.
- At 27-11, Kansas set a record for most losses by a Division I champ – a record that still stands, or sits in this case.
- Had they won, the 35-4 Sooners would have set a single-season record at that time for victories by a title winner.
- It was a lousy nine months for the locals. In June of 1987, Oklahoma State lost the championship game at the College World Series. That January, OU lost in its quest for a seventh national championship. That March, the heavily favored OSU wrestling team fell short of the national crown. That was followed by the 1988 title game in hoops.
- Seeing who was on the KU staff that season, it’s much easier to understand why KU actually had a chance. In addition to Brown, there was assistant R.C. Buford, now general manager of the San Antonio Spurs; former NBA coach Alvin Gentry; one year removed was former UNLV coach Bill Bayno, now with the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves; two years removed was current KU coach Bill Self; three years removed were Kentucky coach John Calipari and former NBA coach Bob Hill.
- Maybe OU coach Billy Tubbs should have replaced Grace with Terrence Mullins.
- The Sooners are the second-best team to not win the national title, behind UNLV in 1991.
- Man, what a first half. 50-50. Best half of basketball I’ve seen at any level.
- Manning sure is good.
– John Rohde
In our haste for hyperbole, we have lost all track of time. As a result, we are clearly running low on centuries. By my count, we are now covered until at least 3011 before college football’s next “Game of the Century.”
The latest 100-year rendition was No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night. Turns out it was wasn’t even the best game in its time slot. Many of the 600-plus media types credentialed for LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa must have gazed at Stillwater with envy as No. 3 Oklahoma State managed to outlast No. 14 Kansas State 52-45.
Ah, who am I kidding? SEC folk are envied, not envious. In their eyes, it doesn’t matter if the two greatest teams on Google Earth went to overtime andstill couldn’t find an end zone.
Saturday’s 7 p.m. time slot was all a matter of taste. Do you prefer a defensive standoff, or an offensive shootout? Do you seek a shot glass that’s darn-near empty, or a jug that runneth over? Do you call your editor and plead for more space, or ask him to run an extra photo to help fill the void?
- While LSU and Alabama combined for 12 points in regulation, OSU and KSU combined for 12 touchdowns.
- The Cowboys and Wildcats amassed 1,082 yards. The Tigers and Tide combined for less than half that.
- Every field-goal attempt at Boone Pickens Stadium sailed through the uprights. Alabama field-goal kickers missed 4 of 6 at home.
- In Stillwater, OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for a school-record 502 yards and All-American receiver Justin Blackmon had 13 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns. In Tuscaloosa, um, LSU’s Brad Wing had a 73-yard punt.
Come on, is there even a choice?
And yet, predictably, many scream for a rematch in the BCS championship game between the Tigers and Crimson Tide. No seconds for me, thanks. One serving of this matchup was more than enough.
Sadly, and equally predictable, Alabama sits solidly at No. 3 in this week’s BCS standings, which makes a rematch almost a certainty if the Tide wins out and OSU or Stanford doesn’t go 12-0.
A handful of reasons why Alabama doesn’t deserve a rematch:
1. They’ve already played. Been there, done that. Asked and answered. Nothing more to see here. Moving on.
2. LSU would have a 13-0 record in the BCS national title game. Alabama would be 11-1. The Tide would advance by not playing for its conference crown. What sense does that make?
3. Alabama already lost – at home.
4. We know what Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron can do against the Tigers, but we’re extremely curious how Weeden, or Stanford’s Andrew Luck, or Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, or Boise State’s Kellen Moore would do against LSU.
Somebody on CBS squawked that 10 defensive backs in the LSU-Alabama game would play in the NFL, which seems awfully hard to gauge playing against a steady stream of average offenses.
The SEC’s gaudy numbers on defense are easily explained by the league’s gaunt numbers on offense. This all works hand-in-hand.
Four SEC defenses rank in the top 9, but three SEC offenses rank No. 103 or lower and seven rank No. 87 or lower, including top-ranked LSU’s. The Big 12′s defensive stats stink (four in the bottom 13) because the league’s offensive numbers are astronomical (three in the top 4; six in the top 11).
5. Give someone else a crack at LSU. If the Tide were to win the rematch, then Saturday would mean nothing, and an LSU victory in Tuscaloosa should be worth more than an Alabama victory in New Orleans.
For these reasons, no rematch. It would be far better to expand the Tigers’ list of potential victims. Broaden the evidence. Leave no doubt. We’ve seen the best the SEC has to offer. Give another league a chance.
