Oklahoma basketball: Joe Lunardi still has Sooners as “Last 4 in”

LUBBOCK, TX - FEBRUARY 13: Trae Young /

It’s sad that we have to play the “what if” game to speculate whether Oklahoma basketball will make the NCAA Tournament, especially in a season that began with so much promise.

But that’s just the way it is. It has not been the best of seasons for the Oklahoma basketball program. Can you believe we are saying that after a 14-2 start.

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Perhaps we should be grateful that the Sooners are even on the bubble, given the deplorable state of affairs we’ve witnessed over the past 15 games (that’s half a season).

Much can still change between now and Sunday when the NCAA Basketball selection committee becomes the final voice in determining who’s in and who’s out, but at least one college basketball expert, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi of “Bracketology” fame believes that the Jekyll and Hyde Sooners still have a pulse as far as an NCAA Tournament bid is concerned…but just barely.

Oklahoma, losers of eight of its last 10 games and 11 of the last 15, is not a team that appears ready or worthy of making the 68-team NCAA Tournament field. In fact, the direction the Sooners have been going for over two months now is the antithesis of what the selection committee is looking for in filling out the brackets.

The Sooners late-season collapse could easily leave them on the outside looking in come Sunday. The outcome is completely out of OU’s control, and that is not a good position to be in at this time of the season.

If you examine Oklahoma’s full body of work on paper (43 BPI, 49 RPI, No. 3 strength of schedule and six quadrant one wins), it looks like the Sooners should be in. But if you have watched them on the court over the past six-to-eight weeks, your response would be completely the opposite.

If you listen to what college basketball experts and writers and broadcasters who cover the sport are saying about Oklahoma’s NCAA Tournament chances, you come away mixed opinions, but more seemingly siding with “should not be in” than “should.”

One widely followed expert who is projecting right now that the Sooners are “in the field,” but only on a play-in basis (the same as saying “last four in”) is ESPN’s Lunardi.

Based on Lunardi’s projections, Oklahoma would be an 11 seed, No. 65 to make the field, but would have to play another team on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, probably in Dayton, Ohio, and win to earn a spot in the actual 64-team field.

As an 11 seed – assuming, of course, that the Sooners would win their play-in game – OU would play a team seeded No. 6 in the second round. Given Oklahoma’s trend this season of not showing up in road games (OU has lost 10 consecutive games away from home), even this last-gasp scenario doesn’t sound all that encouraging.

What we know for certain right now is that Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and even Oklahoma State, the latter two of which beat the Sooners twice this season, are all fighting for one, or at most two, spots to make it into the tournament.

Head coach Lon Kruger is one of just two coaches who have taken five different teams to the NCAA Tournament, including the Sooners on four previous occasions. If the Sooners make it into the NCAA Tournament this season, they will be the only one of those five different programs under Kruger to make as many as five NCAA appearances.

Of course Kruger’s 2015-16 Oklahoma team, with National Player of the Year Buddy Hield, made it all the way to the Final Four.