The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel took questions from readers in today's Power Lunch Chat. Join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Today's chat covered the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and a lot of conference realignment. Here's a recap of the Q&A.
ON THE OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AND THE NBA:
I am very impressed with Russell Westbrook’s play so far this season. What are your thoughts?
I love Westbrook's play. I thought he was bad last night, but for the most part, Westbrook has been fantastic. Love his game.
Were there ever any rumblings of bad blood between Harden and Thabeet last season? That looked a little tense last night.
I don't think so. Thabeet didn't play enough last year to get under anyone's skin. I just think they had a tense moment that escalated for no good reason. But man, I loved the way Thabeet played. He's really impressed me.
Sounds like Houston was mentally not there against OKC. Your thoughts?
I would agree. I thought it was a terrible spot for Houston. Flying from Houston to Minnesota to OKC in the span of 16 hours, with a funeral in the middle? Terrible. No chance for the Rockets to be on top of their game.
Are you still high on Maynor? Eric has been big time struggling lately and I think it is time to give Reggie regular minutes and see what he can do.
I am disappointed in Maynor. But I wouldn't go to Jackson. I think Maynor very well could be still in recovery mode. I'm optimistic Maynor will improve. But if he's still playing like this in February, I'd be worried.
What do you think about trading Maynor to Sacramento for Jimmer?
It wouldn't be the worst trade in the NBA. But it would be on the list. I see no evidence that Jimmer Fredette can play. The Thunder needs a backup point guard, if Maynor can't go. But I still think Maynor can get back to where he was. And Reggie Jackson playing with one arm is better than Jimmer.
If you’re Sam Presti, do you package the picks and maybe Reggie Jackson or one of the rookies for someone that would help you for a shot at the title this year? If so who? A low post rebounder would be nice.
No. I would not package the picks. But here's what the Thunder needs most. They need a hybrid forward who can at least bother LeBron James. They need a Stephen Jackson/Shawn Marion type to help guard LeBron in a potential NBA Finals. That's what the Thunder needs most.
A perimeter defender would help a lot, but you are going to have to give up something. You say no to the picks then who are you going to give up?
You could send an expiring contract, or one of the young guys — Lamb, Jones, Jackson. Or you could trade that Dallas pick. That would be fine. I just wouldn't trade the Toronto pick.
I know I'm in the minority, but I really want to see Kelvin Sampson get an NBA gig. The guy knows how to coach and connects with his players well. Do you see any potential available jobs for him this year after McHale comes back?
I'm pulling for Kelvin, too. He said yesterday he thinks he'll be a head coach next season in the NBA. I wouldn't bet against it. Kelvin has done a good job with these Rockets, filling in.
Are the Raptors going to be so bad that they keep their pick this year? I assumed it is probably going to be at least a top 6 pick, but I didn't think they would be bad enough to keep it.
Even if the Raptors get in the top three, that's good news for the Thunder. Because then the pick reverts to next season, only it's protected just for the top two. And if Toronto still gets it, then it reverts to the NEXT draft, 2015, and is protected only at No. 1. So the Thunder is going to get a good pick.
ON THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS:
What announcement is coming today from Norman?
Confirmation of OU-Nebraska series in 2021-22.
Do you think OU beats TCU?
Yes, but I think it will be tough. TCU is solid on defense. Meanwhile, the Frogs are different from the offenses OU has seen the last three weeks. TCU is a run-first attack. So it should be very interesting.
Do you think OU will be better with Blake Bell next year?
No. Not at quarterback. Probably not team-wide, since the defensive line is about to get wiped out. Landry Jones is very good. I don't see Blake Bell being as good as Landry.
The last time the Sooners played in Fort Worth in ‘98, a fight broke out in the middle of the field after the game. Any chance that happens again, and your memories of that dreadful game 14 years ago?
I had forgotten the fight. I would say there's a next-to-nothing chance of that happening again. My memories — rained all day, neither team could move the ball, TCU led 9-0 the whole game, OU somehow got 10 points in the final few minutes. Jason Freeman made a huge play for OU. Someone — Jarrod Reese, Patrick Fletcher, somebody — threw an interception, but Freeman stripped the ball from the interceptor, and OU trotted out the field goal unit to win at the end.
The worst defense in the Bob Stoops era? ‘99, ‘05, or ‘12?
Not 2005. I would probably say 1999. But 2011 and 2012 runs it a close race.
ON THE OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS:
OSU has huge basketball games coming up against Virginia Tech on the 1st, then South Florida on the 5th, 3 gimmies, and a big one against Gonzaga on the 31st. Chances the Pokes can get through December still undefeated?
Pretty good. Playing at home helps. And this OSU team looks much better. Marcus Smart makes all the difference in the world. Wouldn't it be great if the Cowboys got to Big 12 play unbeaten and untied?
ON THE BIG 12 AND CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT:
Since Louisville is headed to the ACC what team is or should be the focus for the Big 12 to bring in? FSU?
FSU? Why not just go after Notre Dame. Look, I don't think Florida State is coming. If Florida State wasn't coming last year, why would it come now, when the ACC is fortified. Look at the ACC: it's added Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville, plus Notre Dame partially, while losing Maryland. The ACC's better than ever.
Does the Big 12 get 2 BCS bids? I've got a case of beer riding on "no." (I made the bet after OU squeaked by WV.) Am I paying up or drinking up?
Too early to tell. If Kent State loses, odds are yes. If Kent State wins, odds are no. Of course, if Kansas State loses and OU wins, I think the Big 12 just gets one. I would bet the Sugar bid would go to Clemson, even if Kent State loses.