Besides, what would prove more? Weeden vs. LSU? Luck vs. LSU? Jones vs. LSU? Moore vs. LSU?
Or one more round with McCarron?
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. Follow him on Twitter @RohdeOK.
BeyondU Sports has an in-depth discussion with Mike Leach – the former Texas Tech head coach and New York Times best selling author of “Swing Your Sword” – each week. Here is part of this week’s installment:
We had some huge upsets this past Saturday, did you see that Oklahoma upset coming?
I didn’t see that one coming but I did see upsets in general coming. Not specific upsets, but as long as I have been in this it’s that kind of year. Teams define themselves as top dogs and they have a target on their backs and everyone is gunning for them. Teams with an unsatisfactory season are trying to redeem as much respect as they can. Teams that have levels of success sometimes can get complacent and not have as much respect for their opponent. All these factors come into play. I think that it’s that time of year people are taxed physically and mentally. One team’s up the other is not. There can be surprises especially in these conferences that play one team after another back to back. You know they may not be having as good a season as they like. They (Texas Tech) have big strong players that are fast, so this is really as they say any given week, anybody can beat anybody. That’s especially true this time of year. There will be more upsets this week too.”
OU has a lot of veterans with players who have played a ton of minutes at key positions. It’s really rare for Oklahoma to loose a game at home. From a mental standpoint, how does a team slip up like that?
They had a ridiculous number of wins at home. At some point there’s a sense that you are invincible. I think that’s fueled by the media, I think its fueled by the people in town, it’s fueled by the players themselves. Sometimes confidence becomes complacency. You take victories for granted. Texas Tech was not afraid of Oklahoma. We used to have a sign “respect everyone but fear no one.” Texas Tech didn’t fear Oklahoma even though they were a superior opponent. Oklahoma didn’t have enough of a healthy dose of respect for Texas Tech. Texas Tech is a good enough team that if they play for 60 minutes, Oklahoma can’t beat them playing 30. OU squandered the first half, they need more than 30 minutes of good play to beat Texas Tech.
“I think that the weather delay factored in too. It’s one of those things you get ready to play at Owen Field. If you are Texas Tech, you are relaxed. If you relax, collect your thoughts, play loose, etc. then you don’t have anything to lose. If you are Oklahoma, you are initially ready to play. You go through your workmanship ready to have a game. Then as the weather delay hits, you know the rhetoric I have overheard once in a while. Some of your weaker minded players are saying:
“This fouls my plans after the game.”
“Boy I will sure be glad when this game is over.”
“This is taking forever.”
“At least we are 24 points favorites, yeah this team can’t beat us, remember how bad we beat them last year.”
“Then you go through the motions for a half and the other teams doesn’t go through the motions in the half then you are in trouble. The trouble with those weather delays, it’s not like they are saying we aren’t go to play for 1 hour and 45 minutes. It’s constant 15 to 20 minute updates, then it’s a half hour and the storm hasn’t passed. I mean, you are sitting on ready waiting on go. It really is a nuisance.”
Do you think in a weather delay it’s actually an advantage to the away team?
I don’t know if it is or if it isn’t. I was thinking about it but I don’t know where I line up. If you are playing at night and you’re the visitor, you’re probably not thinking about what you are doing after the game as you know what you are going to do. You are getting a plane, going home and going to bed. If you’re Oklahoma, its like – Well, alright, I can’t meet my mom or my girlfriend so there goes that. I just think over time if you don’t have the right frame of mind winning so many in a row can on one hand be a burden if you generate pressure on yourself, which you shouldn’t. Or, if victories are being taken for granted, confident drifts into a lack of respect.”
What do you know about Texas Tech QB Seth Doege?
I know a lot about him. I’ve known him since he was in the 8th grade. He came to our camp all the time. I coached him for 3 1/2 years. He has a really good arm, not a tall guy, but a strong arm guy. Good player and it doesn’t surprise me at all to see him have success.”
Depending on what transpires Thursday at its board of directors meeting, the beleaguered Big 12 will start anew: with or without a lawsuit from Baylor trying to block Texas A&M’s exit to the Southeastern Conference; with or without Dan Beebe as commissioner; with or without Chuck Neinas as interim commissioner; with or without an acceptable profit-sharing formula from The Longhorn Network; but definitely three teams short come July 1, 2012.
No matter what reform comes out of Thursday’s meeting, the Big 12 Titantic must get back on an even keel. The best way to do that would be to add three teams. Don’t keep it at nine teams and insist you can survive. Don’t add one team and deem it sufficient. Don’t add one team and promise to re-evaluate down the road. Add three teams, pronto, for the 2012-13 school year.
