Oklahoma is still undefeated. It’s one of three teams in college basketball (SMU, South Carolina) yet to sport a scar this season.
This is so because on Saturday night arguably the best game of them all on college basketball’s weekend docket lived up to its reputation as the Sooners got past 11-1 Iowa State with an 87-83 home win. It was all we wanted it to be, all college basketball fans could hope for. Especially on a Saturday that didn’t feature an overwhelming slate of college football bowl games, you know?
You had two players near the top of the totem pole for the national player of the year, and not only did they show up large, but so did their teammates. Buddy Hield of Oklahoma had a team-high 22 points, while Iowa State star Georges Niang threw down 29 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
Iowa State shot 52 percent, but Oklahoma drained 11 3-pointers and only had seven turnovers. Up and down they went. Iowa State led early, by 11 points, but you had to figure this would be a 40-minute must-see affair. On a weekend of opening nights for widespread conference play, this was the shining example of how fun, competitive and meaningful and college basketball’s regular season can be. Sure, both teams will easily reach the NCAA Tournament, but seeding matters, especially when the margins will likely wind up being very small between two of the top 10 teams in the country, which Iowa State and Oklahoma absolutely are.
Had Monte Morris’ open 3-pointer fell in the closing seconds, Iowa State probably wins — and therefore disrupts a big opportunity for college hoops. See, Kansas beat Baylor earlier on Saturday, which means we’ll almost definitely get Sooners-Jayhawks in a 1 vs. 2 showdown at Phog Allen on Monday night.
Isaiah Cousins went off in the second half, scoring 15 points and more or less catalyzing Oklahoma’s victory. If he can show like that, and Ryan Spangler can come close to his 20-points-and-12-rebounds performance from Saturday, the Sooners will have a chance at taking out Kansas.
I said a chance. Few expect Lon Kruger’s unbeaten team to remain that way after KU did what it did to a good Baylor ball club. What a complete dismantling that was.
But hey, hopefully it’s a really good one. These 1 vs. 2 matchups (and it could be 1 vs. 1, as Oklahoma could wind up at the top team in the coaches poll, while Kansas gets first ranking in the AP) don’t come every season, or even every half-decade.
So it’s stellar timing for college hoops and even better for the Big 12, which is having another great regular season after last year’s run put it at No. 1 in the power metrics. And it’s not like Monday night will have to be the pinnacle for the conference. Chances are OU-KU won’t match what Iowa State-Oklahoma was, and the best part?
We’ll get to see these two again, in just 16 days. The Sooners travel to Hilton Coliseum on Jan. 18.