OU men's basketball: On brink for No. 1 spot

By John Helsley Published: February 21, 2009
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On the doorstep of claiming the program’s first No. 1 ranking in nearly 20 years, some Sooners are trying to keep cool about the possibility.

Yet for some, like senior Taylor Griffin, who can appreciate the climb, there’s no containing just how cool it would be.

"I think a lot of people hate that No. 1 spot, that No. 2 spot, whatever,” Griffin said. "They feel like it puts more pressure on you. That may be true, but we’re a good team.

"So enjoy the moment. This is something that not many college basketball players get to experience, let alone many programs.”

Oklahoma hasn’t been No. 1 since holding down the top spot in the final two regular-season polls in the 1989-90 season. Only two Sooner squads in history — that team and the 1988-89 group — can even claim a top ranking.

At 25-1 and ranked No. 2, these Sooners are situated in prime position to move up now that top-ranked Connecticut was beaten by Pittsburgh on Monday night.

"I’d love to be No. 1,” said OU freshman Willie Warren.

Of course, getting to No. 1 comes with a catch. OU must first beat Texas — on the road, with an 8 p.m. tip set at the Erwin Center, where the Longhorns have won three straight in the series.

Still, the Sooners ended a six-game losing streak to Texas earlier this season. And this team doesn’t resemble the OU squads that struggled to keep up athletically with the Longhorns in recent seasons.

So if the Sooners do win tonight, and do rise to No. 1, excuse Griffin for taking a moment to soak it all in.


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→When: 8 tonight

→Where: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas

→TV: ESPN (Cox 29)



No. 2 Oklahoma At Texas
When: 8 tonight

Where: Erwin Center, Austin, Texas.

Radio: KOKC 1520 AM

TV: ESPN (Cox 29)

Three things to know:

→ESPN’s national broadcast will feature analyst Dick Vitale, who will be getting his first in-person look at this year’s Sooners.

→Texas was held to a season-low 33.8 field goal percentage and 5-of-23 shooting from 3-point range in the first meeting with OU.

→The Longhorns carry home winning streaks of nine straight against Top 25 teams and five straight against top five foes, although none of either this season.

Projected starters

Texas (17-8, 6-5)
Pos. Player Ht. Cl. Pts. Reb.
F Gary Johnson 6-6 So. 22.8 14.2
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. 15.6 9.0
G A.J. Abrams 5-11 Sr. 16.8 2.1
G Dogus Balbay 6-0 So. 2.4 2.6*
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. 6.8 4.8*
Oklahoma (25-1, 11-0)
F Blake Griffin 6-10 So. 22.8 14.2
F Taylor Griffin 6-7 Sr. 8.9 5.8
G Tony Crocker 6-6 Jr. 10.0 3.3
G Willie Warren 6-4 Fr. 14.9 2.8*
G Austin Johnson 6-3 Sr. 8.8 4.3*
* assists


With a win tonight at Texas, Oklahoma likely becomes the nation’s new No. 1 team come Monday.

"It’s cool,” said Sooner star Blake Griffin. "I think it’s more important to finish out No. 1 than to be No. 1 now. It’s an honor, but I’d much rather be No. 1 at the end than now.”

Therein lies the trick.

While getting to No. 1 is an accomplishment, staying there is another matter.

Not since 1996 has the team that stood No. 1 in the Associated Press poll the first week of March emerged No. 1 when it mattered most – after the Final Four.

Year No. 1 in early March Champion
2008 North Carolina Kansas
2007 Ohio State Florida
2006 Connecticut Florida
2005 Illinois North Carolina
2004 Stanford Connecticut
2003 Arizona Syracuse
2002 Kansas Maryland
2001 Stanford Duke
2000 Cincinnati Michigan State
1999 Duke Connecticut
1998 Duke Kentucky
1997 Kansas Arizona
1996 Kentucky Kentucky

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