For the first time in four years, Oklahoma and March Madness are back in the same sentence. The Sooners are projected by various bracketologists to be a middle seed, like an eight or a nine. They are in a spot where little they do can make them rise, unless seeded teams above them suffer terrible losses. They could fall if they stumble through their final four games. If they lose on the road to TCU and Texas and don't protect their home court against West Virginia and Iowa State, the Sooners could easily be a bubble team — or even out of the tournament. The latest projections:
* ESPN's Joe Lunardi: Midwest Region, No. 9 seed against No. 8 North Carolina State in Dayton, Ohio.
* CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm: Midwest Region, No. 8 seed against No. 9 North Carolina State in Dayton, Ohio.
*SI.com: Midwest Region, No. 9 seed against No. 8 Wichita State in Dayton, Ohio.
* Yahoo! Sports: No. 9 seed (no bracketology).
* Sporting News: No. 9 seed (no bracketology).
“We want to get to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a while and get as far as we can. We want to start a legacy for years to come in coach (Lon) Kruger's era. It'd be great to have Coach Kruger take his fifth team to the tournament. We want to win and make sure Oklahoma continues to win.” – Oklahoma senior forward Romero Osby
*Nov. 25, West Virginia: This win was the first glimpse college basketball got that maybe Oklahoma wouldn't suffer as badly as it did last year.
*Dec. 18, Stephen F. Austin: This one-point loss was the low-point of OU's nonconference season. It taught the Sooners to not look too far ahead — which came in handy during conference play.
*Dec. 29-Jan. 16, five straight victories: The Sooners' start to the conference season gave them a confidence boost. They started off league play 3-0, beating West Virginia again, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, before losing to Kansas State.
*Feb. 2-Feb. 11, the first four of February: February tends to be a rough month for the Sooners. It looked like it would be another difficult month for OU to get through, starting off with a loss to Kansas State at home and then a 19-point blowout to Iowa State. The Sooners pieced together their confidence and upset then-No. 5 Kansas in their next outing, followed by a win over TCU.
Oklahoma is glowing as a rebuilt team under second-year coach Lon Kruger. The Sooners, who have had 13, 14 and 15 wins, respectively, in their last three seasons could break the 20-win plateau. The Sooners stand at 18 victories now. They've gone from cautious to aggressive, from scared to confident and from pushovers to dominators all because they've put their trust in Kruger.
*Junior forward Amath M'Baye. Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year; creator of the “This is OUr House” dunk.
*Senior guard Sam Grooms. Making a bid for All-Big 12 honors.
*Lon Kruger. Would be the first coach in the history of college basketball to take five different teams to the NCAA Tournament if Oklahoma gets a bid this year.
The Sooners have helped college hoops make a comeback in Oklahoma. Their victories have brought back the fans and ignited flames inside many children who have sat along the court during their practice. Those little fans have gone up for autographs and left by saying, “I'll be back one day to play.”
March Madness always delivers great storylines. The Sooners have their own offerings:
*Sam Grooms went from last year's starting point guard down to this year's scout team. His determination and focus the last few games have returned him to being the guy Lon Kruger counts on to handle the ball.
* Buddy Hield creates an energy that is contagious. The freshman guard from the Bahamas helps lift up the spirits of the team during practice and games, even though he's currently sidelined with a foot injury.
*Kruger inherited a program that wasn't winning. In his second season, he's pushing his Sooners to make a run for 20 victories and their first trip to the tournament in four years.
“Couple of things in the Sooners' favor: they've won a lot of road games, which is always a key to the selection committee. Strength of schedule is very good, and playing in an elite conference in the country that's near the top. An elite conference should bode well for their chances.” — Oklahoma assistant coach Steve Henson
“I'm not worried about Oklahoma making the tournament unless they go in a slump. These last four games are quite winnable ... They looked like they are favored in all of them. The one that would be dicey is the game with Texas. ... Oklahoma doesn't have any bad losses. They don't have anything close to a bad loss. ... I don't really see any reason on the fall out, even if they lost to Texas. Their profile isn't great. They look like a middle-seeded team. They just have to take care of business at TCU and protect their court at home.” – CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jerry Palm
Oklahoma at Texas
*When: 8:05 p.m. Wednesday
*Where: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
*TV: ESPN2 (Cox 28/HD 721; Dish 144; DirecTV 209; U-Verse 606/HD 1606)
*Radio: KOKC-AM 1520
Three things to know
*Oklahoma is 16-18 against Texas in Austin. The Sooners have lost their last seven in Austin.
*The last time the teams met, senior Romero Osby scored a career-high 29 points.
*After serving a 23-game NCAA suspension, Texas' Myck Kabongo has played four Big 12 games. He is averaging 15.5 points and 4.0 assists, shooting 46.5 percent from the field.