Sooners And Cowboys Ready For Big 12 Championships
OKLAHOMA CITY - Let the conference March Madness begin.
This week Big 12 men's and women's teams will lay it all on the line during Big 12 championship play for a shot at the league title and an even greater goal of landing a seed into the NCAA tournament.
All the action gets started Wednesday with the women's teams as No.7 Oklahoma State takes on No. 10 Missouri.
Even though the Cowgirls have beaten Missouri in both matchups this season, they know that during the road to the championship anything can happen on any given night.
"We just know that we've got a tough game on hand from the very beginning," said OSU head coach Jim Littell. "And there's a lot of great quarterfinal games that are going to be played as well."
The winner of the game between Oklahoma State and Missouri advances to play Oklahoma Thursday night at 5 p.m.
OU is also clear about its challenges this week. The Sooners lost to Kansas in its last regular season game Sunday. If the Sooners would have won it would have made them the outright No. 2, but the loss tied them with Texas A&M for second place in the Big 12. The first four tiebreakers were deadlocked so a drawing was held and OU ended up in the No. 2 spot.
"It's probably the best thing to happen to this team, we seem to perform a whole lot better when our back is in the corner and somebody's got us caged," said OU head coach Sherri Coale. "We ‘ve got to come out fighting and we've got a lot to prove over the next week and nobody wants to lose that game but I'll tell you what, we are certainly attentive right now and that's what you need."
On the men's side, No. 8 seed Oklahoma will face No.9 Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"We had two really close games with them, we lost in overtime down there and they missed a last second shot here to win it all," said OU men's head coach Lon Kruger. "When you have a repeat like we have the scouting doesn't take much time because you prepared for it four days earlier and you have that game to work off of as well."
The No. 7 Cowboys also play Wednesday night in a late game against No. 10 Texas Tech at 8:30 p.m.
Oklahoma State has topped the Raiders in both games during the regular season, but some major injuries will be a big factor for the Cowboys. OSU will be without center Philip Jurick who is sidelined with a foot injury.
Head Coach Travis Ford says he is unsure if Le'Bryan Nash will play after sustaining an arm/hand injury during the game against Oklahoma on February 22.
Coach Ford says Marek Soucek will play for the injured Jurick, but says they are still deciding who will start if Nash does not play. Ford said one option is to have Cezar Guerrero play the point guard and shift other players around to fill remaining holes.
"When it rains it pours," said Ford in talking about his season being the most adversity he has faced with any team as a coach.
"It's my 15th year as a college head coach and I've never experienced anything quite like this," Ford said. "It's just almost been overwhelming at times and I just commend our team on how they've handled it, our coaching staff it's come in different phases the injuries and in different times and we continue to have to adjust on the fly. Our guys have stayed very positive and we've continued to compete."
All four Oklahoma teams seek wins over their opening round opponents in order to stay alive in the Big 12 tournament and compete for a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.
"All we can do is go to Kansas City and compete and play as hard as we can and then wait for the selection," said Littell.
"Within these conference tournaments and there are lots of favorites who didn't even make it to their conference finals much less win their tournament championships so there's a ripple effect with that and I think that plays a role to if we get six or seven in as well," said Coale.
"There are a lot of factors going on and I tell you what, I've been in that war room and I don't envy that committee one bit."