NORMAN — This season's first Bedlam basketball game has more at stake than just a rivalry. It's about more than state bragging rights. This game is an early season Big 12 game with NCAA Tournament implications.
ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla, whose son James is a walk-on at OU, called Saturday's 2 p.m. tipoff between the Sooners and Oklahoma State the “biggest Bedlam game” in the last few years.
What matters right now to Sooners fans is that the “Oklahoma” name is being raised in tournament talk. As of Friday, ESPN's Joe Lunardi placed OU as the No. 11 seed in his Bracketology. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm had the Sooners as the No. 10 seed.
“They're a good wind shift from blowing out of the field because they could be caught from behind or lose on their own,” Lunardi said.
Including Saturday's game at Lloyd Noble, the Sooners have 17 conference games to determine their postseason. Last year, they lost their last six conference games. Fraschilla, Lunardi and Palm all agreed that can't happen this year.
Oklahoma needs to beat teams ranked in the top 50 in RPI and win at home. There's still a long road until March, but the Sooners' secret path may lie within their head coach.
OU already played nine Top 100 RPI teams. The only Top 50 RPI team was Gonzaga, which beat the Sooners soundly.
OU played only two teams below the RPI Top 200. Palm said for Oklahoma's RPI to be tournament worthy, it will “need to show they can compete against tournament-quality opposition.”
“Right now, I'd say they're kind of fooling the RPI and at some point they're not going to be able to do that,” he said.
After starting Big 12 season at West Virginia, the Sooners have back-to-back home games against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Then they go to Kansas State before returning home against Texas. Two final road games end OU's January conference play.