Ranking the Division 1 basketball programs in Oklahoma is not an easy task. The Oklahoma State Cowboys would seem to be the clear favorite based purely on talent, but as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!”
Last season, the Cowboys played the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at home, escaping a near disaster, and won by only three. Then, a Cowboys team who was also clearly favored against the Oklahoma Sooners, ended up splitting the series 1-1. In turn, the Sooners took care of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles by 14 points in Norman, Oklahoma.
The Golden Eagles last season barely lost to the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the road, but then went on to defeat the Xavier Musketeers on the road and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at home in their next two match-ups. The Golden Eagles also defeated the Oakland Grizzlies who ended up going to the NCAA Tournament. But that experienced resume could be out the door this season as many of the starters from the year before graduated.
The Sooners and the Golden Hurricane both are in a rebuilding phase. The Sooners posted possibly the best record imaginable last season from first year coach Lon Kruger due to the circumstances still surrounding the university from the Jeff Capel and Kelvin Sampson era.
Likewise, the Golden Hurricane are one of the smallest private schools in the nation with one of the most prestigious histories. The facility is top notch, best in the state of Oklahoma, but due to Tulsa being a small private school, funding for coaches oftentimes falls short, and the Golden Hurricane struggles to keep a coach in place for more than a couple years.
This season the Golden Hurricane with the help of star shooter Scottie Haralson looks to compete against the Memphis Tigers in Conference USA. Haralson transferred from the Connecticut Huskies who played solid minutes off the bench his freshman year in 2009 when the Huskies went to the Final Four.
So, I predict that this will be an epic year for Oklahoma basketball with the Cowboys, Sooners, and Golden Eagles all making it to the NCAA Tournament. With recent injuries, the Cowboys will have to fight a little more, but if they finish with a winning record in the Big 12 Conference, they should be a lock for the big dance.
If the Sooners improve just the slightest amount on last season’s outcome, then they will make a convincing push for the tournament, but I am weary if such a task is even possible. The Golden Eagles perhaps have the easiest path to the tournament. Tournament officials remember how dominating the Golden Eagles were last season on their way to a regular season conference championship.
Tournament officials also remember the out lash from fans when the Grizzlies who won the conference tournament were selected over the Golden Eagles. On top of everything, Oral Roberts easily has the best coaching staff in the state between head coach Scott Sutton and his brother Sean Sutton as assistant. Look for these two to push the Golden Eagles to a championship their first season in Southland Conference. However, in a direct match up, the Cowboys would probably overpower the Golden Eagles and be named the top team in the state of Oklahoma.
Key Oklahoma match ups this season:
- November 28- Oklahoma @ Oral Roberts
- December 22- Tulsa @ Oral Roberts
- January 12- Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma
- February 16- Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State