By CLAY HORNING
NORMAN — According to that great social scientist Joe Lunardi, better known ESPN’s hoops bracketologist, Oklahoma is a No. 9 seed at the Midwest Regional and will meet Colorado in Lexington, Ky., to kick off March Madness.
If that sounds hopeful, get a load of CBS’ Jerry Palm, who has the Sooners a No. 7 seed facing Wisconsin in Philadelphia at the East Regional.
Of course, watching the Sooners against Texas Monday night at Lloyd Noble Center, a Big Monday for a program that needed one, trying to figure out the Sooners is anybody’s guess.
They won 73-67, but good luck finding a common and consistent thread.
For a while, OU appeared lost as Texas did its best impression of a bad high school team, turning the ball over seven straight possessions.
OU’s biggest lead during the stretch was four points. Soon the Longhorns had the lead and the only thing keeping the Sooners close seemed to be the whirling dervish known as freshman guard Buddy Hield.
Only that was before the Romero Osby show got rolling. Osby scored 10 points the last 10 minutes of the first half and 12 more the first 7:34 of the second half. He finished with 29.
Meanwhile, the Sooners appeared to put Texas away with a pair of baskets in the second-half’s seventh minute, between two of Osby’s baskets.
Je’Lon Hornbeak had lost track of the shot clock, but Amath M’Baye hadn’t. M’Baye cut to the basket, received the pass from Hornbeak and hit a reverse layup that set off the crowd, which was fully aware of the shot-clock predicament.
Next, Hield blocked Demarcus Holland’s shot, grabbed the ball, began the break and ended it by tossing the most out-of-nowhere alley-oop assist you’ll ever seen. M’Baye slammed it home and the Sooners led 50-38.
The roof went off the joint.
Then Texas, which hardly played well at all and whose coach, Rick Barnes, appeared so unbothered that he hardly got out of his chair, was right back within seven points, then six and, in the final minute, four.
The Sooners beat the Longhorns by six points Monday night, but it should have been 30.
On the other hand, what can anybody expect from a team that starts three newcomers, two of them freshman, and whose leader, Osby, though tough as nails, still entered the night averaging less than 14 points.
They’re an interesting lot.
This bunch of Sooners gives you so many flashes from so many sources. They make anything seem possible. Yet there they were Monday night, refusing to put a bad bunch of Longhorns away.
Yet they won.
They’ve won 13 of 17 overall and none of the losses are bad. Stephen F. Austin, for crying out loud, is 16-1, the Lumberjacks’ only loss by eight points at Texas A&M. Monday made the Sooners a stunning 4-1 against Big 12 Conference foes.
OU struggles to put its best self on the floor from one media timeout to another, but watch the Sooners play 40 minutes and there’s a lot of good to go around.
If he sticks around for four years and stays out of trouble, the Sooner Nation might feel about Hield something like it felt about Hollis Price back in the good old days. Hield’s got the disposition, a penchant for playmaking and doesn’t make mistakes in the big moments, which is no small thing.
Osby’s becoming more dependable by the game, averaging 19.2 points over his last five. And Steven Pledger, though he scored only five Monday, can still fill it up and is bound to again, maybe Saturday afternoon at No. 4 Kansas, OU’s next stop.
Who knows what they’ll look like that day?
It might be good.