March 5, 2008

Coming into Bedlam Hot

What a late-season run for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

After a season which has seen OSU (16-12 overall, 7-7 Big 12) go from down to way down to up again, the ride is far from over. After suffering through a six game losing streak, the Cowboys have now won five games in a row. They've gone from no postseason hopes to fighting for a spot on the bubble. The unreal streak to the NCAA Tournament could continue tonight, with a win over Oklahoma tonight inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN Plus (KOCB-34 in Oklahoma City and Stillwater; KJRH-2 in Northeast Oklahoma).

While Bedlam is never an easy game for either side, the Cowboys look to be in great shape heading into the second Bedlam contest. The Sooners (19-10, 7-7) come to Orange Country missing one of their most-important pieces, as Blake Griffin is out tonight after suffering a partially-torn medial meniscus in his right knee in the Sooners' last game against Texas A&M on Saturday. He underwent an arthroscopic surgery procedure on Sunday and will be out until the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. That takes a big chunk out of OU's game plan, as he is clearly the centerpiece of the team, scoring 15.2 points and nabbing 9.3 rebounds per game. Look for him to be replaced in the lineup by Longar Longar, who has averaged 11.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg coming off the bench. Tony Crocker will probably be leaned on more tonight to take the lead, as he's averaging 11.2 ppg.

The Sooners were up and down all of last month, first losing three straight, then winning a pair of games before finally losing their last two outings in February. Even with their ups and downs last month, OU got March off to a solid start with a blistering 64-37 win over Texas A&M on Saturday. If you think that margin is ugly, check out the halftime number: 28-10 in favor of the Sooners. It's safe to say that A&M didn't have the best trip to Norman, but the Sooners were definitely on their game that day.

But if they expect to win tonight, they'll have to really be focused, especially without the better Griffin brother out on the court. For the Cowboys, this is another chance to prove the naysayers wrong, pick up another win and continue what has become an unbelievable streak. The turnaround the Pokes are experiencing right now is flat-out amazing. While it can't all be attributed to the much-improved play of Byron Eaton, a big share of it can. Simply put, his game being shifted into overdrive has powered OSU on this recent positive run. He's run the point solidly and has passed well, not to mention made timely baskets. His play recently is akin to Neo at the very end of The Matrix: He's finally getting it. Sure, maybe it's later than most wanted or expected, but better late than never, right? Right now, his play is backing up what Sean Sutton said about him in the past. Without his outstanding play, this recent winning streak doesn't exist.

And that brings us to the big game tonight. Bedlam always has the option to go crazy, so anything could happen tonight. But just looking at the recent trends of the two teams, tonight seems like it will be a good night for the Cowboys. The Sooners have been up and down and without Griffin are marginalized. OSU has been able to win and win lately and with this game being on Mr. Iba's white maple floor, things would seem to be breaking in favor of the Pokes. Just like when they were losing and you couldn't pick them, right now the Cowboys are winning and it's probably wise not to bet against them until proven otherwise.

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