On March 14, 1939, in Municipal Auditorium in downtown Oklahoma City, Henry Iba’s Oklahoma A&M team and Bruce Drake’s Oklahoma squad played a basketball game.
The biggest Bedlam game of them all.
The game was called an NCAA district game. The winner advanced to the very first NCAA Tournament, which consisted of eight teams in those dusty days.
The Sooners beat the Cowboys 30-21 that night in what basically was a Sweet 16 game.
Seventy-five years later, time for an encore.
What 56 years of conference basketball tournaments never have done, what Carmelo Anthony torpedoed 11 years ago, what seemed a pipe dream as recently as a few weeks ago, is at least a possibility.
OU-OSU in the Sweet 16.
The 10 members of the NCAA basketball committee have made it possible for the Cowboys and Sooners to stage a showdown unlike any other in our hoops history.
Both OSU and OU were placed in the West Regional and could meet in the semifinals on March 27 in that most Oklahoma-like hamlet of Anaheim, Calif.
Of course, the Sooners and Cowboys will have to win their way to Disneyland. And there’s the rub.
OU might be favored to get there. The fifth-seeded Sooners play North Dakota State on Thursday in Spokane, Wash., and the winners get the winner of San Diego State-New Mexico State.
Don’t underestimate the Bison. The same school that beat Kansas State in football last August plays a mean game of hoops. North Dakota State won at Notre Dame in December. And San Diego State, you know all about. The Aztecs took out the Lonny Krugers in the 2013 NCAAs.
But the Sooners won’t be physically overpowered, which means it could come down to guard play and coaching. The Sooners have lots of both.
OSU’s road to Anaheim is much more treacherous. Gonzaga is first, Friday in San Diego, and like all matchups of 8-9 seeds, that’s a tossup.
But the Cowboys are not a typical 9-seed. They’re playing much better than in mid-season, when a variety of issues brought about a seven-game losing streak. The recent Marcus Smart is back to being the vintage Marcus Smart, and having the best player on the court is always a good place to start a game.
Yet top-seeded Arizona would almost surely await in the regional quarterfinals. U of A is a bear of a team. One of the three best in America, along with Florida and Wichita State, based on the totality of the Wildcats’ season.
To beat Arizona, OSU will need the kind of performance that routed Memphis in November and took Kansas to the wire at Allen Fieldhouse in January.
Not likely, but possible.
Which could produce a Bedlam Sweet 16.
All thanks to a new bracket policy by the NCAA committee. Until this year, conference members were kept apart until at least the regional finals.
But with the expansion of conferences, that became more difficult for the bracket. Committee members in recent years have changed teams’ seeds to avoid conference matchups.
Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman, chairman of the committee, said he heard from coaches that they would rather have earlier conference matchups than changing seeds.
So the policy was changed. If conference foes played three times in the season, they could not meet until the regional finals. If they met only twice, they could meet in the Sweet 16. If they met only once, they could meet in the round of 32.
Wellman said the policy worked great. He said no teams’ seeds were adjusted to avoid conference rematches.
So the policy exists for Sweet 16 games of UCLA-Colorado, Wisconsin-Nebraska, Michigan-Iowa, Cincinnati-Memphis and Providence-Villanova. Conference games all.
OU and OSU have been playing together in Big Eight and Big 12 tournaments since December 1958 and have never met in a championship game.
In 2003, the Sooners and Cowboys both were in the East Regional. OU eventually made the East finals, where the Sooners ran into Carmelo and Syracuse. The Orangemen had overcome a 17-point deficit to knock off OSU in the East quarterfinals.
Bedlam averted. Here’s hoping it transpires this time, on the 75-year anniversary of the biggest Bedlam of them all.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.