Closing Stretch Can Ice NCAA Tournament Berth For Oklahoma

Friday, February 22nd 2013, 4:42 pm
By: News 9

The college basketball season is winding down and teams are doing their best to maneuver into position to make the NCAA tournament.

For the Oklahoma Sooners, the final six games of the season represent an opportunity to move off the bubble completely and all but clinch an at-large berth, its first in the tournament since 2009. Right now, every bracketologist has the Sooners in the tournament, but things could still get dicey for Oklahoma if it does not play well down the stretch.

However, it's also not inconceivable for the Oklahoma Sooners to win their final six games of the season. In fact on paper, it seems like a distinct possibility.

The Sooners took down Texas Tech in Lubbock Wednesday night, 86-71, the first game in this season-closing stretch, which is by far the easiest of the season for OU. Including Wednesday's game, the Sooners have the easiest closing stretch of any team in the Big 12 in terms of opponents' winning percentage.

Here's where the Sooners stand in regards to their NCAA tournament resume.

Current Oklahoma NCAA Tournament Resume

Record: 17-8 (8-5 Big 12)

RPI: 17, SOS: 5

It would give a negative connotation to say the Sooners have "worked" the system, but that's exactly what has happened. By playing 17 of 25 games against top-100 teams, the Sooners have created a monster computer profile that's impossible to ignore. Kudos to Lon Kruger for scheduling a tough, but not overly challenging non-conference schedule this season.

W-L vs. RPI top-50: 2-6

The Sooners split with Oklahoma State and Kansas for their two wins in this category. This may not look like a very impressive record but for a middle of the pack at-large team, that's about right. Baylor's recent slump has made OU's win in Waco not count as a top-50 win anymore. If the Bears close strong, their RPI should jump into the top-50.

W-L vs. RPI top-100: 9-8

This is where Oklahoma has made the biggest impression: 7-2 against teams currently 51-100 in the RPI. The Sooners also own a win over Oral Roberts which sits just outside the top-100 at 110. The Sooners' two losses in this category—to Arkansas and Stephen F. Austin—aren't great, but aren't crushing OU's chances at the tournament at this point. On the flip side, wins against both of those teams would probably have clinched OU a tournament spot by now.

Best wins: Kansas, Oklahoma State

Worst loss: Stephen F. Austin

Remaining schedule (With RPI): Baylor (54), at Texas (142), Iowa State (49), West Virginia (99), at TCU (225)

The Sooners' next three games are most difficult of this six-game stretch, but OU gets Baylor and Iowa State at home. Oklahoma did a great job in its win over Baylor in Waco three weeks ago, but fell flat against Iowa State in Ames. OU is capable of beating the Cyclones, but needs to play much better on both ends in order to have a chance against them. As for the Bears, it's always dangerous playing against the talent Baylor possesses, but the Bears have lost five of its past seven, with their only wins coming at home against West Virginia and Texas Tech. Baylor still plays Kansas State and Kansas, so it will be a desperate Baylor team coming to Norman on Saturday.

Texas is a bit of a wild card. Any road game is a tough one in the Big 12, and the Longhorns have won two of three after getting Myck Kabongo back from his NCAA-issued suspension. However, Texas is still playing very poorly and if OU plays well in Austin, it should get a win without much of a problem.

Oklahoma holds its destiny in its own hands, which is a nice position to be in. Go at least 4-2 over this six-game stretch, and the Sooners will have accomplished their season-long goal of making their first NCAA tournament in four years. Lose more than that, and OU may have to win a game or two in the conference tournament if it doesn't want to be sweating it out come Selection Sunday.