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Bedlam Showing A Rebirth Of College Hoops In Oklahoma

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Bedlam basketball with conference title and NCAA Tournament seeding implications on the line.

Sounds good, right?

That's what we will see on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in a sold out and predictably raucous Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.

It's been a while since this state's college basketball fans have been able to enjoy an edition of the Bedlam series with something on the line for both teams. Actually, the last time was March 12, 2009 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, then known as the Ford Center.

That was the last meeting in which both teams went on to the NCAA Tournament. It was a 71-70 upset victory for the Pokes over the Blake Griffin-led Sooners, who were playing for a No. 1 seed in the tourney. OSU finished 22-10 and 9-7 in league play, undoubtedly solidifying its tournament résumé with the victory over OU.

Fast forward to Feb. 16, 2013, OSU hasn't made the Big Dance since 2010; OU hasn't made it since that Griffin-led team in 2008-09.

But Saturday in Stillwater shapes up much differently – and far more favorably for the state of college basketball in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State (18-5, 8-3 Big 12) will take its home floor riding a Big 12-best six-game winning streak and is in a three-way tie atop the conference standings.

The Cowboys have won in all kinds of ways, from buzzer beaters against Iowa State and Baylor to romps of Texas Tech and West Virginia.

They've won three consecutive road games, getting the road monkey off their back in the most unlikely of places when they upset No. 2 Kansas 85-80 in Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 2.

OSU is undeniably the conference's hottest team and, really, it all changed for the Cowboys in their Bedlam loss in Norman on Jan. 12.

The Cowboys lost to the Sooners 77-68, marking their third loss in four games at the time. The Sooners jumped out on the Pokes 21-10 in the first half, forcing OSU into bad shots, bad decisions and what was – at the time – a predictable meltdown on the road.

OSU was outplayed, outcoached, out hustled and out manned in every facet of the game. It seems that served as a painful wakeup call.

Since then OSU has been on a different level. Markel Brown has asserted himself as a dynamic No. 1 offensive threat. Marcus Smart has taken his well-rounded game to new heights. Phil Forte's consistency has improved, as has Le'Bryan Nash's in support roles.

But perhaps the most important development has been in the post, where big men Philip Jurick and Michael Cobbins have undergone complete mid-season transformations, giving OSU depth and stability. With Brian Williams and, to a lesser degree, Marek Soucek returning from injuries, the Cowboys are loaded for a run at their first Big 12 title since 2003-04.

The transformation didn't happen overnight but it has happened. And, despite OU's success recently, it appears the roles have somewhat reversed since the first meeting as OSU goes in as the heavy favorite in the arena of public opinion.

But for those conference title dreams to be realized, a win over the Sooners (16-7, 7-4) is a must. And that's no easy task. The Sooners have won two straight, including their own win over KU, and are just a game out of first in the Big 12.

OSU is infusing its young team with more confidence with each victory and a win against archrival Oklahoma, especially a good Sooner team, would go a long way toward giving this team the push it needs to finish strong and contend for the conference crown.

Getting it done in front of a rambunctious packed house in GIA would just add to the flavor of Bedlams of old. And hopefully it's just the beginning of a rebirth of this once storied rivalry.

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