Ford meets Bedlam number one tonight. His inherited club for the first-year coach is a rare underdog in the cozy home confines of Gallagher Iba-arena, a place Vegas says is up there with Duke's Cameron Indoor as the toughest place for visitors to win.
There's talk today of Ford not being able to enjoy traditional sell-outs at GIA and not enjoying the major decibel levels of the home court advantage that Eddie and Sean Sutton enjoyed and took advantage of for so many years.
But Pokes, don't despair. Don't look for empty seats tonight. Look for tickets. Because when the hated Sooners roll into Stillwater, everyone in bright orange responds. And they will tonight. For the record, OSU is not the only team on the floor tonight that has for some unknown reason, played in front of fans disguised as seats.
My guess is that fact alone will persuade OU's miracle-working head coach Jeff Capel to leave for an upper tier program in the not too distant future. Same could be true for Ford. But Ford needs to take advantage of opportunities like the one he has tonight to get the national attention and thus the attention from athletic directors at the Kenuckys and Indianas of the world. Win or lose tonight, Capel has already gotten the respect he's deserved-more from outside the state than from within the Sooner borders.
The guy inherited a mess Kelvin Sampson left when he bolted for Indiana. The definition of a mess mostly meaning no players. In three years he has his team 18-1, No. 6 in the nation, recruited what appears to be the No. 1 NBA draft pick in Blake Griffin, and a club living up to the hype of being the preseason Big 12 favorite. From despair to the state of the state in the Sooner state. The guy can recruit. The guy can coach. The guy can win.
My guess is Ford can do the same. He inherited a club with problems and one with players that aren't exactly ready to challenge North Carolina for the national title. My guess is Ford will be successful recruiting-see true freshman shooting sensation Keiton Page.
My guess is the guy can coach. His track record says as much. His undersized Pokes are a couple of calls from being 4-0 in conference play.
That leaves the last question: Can Ford begin winning like his counterpart on the crimson sideline has quickly done in Norman?
Tonight is his first true test. If his troops can corral Blake Griffin, playing in his first (and likely only) Bedlam game at GIA, OSU will probably win. That may be easier said than done. But of all the keys we could lay out in detail, we'll just cut-to-the-chase. The same cut-to-the-chase point Ford has no doubt stressed since the Pokes' big win Saturday at Nebraska.
OU might be favored. But I'm betting the rabid fans in orange will pack the joint. And those fans will make this one a literal toss-up. We'll be surprised if ESPN's Big Monday viewers don't see a dandy. One that will be OKC Thunder-ish- one that is a tight come final buzzer time at GIA.
Big opportunity for Ford, the frisky first year coach who plays pedal-to-the-medal and fun-to-witness round ball. Come 10:23 tonight-the time we hope you have set your cell phone to alarm you to tune in for your sports on News 9, Ford's tank will be on empty. Just as the mentor in the other locker room. Bedlam tiddly-winks leaves combatants drained. Basketball leaves the tanks on E. Empty.
The question is which coach will drive home reinvigorated from the win. And which one whose gut will be wrenching and whose buggy will need a lot of late-night petrol.
Bedlam Game One final score: Flip the coin. Swish. 80-78.