Basketball overdrive: Checking in on Bedlam rivals
The magic of DVR has left me dreary-eyed but basketball-smart. Over the weekend, starting with early Saturday morning, when I watched the final three quarters of the Thunder-Grizzlies nailbiter, through Sunday night, I watched six basketball games and two NFL games. The hoops? Two Thunder tilts, plus four Big 12 games: OU-Kansas women, OSU-Kansas State men, OU-Texas Tech men and OSU-Colorado women.
Here’s what I saw:
* By far the most exciting player is OSU’s Andrea Riley. If you haven’t seen Riley this year, you’re missing it. Maybe you remember her as the little gunner who never saw a shot she didn’t like. Maybe you remember her as the punk who keeps getting in trouble and still will have to sit out a first-round NCAA Tournament game for punching that LSU player two seasons ago.
Either way, you’ve got to see Riley this year. She’s still a gunner — which is not a bad thing in women’s basketball, where getting up shots is always positive — but she’s turned into quite the passer. Seriously, she makes more nifty passes than Doug Gottlieb. No-look passes. Behind-the-back passes. Flick-of-the-wrist passes. And she’s got a couple of teammates, notably Tegan Cunningham, who corral them for easy buckets. Riley is our state’s must-see ballplayer this winter.
* Bedlam women in going to be a ball. The Sooners are at their best when they run. Danielle Robinson is a jet-stream point guard. She beats opponents down the floor and is actually a better closer than even Riley. The Sooners are at their best when they run at full blast, and I expect Sherri Coale sees that, too. I would expect OU to turn it up even more as the competition stiffens. Riley, a first-team all-American in 2008, is the nation’s best point guard, but Dani California isn’t far behind.
* Travis Ford’s coaching job in Manhattan is one for the ages. The Cowboys were without their point guard, the injured Ray Penn, against a Kansas State team that eats opposing backcourts for lunch. Then OSU was in supreme foul trouble, with State’s only two legit inside players, Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim, eventually fouling out. Yet the Cowboys survived an opening blitz by ninth-ranked K-State and survived a run midway through the second half that seemed to hand all momentum to the Wildcats in front of their rejuvenated crowd. Bramlage Coliseum has become the Big 12′s rowdiest arena; that’s the way KSU was in the old Ahern Fieldhouse days, but that was more 20 years ago.
The resulting OSU victory was stunning. A season-maker. OSU went from probably out of the NCAA Tournament to probably in, all in a two-hour span. Give total credit to Ford. You coach what you’ve got and put them in position to win. That’s exactly what Ford did.
* Not such a great coaching season for Jeff Capel. The Sooners’ problems continued in a loss at Texas Tech. OU had an 11-point lead, but that evaporated quickly. Tiny Gallon is a total mystery. With Willie Warren sidelined, the Sooners got little production outside Tony Crocker and Tommy Mason-Griffin. For whatever reason, this team is not cohesive and not improving. Capel did a marvelous job his first three years in Norman — Blake Griffin didn’t hurt — but this is not a great coaching job. This team has far more talent than an 11-8 record suggests.
* James Anderson is the Big 12′s best player. He scored 30 points against Kansas State and kept the Cowboys in the game until Obi Muonelo came up big late. Anderson should be the Big 12 player of the year. No question.
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