LAWRENCE, Kan. — After the Oklahoma basketball team's win over Texas Tech on Jan. 16, the Sooners began a seven-game stretch that they knew would be the worst part of this season's schedule.
After a 4-2 start to the Big 12 season, Oklahoma is in the middle of that rough stretch. Including Saturday's loss in Lawrence, Kan., the Sooners play five straight games against the top-four teams in the Big 12 — two of which are also top-25 programs in the country.
Three of those games are on the road. The Sooners' two home games are against No. 11 Kansas State and No. 3 Kansas — the programs that have handed OU its only Big 12 losses this season.
After that Texas Tech game, Sooner coaches were saying that a good way to come out of the seven-game stretch would be with a 3-4 record. So far, they're 1-2, with the only win coming against struggling Texas.
With the way the rest of Oklahoma's schedule is laid out, the Sooners could still be NCAA Tournament contenders, thanks to a strong start to the season. For a team looking to make the tournament, though, this tough stretch is the ideal measuring stick for the selection committee.
Here's a look at the Sooners' next four games:
At Baylor (6 p.m. Wednesday): The Sooners are back on the road in Waco, Texas, to face the Bears, who are currently alone in second place in the Big 12. ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla recently told The Oklahoman that with the way Kansas and Baylor are playing, the two teams will likely take the Big 12's top two spots, leaving a handful of teams fighting for third place. The Bears most likely take the victory.
Kansas State (5 p.m. Saturday): In the teams' first meeting on Jan. 19, Oklahoma lost by nine points after Wildcats guard Rodney McGruder drained three straight 3-pointers from which the Sooners never recovered. That was the first true Big 12 road contest for three of Oklahoma's starters. OU could come out with the victory in Norman, but Kansas State is a top-25 program with multiple threats this season.
At Iowa State (6 p.m. Feb. 4): The matchup with the Cyclones is probably OU's best chance at a win during this stretch. This is one of those games that coach Lon Kruger and basketball analysts refer to as “stealing one on the road.” However, this is the same team that almost beat Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 9 before a last-second shot sent the game to overtime. Stealing a win in Ames could be harder than it seems.
Kansas (3 p.m. Feb. 9): The Sooners end their tough seven-game stretch against Kansas. That doesn't give them much time to prepare for a rematch with the Jayhawks' Jeff Withey. The 7-0 center dominated in Kansas' 67-54 win over OU on Saturday, blocking four shots in addition to his 13 points and nine rebounds.