The Oklahoma big man’s concussion has taken a toll on his entire team.
That was evident Monday night in an 87-78 loss to Kansas. The Sooners looked out of sorts, squandering a lead, then digging a hole. They missed shots they normally make and made mistakes they normally don’t.
Even their cool, calm coach showed signs of the stress.
"I still feel good, I think,” Jeff Capel said after the game.
He paused, shaking his head.
"That probably didn’t make any sense what I just said — ‘I still feel good, I think,’ ” he said.
He chuckled, then gathered himself.
"We can be OK.”
makes sense. The Sooners can still be all right. They can be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They can be a national title contender.
The conference crown is likely lost. Kansas now sits in the driver’s seat a game ahead of OU with only three games remaining.
"But the big picture is the NCAA Tournament,” Sooner forward Taylor Griffin said, "and we still feel like we can achieve everything we want to.”
That starts with getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Sooners still have a great chance of landing one of those slots.
The consensus — there’s a gap between the top four teams in the country and the rest of the field.
Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Oklahoma and North Carolina have established themselves as the best of the bunch. They have been dominant. They have been steady. They have shown themselves the most complete teams in the land.
Louisville, Memphis and Duke are next in line, but they aren’t in the same class as the Fab Four.
Sure, back-to-back losses, including a nine-point loss at home, looks none too good on the resume, but members of the tournament’s selection committee would have to be living in a cave not to know the Sooners were Blake-less.
"When we’re full strength, we’re as good as anybody in the country,” Capel said.