Conditions are ripe to pluck TCU, so do it. The school is 30 measly miles from the Big 12 office, closer than any existing member. Louisville and West Virginia are scrambling for a life raft, so throw them one. The Big 12′s ship might be listing, but the Big East has capsized and is about to go under.
BYU would be isolated in the Big 12, the only team in the mountain time zone, way up there in high altitude, just like Colorado, which couldn’t take it anymore and headed for the Pacific Ocean. BYU just claimed its major independence and created its own network. The school no doubt wants to prove these decisions were wise. Besides, the Big 12 already has experienced enough headaches with the Bevo Network and doesn’t need to invite another.
Adding TCU, Louisville and West Virginia would make the Big 12 simpatico again, not only in name but also in scheduling, which is crucial. The Big 12 could return to its six-team, North-South alignment and rekindle its football championship game, which has long been a money maker. Dallas Cowboys Stadium could host the Big 12 football championship. Kansas City could host the Big 12 basketball tournaments. Same sites as before, only with three new entries.
Replace Texas A&M with TCU and schedule accordingly against the opposite division — just like before. Pair Texas with Texas Tech, Oklahoma with Oklahoma State, Baylor with TCU, Kansas with Kansas State, Iowa State with Missouri and West Virginia with Louisville. Like a glove.
While other conferences freak out and form 16-team mega-conferences, the Big 12 can stabilize itself and show an even dozen is a far more manageable number.
The Big 12′s existing deal with ABC is up for renegotiation in the next two years, so there’s no time to waste. Make the Big 12 whole again. Twelve means 12. Enough squabbling. It’s time for the Big 12 to act, pronto.
The Thunder has the NBA’s third-youngest roster and its second-youngest starting lineup. Several players should still be in college, or are not that far removed from college.
Of the Thunder’s 14 roster players, only three attended college for four years — Nick Collison (Kansas), Royal Ivey (Texas) and Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth).
This youth certainly is evident inside the Thunder locker room in March during the NCAA Tournament. Four Thunder players are No. 1 seeds in Daequan Cook and Byron Mullens (Ohio State), plus Cole Aldrich and Collison (Kansas).
Ohio State faces Nazr Mohammed’s No. 4-seeded Kentucky team on Friday in Newark. Cook playfully suggested he and Mohammed might not pass to each other Wednesday or Friday night becaause of that game. KU plays Richmond in San Antonio on Friday and potentially could face Maynor for a berth to the Final Four on Sunday.
Kevin Durant and Ivey were underseeded at No. 4 and Texas suffered a painful 70-69 loss to Arizona in large part due to a questionable five-second violation against the Longhorns on an in-bound play, which still has Durant shaking his head. Russell Westbrook’s No. 7-seeded UCLA team ousted Michigan State in the opening round, but couldn’t survived Florida. Nate Robinson’s No. 7-seeded Washington Huskies could have, and probably should have, beaten No. 2 North Carolina, but wilted down the stretch.
No one is puffing out his chest more than the 175-pound Maynor, who was recruited to VCU by former Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel. Maynor is a No. 11 seed who many inside (and outside) the locker room believed didn’t deserve a tournament berth. Instead, VCU is two wins away from advancing from the so-called First Four (play-in games) to the Final Four. The Rams have beaten teams by an average of 16.3 points — Southern Cal by 13; Georgetown by 18; and Purdue by 18.
Each time VCU has a game, someone from the other side of the locker room (usually Cook) tells Maynor to enjoy his last game of the season. “You’ve been saying that for three games now,” Maynor said.
The only player on the Thunder roster from a school that didn’t qualify for the tournament is Arizona State’s James Harden.
The Big 12 doesn’t have to die. It would just have to change.
If Oklahoma. Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Colorado relocate to the Pacific 10 Conference, the Big 12 could still exist with a solid cast of members and some intriguing potential.
Here’s a suggestion for the new Big 12: Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor, Memphis, Louisville, TCU, UTEP, Houston, Rice and Tulsa.
This would have the makings of a terrific basketball conference and a solid football conference. Baseball, softball, tennis and track also would be well-represented.
You would replace the departure of three Texas schools with the arrival of four, keeping the Texas recruiting base alive. Tulsa would now represent Oklahoma. Travel would be reasonable. Only Louisville would be in a different time zone.
Just a thought. The Big 12 wouldn’t have to die, just change.