NORMAN – This college basketball season teaches us why they shoot horses. Some things just need to be put out of their misery.
Bedlam basketball Part II convenes Wednesday night in Lloyd Noble Center, and what once was one of the state's biggest sporting nights will be greeted with a yawn.
Losing will do that to you. The Sooners are 13-13, the Cowboys 13-14.
Worse yet, OSU and OU once stood with Texas as worthy foes to Kansas supremacy in the Big 12. Now OU is 3-11 in the conference and 12-34 in Big 12 games the last three seasons. OSU is 6-8 in the conference after going 6-10 a year ago.
Is this the price our state's sporting crowd must pay for its bounty? Do two big-time football programs and an NBA dream team mean the college hoops have to stink?
Maybe not. Hopefully not. Please, basketball providence, say it ain't so.
Truth is, we took those glorious winters of yesteryear a little for granted. That quarter century of Billy Tubbs and Kelvin Sampson, with the Blake Griffin topper, producing elite basketball in Soonerville. That 15-year run of Eddie Sutton that transformed Cowboy Country.
Promise we won't do that again. Get back to competitive basketball, entertaining basketball, dare we say championship basketball, and we'll appreciate it.
But will we get that chance? Can the Cowboys or Sooners find their way back to the roundball map?
There are reasons to think so. The validity of those reasons probably depends on your level of general life optimism, but at least there are seeds of hope.
In Stillwater, the young core. OSU actually has a pulse, having won three of its last four winnable games (at Kansas, at Missouri don't count).
The 40-point man, Keiton Page, is a senior, but Travis Ford is playing five freshmen, plus sophomore whiz Markel Brown.
“We all wish we were sitting here 25-4, sure,” said Ford. “But this is a foundation. Anytime you have a team like we have that overachieves, performs the way we've performed, I do call it a success.”
Well, success seems to be an overstatement. But the Cowboys are playing much better. Ford's roster was gutted by injury, defections and legal issues, and he deserves blame for the latter two. Watch who you recruit.
Still, the bare-bones rotation has identified the guys who can play and who want to. That's a big change from earlier in the year.
If LeBryan Nash resists the NBA urge – a big if, for anyone, no matter what he says now – then the Cowboys have a fighting chance next season.
“We're trying to make the most out of this season,” said OSU freshman Brian Williams. “But we're definitely looking forward to next season. We'll be back.”
Reason for optimism is not quite so high with the Sooners. OU returns every rotation player except C.J. Washington, but is that a good thing? Should we expect players who have done this much losing to suddenly become good enough to win?
Juniors Andrew Fitzgerald and Steven Pledger are 40-49 in their OU careers. Junior Carl Blair and sophomores Cameron Clark and Tyler Neal are 27-31.
OU's faith rests not with its players, but with its coach. Lon Kruger has won at Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and Nevada-Las Vegas. Hasn't taken him long to stage his turnarounds. Can he do the same with the Sooners in Year 2?
“I hope so,” Kruger said. “They've worked. They've played with enthusiasm. This group has a basis to work from. But we've got a long way to go. But we knew that coming in.”
The Cowboys have been short-handed. And just plain short. The Sooners have been short-hearted. Truth is, they haven't been tough enough.
“Everyone wants to win,” Kruger said. “But we said from the start, we've got to do things better to win in the Big 12.”
OU is not physical enough. Not tenacious enough. Loose balls don't drop into your lap. They are recovered by players determined to secure them.
“We just haven't played as well as we could,” said OU point guard Sam Grooms. “We took possessions off. In the Big 12, if you don't play well every possession, playing such high-caliber teams, you get exposed.”
So the Bedlam rematch arrives with little fanfare. Maybe next season it will be a little more like the old days. And if it ever gets back all the way, perhaps we'll appreciate it a little more.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.