After a solid start to the season, the Oklahoma Sooners reverted back to preseason expectations during conference play. Yet, despite the questionable effort down the stretch, OU is still a safe bet to have its name called when the NCAA Tournament bracket is unveiled.
Time: 5 p.m. CT, March 17
Live Stream: NCAA.com
Oklahoma’s conference (7-11) and overall record (19-13) are decidedly underwhelming, but team’s inclusion isn’t going to be a huge surprise when considering how the current system is set up. The NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) ratings put a huge emphasis on strength of schedule, and OU’s SOS currently ranks 14th nationally. Additionally, the quadrant system obviously tends to favor the Oklahomas and Ohio States of the world while leaving schools like Lipscomb and Belmont in the lurch. Finally, as far as the current system is concerned, the Sooners don’t have a “bad loss”, although basic logic would indicate that their losses to West Virginia are, in fact, terrible.
Before Sunday’s games, OU was positioned at No. 37 in the NET Rankings and projected to be a 10-seed by both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm. When looking at the other schools that are in the running, it pretty much checks out. OU rarely looked like a tournament team down the stretch, but the other schools that are on or near the bubble aren’t exactly prizes either. TCU (7-11), Ohio State (8-12) and St. John’s (8-10) each finished with losing conference records and are considered to be behind OU in the pecking order. However, each is projected to make the field, so they essentially serve as a buffer between the Sooners and any true danger of missing the Big Dance. OU is also considered to be ahead of Arizona State, who finished with a 22-11 (12-6) record but did so in a terrible PAC-12 Conference. You can then look at teams that are projected to on the outside looking in — such as Alabama (18-15, 8-10), Indiana (17-15, 8-12) and Creighton (18-14 with a head-to-head loss to OU) — and it all kind of makes sense.
Many are making the argument for the previously-mentioned Belmont (26-5) and Lipscomb (25-7) to make the field over some of the unimpressive high-majors, but their inclusion would more likely be at the expense of a TCU or a St. John’s. Personally, I’d love to see those guys get a shot, as they’d come in with chips on their shoulders and add a bit more intrigue. However, with their respective strengths of schedule sitting at 199 (72 non-con) and 208 (50 non-con), I won’t be shedding a tear.