Would ESPN/FOX increase the bottom line for the Big 12 if they were to expand with BYU and Boise St.? In the past you said it would be "Mickey Mouse" to add football-only members to the Big 12. In this case, (adding BYU and Boise St.) would the Big 12 consider that?
I think the TVs would pay the Big 12 more for BYU and Boise State. Enough to offset two more mouths to feed? I doubt it. But absolutely it would be Mickey Mouse to add football-only members. If you can't bring in someone totally, don't bring them in at all.
Does all of this conference realignment change the new playoff format or is it all set in stone for the next 12 years?
I don't know about set in stone for 12 years, but it doesn't affect how we'll start out the new format. In fact, I'd say the new format helped facilitate some of the conference realignment. I know it has affected the Big 12's decision to stick at 10 teams.
Would a BYU/Notre Dame addition be something the Big XII goes after? Those two schools have gotten closer (scheduling agreements) recently. BYU has a huge following with in the West and ND has a huge following in the Midwest and East.
Notre Dame's ship has sailed. Notre Dame is in the ACC. I think BYU and Boise State are the next Big 12 options, but I think it's much more likely that the Big 12 sticks with 10.
When people say "the Big 12 this" or "the Big 12 that," should writers really just put Deloss Dodds in parentheses since he really is the man behind the curtain and only real person that matters in Big 12 realignment?
I'd like to say no, but the answer is probably yes. Dodds is the kingpin.
Is it possible for ND to be added to the Big XII in all sports and still keep their contract with NBC?
Yes, that was possible, and I'm sure it was offered. But like I said, Notre Dame is passed. The Big 12 tried and failed. Nothing wrong in that.
Does the Big 12 risk being left behind if they don't add quality schools to the conference? The PAC, ACC, SEC are all adding and growing enormous. Super Conferences are assured in the next few years.
I don't buy it. The PAC is NOT growing enormous. It's gone from 10 to 12 and grew from 10 to 12 only because it thought it was going to get the Oklahoma and Texas schools and get to 16. If the PAC knew it wasn't going to get the Oklahoma and Texas schools, it might not have added Utah and Colorado. Now the PAC is at 12 — with nowhere to go. The PAC has been clear that it doesn't want BYU and Boise State. So why would the Big 12 be threatened? Someone will have to tell me why 14 or 16 is intimidating to a 10-team league. I'm not saying it's not, I'm saying I need to be shown why.
Money (TV) dictates conference realignment. Do you think ESPN has tried to entice the Big 12 to expand?
No. If ESPN wanted expansion from the Big 12, the Big 12 would expand. I would say ESPN is against conference consolidation, especially these conferences adding their own networks. That's not to ESPN's benefit.
I think there is something to be said for going in the opposite direction of everyone else. I think the Big XII is a very good conference at 10 right now. I don't see the need to expand just because everyone else is doing it.
I would agree, to some extent. In some ways, 14 teams is a mess. It's a scheduling nightmare. In some ways, 14 is good — it helps the SEC's good teams avoid each other. So there are pros and cons of 10 and 14. The key is for the Big 12 to advocate for the new four-team playoff to include conference champs only. That way, the SEC can't politick its way to two teams in, when those teams might not have played a rugged schedule.
Why still call it Big 12 if it’s not, in fact, 12 teams.
The Big Ten had 11 schools for 20 years. Now it has 12. There are bigger fish to fry.
Will the Big 12 ever have a conference championship again?
The title game will be played if they get to 12 teams. But I don't think they're going to 12. Outside of ISU and KSU, I don't see anyone fired up to play a conference title game.
Looks like there are only two reasons the Big 12 expands:
1.) 4-team playoffs require conference champ game winner;
2.) Notre Dame decides to become FT member in the Big 12 since it would be smaller than the ACC which allows them to schedule more nonconference games.
That's an interesting point. I don't see how the new playoff could require a conference title game, but maybe that's the negotiation. If conference champs only are admitted, then the counter is to require a title game. As for Notre Dame, Notre Dame is NOT coming to the Big 12. That is not happening.
Is it the school presidents, ADs or coaches that don't want a conference championship game? Coach Snyder said he wants it. Do you know any other coaches or administrators that feel the same way?
Most of the coaches don't want it. The ADs/presidents aren't necessarily opposed to a conference title game. They're opposed to 12 teams. They like 10. They like the round robin and they like the money.
ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL ACROSS THE STATE AND NATION:
Your prediction for the top 3 finish for the Heisman?
I have no idea. I just hope Manziel doesn't win. He's going to win because of a nickname. If his name was Richard Smithson, he would have no chance of winning. But Johnny Football has caught on with people. It's possible you haven't noticed, but the American electorate, politics or football, Heisman or polls, is largely lemming.
Let's have your predictions on the OSU-Baylor, K-State-Texas, and OU-TCU.
I'm on record. I've got OU in a tight one, Baylor in an upset and Kansas State solid. I just think Texas is out of gas. I think OU and OSU are both vulnerable, but the Cowboys have the tougher task, getting back up emotionally after the disappointing Bedlam loss.
Any chance that OSU or OSU loses coordinators to some of the head coaching jobs that have opened up?
I'd say there's a decent chance. I'd rank the likelihood of them leaving this way: 1. Todd Monken; 2. Josh Heupel; 3. Mike Stoops; 4. Bill Young. I'd say it's a good bet Monken gets hired somewhere.
ON COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
How soon do we see the Big East basketball schools separate from the Big East football schools and form their own conference?
I can't believe they haven't already done it. Cincy and UConn probably are the reasons why. But Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, etc., those schools have to be saying, what in the heck are we doing?