Will Sampson's Sooners dance in Oklahoma City?

See inside for Sooners Illustrated Editor Jay C. Upcurch's five reasons why Oklahoma deserves to play their first and second round games next weekend at the Ford Center. The official NCAA Tournament pairings will be announced today at 5 p.m. on CBS. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga )

KANSAS CITY - Worried about how the NCAA Selection Committee is going to evaluate Oklahoma's merits for the Big Dance? Well, join the crowd. With so many upsets and underdogs popping up all over the national radar screen, there are anxious players, coaches and fans in every corner of the land.

It's certainly going to be interesting to see how things unfold when the bracket is announced later today.

As for the Sooners, they pretty much did everything they could do over the last few weeks, short of winning the Big 12 Tournament title. Kelvin Sampson's crew won seven of its last eight games, including critical games at Texas and Texas Tech, and a home decision over Kansas.

Saturday's 69-63 loss to the Red Raiders in the Big 12 semifinals was the Sooners first loss since Feb. 12, a span of 28 days. Be assured that accomplishment has not gone unnoticed by the selection committee.

Whether or not OU did enough to earn a spot in the Oklahoma City regional - who knows? But clearly, the Sooners did as much or more than both Kansas and Oklahoma State, both of whom have their eyes on a short trip to the Ford Center.

"There's three teams and only two can go," said Sampson after his team's loss. "We finished strong, we shared the regular-season title and we were the No. 1 seed here. So we have that going for us."

Like everyone else with a stake in the pot, Sampson is in the dark on how things will turn out on Selection Sunday.

But for those of you who have already begun squirming in your favorite chair, waiting for the selection process to begin - relax and know the Sooners have plenty of positives the NCAA brain trust has been focused on in recent hours.

Here are five reasons why OU will be playing at the Ford Center later this week:

5. While they may not have been recognized by the national polls - ranked only 17th in the most recent AP voting - know that the committee puts less stock in polling than any other element in the selection process. Just because the voters were somewhat blind to OU's recent success doesn't mean it was lost on the folks who matter most.

4. Of the 16 teams ranked in front of OU, 13 of them suffered losses over the last week of the season, dating back to March 5. So while the loss to Texas Tech might seem damaging on the surface, it will be factored the same as OSU's loss to Texas. Meanwhile, Kansas lost to Missouri and OSU.

3. The Sooners' RPI ranking (somewhere around No. 12) is a few ticks behind both KU and OSU, but that fact is neutralized by OU's record against like opponents. OU had the same conference record as Kansas, despite the fact the Sooners play in the much tougher Big 12 South. And obviously Sampson's club had a better league mark than OSU.

2. Over and over, the NCAA Selection Committee has pointed to the way teams are playing in late February and early March, as opposed to teams who may have been hot early and cooled late. The fact the Sooners have been one of the hottest teams in the country over the last few weeks will carry plenty of weight with the NCAA. The late-season surge may not have guaranteed OU a spot in OKC, but it jumped the Sooners into consideration for a possible No. 3 seed, which seemed impossible back on Feb. 12.

1. Because Kansas has lost five of its last seven games, including setbacks against both Oklahoma and OSU, the Jayhawks did not earn a spot in OKC. The loss of guard Keith Langford also factors into KU's seeding and destination. The Sooners, by way of their strong finish and Big 12 title, and the Cowboys, thanks to their RPI and Big 12 Tourney performance get the nod for the two Ford Center spots.


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