Barely over two weeks ago, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma both were on the brink of seeing promising seasons go far downhill, both on the kind of negative roll that has paralyzed the campaigns of teams like Minnesota and California this year.
There are no such concerns anymore. Both the Cowboys and Sooners have warmed back up over the last couple weeks, no better symbolized than their back-to-back wins Monday night when OSU first won at Baylor 74-65 and then Oklahoma outran Iowa State 94-83 later on.
Both games displayed just how thin the margin is between Big 12 teams, and how games can turn on ebbs and flows. Both Baylor and Iowa State held substantial leads late in the first half, but the Oklahomas were the superior teams in the second half. OU scored 48 points in the final 20 minutes, Okie State tallied 42. These were commanding performances in money time by a pair of excellent teams against two more excellent squads. In other words, these are the type of games the NCAA Tournament is full of.
Since both teams lost on Jan. 24, Oklahoma is 5-0, while Oklahoma State is 4-1. The Cowboys’ only loss? To their state rivals from the Big 12.
Both teams have three wins over Top 25 teams in that span. Oklahoma has been borderline dominant in its five-game winning streak, winning four of its five games by double figures, while OSU has conquered a very tough Baylor team twice and defeated Kansas, which in itself is always notable for any team.
Of course, when a league is as competitive as the Big 12 this year, a hot streak in season doesn’t guarantee continued success going forward. But both the Cowboys and Sooners are proving they can get on a hot stretch, home or away, against quality competition. That’s a pretty handy trait to have going into the NCAA Tournament.
- Duke has had trouble with Florida State for years, and the Blue Devils had a scare but held off the Seminoles 73-70. Three wins in six days for the Dukies…not bad at all.
- Stephen F. Austin keeps on rolling. The Lumberjacks passed one of their biggest tests left in the regular season, winning at Northwestern State 93-82. SFA has won 32 straight in Southland Conference play, the longest conference streak in Division I.
- UNC-Asheville has temporarily pulled one-half game ahead of five other teams in the wild Big South after a 92-89 win at Gardner-Webb, which also was tied for the top spot entering the night. No scoring issues here: the two teams combined to shoot 58.2% from the field.
- Maryland-Eastern Shore handed Norfolk State just its second loss in the MEAC, defeating the Spartans on the road 82-64. Devin Martin scored 25 for the Hawks, who continue to have one of the biggest turnarounds in the country.
- BYU and coach Dave Rose have agreed to a contract extension through 2019-20. Rose and the Cougars have been a natural fit since he took over the program in 2005, and he has won 250 games in 10 years with the school.
- Good article in the Orange County Register about the challenges being faced by Pac-12 schools trying to get fans in the seats. These are the types of tradeoffs conferences are going to have to examine over and over in the future, whether completely selling out to TV interests for the short-term money is worth the possibility of diminished interest in the sport in the long term.
Kentucky at LSU (7 p.m. EST, ESPN) The best remaining chance for a Wildcats loss in the regular season. LSU has the size, athleticism and even outside shooting to beat UK.
Cincinnati at Temple (7:30 p.m. EST, CBSSN) Funny that these two are 3-4 in the AAC right now. Ugly as some of their games are, resume-wise they’re probably the two most worthy NCAA Tournament teams at the moment.
Notre Dame at Clemson (7 p.m. EST, ESPN2) How does the Irish bounce back after getting smoked by Duke? On top of that, the Tigers want but really just about need this one to continue their NCAA tourney push.
Georgetown at Seton Hall (7 p.m. EST, FS1) Crucial game especially for the Pirates, who have a rough road stretch coming up and need this one badly to stop some recent bleeding.
Almost any game in the MAC Kent State-Akron, Western Michigan-Bowling Green, Toledo-Buffalo, Central Michigan-Ohio. All of them are important in the incredibly competitive MAC standings.
Wisconsin at Nebraska (9 p.m. EST, ESPN) The Cornhuskers won this game last year and will have a charged-up home crowd behind them.
New Mexico at Colorado State (11 p.m. EST, ESPNU) The Rams just need to keep winning.
Have a terrific Tuesday.