KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The odds are long, but Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger and junior forward Romero Osby have experienced improbable conference tournament runs.
Winning four games in four days is extremely difficult for lower seeds that don't receive a first-round bye.
But it has happened.
The Sooners open the Big 12 Tournament Wednesday night against Texas A&M. With a win they would face No. 3 Kansas, which won its eighth straight conference title and owned huge second-half leads in both OU games.
To reach Friday's semifinals the Sooners, then might have to upset No. 12 Baylor, with No. 5 Missouri the favorite on the other side of the bracket.
“Teams that have to play four in four days are not as good as the other teams to start with,” Kruger said. “Then you add to that the fatigue factor. You have to have everyone healthy and have everything fall into place. It's indicative why it doesn't happen very often.”
Cinderella stories are rare, but 16 Division I teams have won four games in four days to secure the conference's automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
During Osby's freshman season at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs won four games in four days, highlighted by wins over No. 20 LSU and a win over Tennessee in the finals.
“That's our goal this week, to do the same thing, go in there and win but take it one game at a time,” Osby said. “We're not going to look past Texas A&M. It starts with them. ... But a lot of the teams in the Big 12 have locks.”
The similarities between OU and that Mississippi State pretty much end at Osby, though.
The 2009 Bulldogs were 19-12 overall, 9-7 in conference play.
The Sooners are 15-15 overall, 5-13 in league play.
“But we had a similar season,” Osby said. “We've lost some games we could have won. (At the SEC Tournament) we played together, played smart, defended, got key rebounds, shared the ball. That's what we hope to do here.”
Kruger's Cinderella story at Illinois was more similar to OU, but it didn't produce a silver-slipper-ending like Osby at Mississippi State.
The Illini were 11-17 overall, 3-11 in league play heading into the 1999 Big Ten Tournament.
Then Illinois won that many league games in three days. Each win was a monumental upset.
It started with a 33-11 lead en route to a win over No. 23 Minnesota. In the quarterfinals, Illinois dominated No. 17 Indiana, 82-66.
Four on the floor
Sixteen teams in Division I men's basketball history have won four games in four days to win their conference tournament and earn the automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
Year Team (conference)
1985 Auburn (SEC)
1997 Marquette (Conference USA)
1999 UNC-Charlotte (Conf. USA)
2000 Arkansas (SEC)
2000 Saint Louis (Conference USA)
2001 Iowa (Big Ten)
2004 Xavier (Atlantic 10)
2006 Syracuse (Big East)
2006 Xavier (Atlantic 10)
2008 x-Georgia (SEC)
2008 Pittsburgh (Big East)
2009 Mississippi State (SEC)
2010 Houston (Conference USA)
2011 Ark.-Little Rock (Sun Belt)
2011 y-Connecticut (Big East)
2012 Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
x-won four games in three days
y-won five games in five days
Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
TV: KOCB-34 (Cox 11)
Radio: KOKC-AM 1520
Three things to know
* The Aggies rallied to win 81-75 in overtime six weeks ago. OU held on 65-62 last Saturday in Norman.
* Romero Osby has shot 76 percent (19-for-25) and averaged 21.0 points in two games against A&M.
* Elston Turner has averaged 17.0 points in two meetings against OU; David Loubeau 15.5.
Texas A&M (13-17)