Oklahoma basketball: All-Sooner Final Four of last three decades

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02: Exterior view of NGR Stadium before the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the Oklahoma Sooners on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The Wildcats won 95-51. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 02: Exterior view of NGR Stadium before the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the Oklahoma Sooners on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The Wildcats won 95-51. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

This is the weekend that the 2020 Final Four would have been held. The Oklahoma basketball team wasn’t expected to make it to Atlanta (more on that in a moment), but fellow Big 12 member Kansas was practically everyone’s pick to get that far.

In the absence of wall-to-wall basketball madness the last couple of weekends, projections and simulations of what might have been have cropped up all over the place. I even saw one the other day (FiveThirtyEight) that had the No. 9-seeded Sooners advancing all the way to the Elite Eight, leaving LSU, top-ranked Gonzaga and Oregon in their upset wake.

Wouldn’t that have been a nice finish to an up-and-down 2019-20 season that never reached the finish line.

The FiveThirtyEight simulation of the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship had Oklahoma losing to San Diego State in the round of eight and Kansas going all the way, defeating Michigan State for the national championship.

As I was surfing social media sites seeking out various fictional projections and tournament simulations, the thought came to me: What would it be like if Oklahoma’s three Final Four teams of the past 32 years and one other Final Four-worthy Sooner team competed in their own championship tournament? Which of those four great OU teams would win out?

I filled out the fantasy All-Sooner Final Four bracket with the 1987-88, 2001-02, 2008-09 and 2015-16 Oklahoma men’s teams. Three of those four OU teams were actual Final Four teams. The fourth, the 2008-09 Sooner team with Blake Griffin, was one of five Oklahoma teams to win 30 games in a season, but fell just short of advancing to the Final Four in 2009, falling to eventual national champion North Carolina in the Elite Eight.

Utilizing the website WhatIfSports.com, I set up a bracket with No. 1 1987-88 against 2008-09 in one semifinal game, and No. 2 2001-02 facing 2015-16 in the other semifinal matchup. I based the seedings on season record as well as how far each team was able to advance in its Final Four season. Because the 1987-88 OU team was the only one of the four that played in a national championship game, that team was awarded the No, 1 seed.

Another interesting aspect of this All-Oklahoma Final Four simulation, aside from just the fun of it, is that all four teams were coached by someone different. The 1987-88 team was coached by Billy Tubbs, Kelvin Sampson was the coach of the 2001-02 Sooners, Jeff Capel coached the Griffin brothers (Blake and Taylor) in 2008-09, and Lon Kruger was at the helm of the 2015-16 OU team featuring Buddy Hield.

Semifinal round

1987-88 Oklahoma 105, 2008-09 Oklahoma 95

Four ’87-88 Oklahoma starters scored in double figures and the ’87-’88 team exploded for 65 points in the second half to win a 105-95 offensive shootout against Blake Griffin and the 2008-09 Sooners.

The top-seeded’87-88 Sooners trailed by three points, 43-40 at the half, but took over the game in the second half behind a 25-point performance by Stacey King and 22 from Harvey Grant. Mookie Blaylock added 17, along with five steals, and Tyrone Jones contributed 17 points off the bench.

Griffin led all scorers with 28 points and 17 rebounds. Brother Taylor had 17 points and seven boards, and freshman Willie Warren collected 14 points.

2001-02 Oklahoma 79, 2015-16 Oklahoma 77

Ebi Ere led No. 2-seeded 2001-02 Oklahoma with 26 points and Hollis Price hit three of four three-point shots on the way to a 15-point performance, as Kelvin Sampson’s team outlasted Lon Kruger’s 2015-16 Sooner team 79-77.

The 2001-02 Sooners held a two-point, 39-37 advantage at the half, and the game remained close throughout the second half with neither team holding a lead of more than four points.

Junior point guard Jordan Woodard led the 2015-16 Sooners with 22 points. Buddy Hield scored 17, eight below his season average, and Isaiah Cousins was the third OU ’15-’16 player in double digits with 11 points.


In a classic No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup, the 1987-88 Oklahoma Sooners, paced by its two All-Americans, Mookie Blaylock and Stacey King , defeated the 2001-02 Sooners 80-72 to claim the unofficial title as the best OU men’s team of the past three-plus decades.

Blaylock scored 21 points and King and Harvey Grant added 18 and 12, respectively. King and Grant also had nine and eight rebounds, respectively, and Blaylock did what he does best, taking the ball away six times.

Hollis Price scored a game-high 24 points, with Ebi Ere and Aaron McGhee contributing 18 and 14 points, albeit in a losing cause.

The ’01-’02 Sooners held a sizeable 10-point rebounding margin (47 to 37), but weren’t able to capitalize on the offensive end.

Postscript: Recognizing that in a one-and-done elimination format, any team can win on a given day, I played out this same simulation five different times. The 1987-88 team won four out of five times against the 2008-09 Oklahoma team. The 2001-02 Sooners defeated the 2015-16 Sooners in three out of five simulations. In the championship round, however, Billy Tubbs ’87-88 team was 5-0 against Kelvin Sampson’s 2001-02 OU team.