NORMAN — A wild Saturday in college basketball couldn’t have gone much better for Oklahoma.
Not only did the Sooners firmly lock themselves into the NCAA Tournament field — if they weren’t there already — with a 77-65 home win over Texas, but OU also benefitted from some other upsets around the country.
“It worked out,” bracketologist Shelby Mast said. “I don’t know if they could’ve hoped for better.”
Mast, who does bracket projections for USA Today and updates his projections daily starting Jan. 1 at BracketWAG.com, moved the Sooners up to a No. 4 seed in his Sunday morning projection.
The movement, up from a five in the days before, was helped by Louisville’s loss to Memphis and Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, another respected bracketologist, sees the Sooners in a similar spot.
Palm moved the Sooners up one seed to a four, thanks to those same results.
And, Mast says, they might not have reached their ceiling yet — though not everything is in their hands.
“I think Oklahoma now has eight top 50 wins and there’s not too many other teams that have that,” Mast said. “So I’ve got them as a four right now. They possibly could go up to a three if they keep winning. They could end up as a five as well, maybe a six at worst but I don’t see them going lower than that.”
In the final week of the regular season, Oklahoma hosts West Virginia on Wednesday before wrapping up the Big 12 season at TCU, which is winless in the conference, on Saturday.
After losing to West Virginia and Texas Tech in a span of three games, the Sooners have responded by winning three of four against teams that appear to be headed to the NCAA Tournament — Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas.
“That was big,” Mast said. “That Texas Tech loss, that surprised me. I was real high on Oklahoma at that point and I had to drop them because that’s a bad loss.
“But then to bounce back with three of four and all of those against top-notch competition, that’s really, really impressive.”
And OU is a team that could do some damage in the tournament.
“There’s probably 10 or 15 teams that could make a nice run to maybe the Elite Eight or Final Four or could lose first round,” Mast said. “I’ve got them in that batch. That’s not a knock. That’s just kind of the nature of the beast this year. There’s a lot of teams in that 12-13-11 rance that are good, good teams.”
Mast, who lives just outside Dallas, got started projecting brackets about a decade ago.
He followed ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, one of the pioneers in bracket projection.
“I got tired of waiting for him to post,” Mast said. “He only posted twice a week. Let me see if I can do this. First year I did it I was significantly more accurate than him.”
He emphasizes that his projections aren’t necessarily what he would do it it was up to him to draw the brackets.
“It’s hard sometimes to not put teams where I think they should go but I try to base it on what I think the committee will do,” Mast said. “Plus, there’s all the bracketing rules.”