By John Helsley
This Big 12 Tournament may lack intriguing story lines, especially today in the first round, but at least for us, there’s Bedlam.
And for Cowboys fans, this is surely a Bedlam pairing to savor.
In boxing terms, the Sooners are out on their feet, losers of eight straight and headed toward their worst season in decades. Decades.
Things have deteriorated rapidly since Blake and Taylor Griffin left Norman. And coach Jeff Capel has been forced to push every button imaginable in an effort to goose a squad that has revealed chemistry issues, flat performances and an aversion to team defense.
Willie Warren is out with an injury. Tiny Gallon could be limited by injury.
And by all indications, the season can’t end soon enough.
The Cowboys are here to oblige.
With the Soones wobbling against the ropes, the Cowboys could create a KO with one decent blow, unless Bedlam stirs something extra — something seldom seen from the Sooners of late — in their arch-enemy.
“They’re here for a whole different purpose and we’re here for a purpose and both teams are going to get after it,” said Cowboys star James Anderson.
OSU’s purpose: Publicly, a Big 12 Tournament title, which won’t come easy with the grind of four wins in four days needed. But mainly, the Cowboys can improve their NCAA Tournament seed with two wins, rising off that dreaded 8-9 spot in the bracket that everyone seems to have them occupying. Oh, and the joy of a Bedlam beatdown for the like of Anderson and Oklahoma natives Obi Muonelo and Nick Sidorakis and Keiton Page.
OU’s purpose: Presumably the spoils — or spoiler — of Bedlam, although frankly, I’m not sure many in this Sooner roster appreciate the rivalry yet.
The Cowboys should have posted a regular season Bedlam sweep, if not for a head injury that took Anderson out of Round 1 in Norman. They blistered the Sooners in Stillwater in Round 2.
Now Round 3 brings Cowboys fans something to savor.
Keys to the game
1. Get off quick. The Cowboys go as their shooters go. If Anderson, Muonelo and Page show some stroke from the perimeter early, the rout could be on. If not, the Sooners could find some confidence and some reason for hanging around.
2. Slowing TMG. Sooners guard Tommy Mason-Griffin popped the Cowboys for 30 points in Gallagher-Iba Arena, more than any player scored on OSU this season. He’s capable of keeping OU in it.
3. Inside presence. One of the keys to OSU’s stretch run has been the emergence of Matt Pilgrim. He’s capable of neutralizing Gallon and doing his own damage in the paint.
Prediction: Cowboys 85-72