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Sooners Surprising Many By Being In Position For NCAA Tournament

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The Oklahoma Sooners weren't expected to make a lot of noise this season after making their first NCAA tournament in five years last year.

However, the 25th-ranked Sooners have surprised everyone in the country by rocketing off to a 13-3 record, including Saturday's upset win over No. 9 Iowa State in Norman. Despite losing 40 percent of their scoring output from a season ago, the Sooners have been even better on offense this year, ranking sixth in the country in scoring offense with 87 points per game.

Now, the Sooners are looking close to sure bet to make their second straight NCAA tournament, that is, if they continue to play at this level the rest of the season. The Sooners will travel to Kansas State Tuesday night to take on the Wildcats in a huge road test. When Oklahoma takes the court, they will do so as a ranked team in the AP top-25 for the first time since November 23, 2009.

Here are a couple quick numbers on Oklahoma's season so far. The RPI numbers are based on the first set of rankings that were released late last week.

Nonconference schedule- No. 57

-This is a great number for the Sooners, who have mastered the art of scheduling for a team fighting for the NCAA tournament each year. Every game on the Sooners' schedule was winnable, and only three of those opponents ranked below 200 in the RPI. The tight loss to Michigan State on a neutral court looks really good as well.

Record vs. RPI top-50- 1-2

Record vs. RPI Top 100- 3-3

Record vs. RPI Top 150- 8-3

Remaining schedule (with RPI rankings)

Kansas State (2x) – 49, Baylor (2x) – 14, TCU (2x) – 183, Texas Tech (2x) – 155, Oklahoma State (2x) – 13, Iowa State – 3, West Virginia (2x) – 83, Kansas- 2, Texas- 61

Plan of action:

-Sweep: Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia, possibly Kansas State

-Aim for splits with: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State, Kansas

-Lose close

-Root hard for Louisiana Tech and Mercer

 

The depth of the Big 12 is a huge boost for the Sooners' hope for the NCAA tournament this year as it has turned into arguably the best conference in the country with Oklahoma's strong play, as well as the impressive play of Kansas State and even West Virginia and Texas, who are capable of beating any team in the conference. Even TCU and Texas Tech appear improved from a season ago.

However, because the conference schedule is such a gauntlet, it presents plenty of opportunities to slip up and begin to trend downward. This week is a great example of that. The Sooners take on Kansas State on the road on Tuesday before traveling to take on Baylor in Waco on Saturday. It's equally possible for the Sooners to win both, split, or lose both.

Either way, the Sooners have put themselves in a great position to make the NCAA tournament, and that position can be strengthened if non-conference opponents Louisiana Tech (which beat OU in Norman) and Mercer (which OU beat in Norman) win their respective conferences.

It's remarkable a second straight NCAA tournament is on the table for the Sooners right now, but the season is far from over and they could just as quickly find themselves back on the bubble in a matter of weeks.

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