This time of the year college basketball teams fall into one of three categories, either you're in, you're out, or you're on the bubble. Lon Kruger has run the gauntlet of those scenarios since becoming Oklahoma's basketball coach. In 2012 they were out heading into the conference tournament. A 15-15 record in the regular season had eliminated the Sooners from NCAA Tournament contention and a 62-53 opening round loss to Texas A&M sealed their fate and ended the season. In 2013 Kruger's team went to Kansas City on top of the bubble. Sporting a 20-11 record the Sooners fell once again in their first game, 73-66 to Iowa State, but even with the loss the selection committee found them worthy to dance.
Now Kruger owns the Big Tweleve's second best record and will undoubtedly be playing in the next week's opening round of the NCAA. For the first time under his watch at Oklahoma, Kruger has a team that is without the pressure of trying to play into the dance. Will that result in the coach earning his first post season win as a Sooner, the answer is uncertain and the pressure is different.
The Sooners are playing for seeding this year. With mock brackets showing Oklahoma as a #4 or #5 seed, Kruger's team has a whole lot to lose against a hungry, and athletic, Baylor team that trying to play their way off the NCAA Bubble. The two will have different perspectives when they hit the floor tonight with the Bears having nothing to lose and everything to gain by pulling off an upset in the quarterfinals.
Fresh off a 76-68 win over TCU on Wednesday night, the Bears are extending their season one game at a time. A win tonight over the nationally ranked Sooners would no doubt give them the launching pad to get off the bubble. The problem is, the Bears are 0-2 against the Sooners this season. Dropping contests 66-64, in Waco, and 88-72, in Norman, Oklahoma has seemed to have Baylor's number this year. However, you know what they say about trying to beat a team for the third time in a season?
The Big Twelve is the deepest basketball conference in the country and could see as many as seven teams selected on Sunday. That makes teams like Baylor very edgy, and needy.
Don't think the Sooners aren't feeling the same way though. Oklahoma hasn't won the Big Twelve Tournament since 2003 and Lon Kruger is 0-for in the postseason since arriving in Norman and he knows exactly what is on the line tonight against the Bears. "Guys have really played well," Kruger said on Monday. "Now have to finish strong!!" He has a team that can make a run into the NCAA but in order to do that they must first make a run in Kansas City.
The Sooners and Bears tip off at 6:00.