“Dad, they’re only up by 17”--
Delivered with mock concern by my 14 year old son, a dyed in the wool Shocker fan, learning a little tongue in cheek while following Wichita State’s win at Southern Illinois last night.
14 and counting—
Gregg Marshall wasn’t too pleased with the way his team defended last night in Carbondale, but 60 percent shooting more than offset any defensive concerns in a blowout win of Southern Illinois. Cleanthony Early continues to grab the scoring headlines with 23 points, which is about his average for the last four games. Then there’s Fred Van Vleet with a second straight game without a turnover. In fact, over his last three games the sophomore has 18 assists against just one turnover, oh and he’s averaging over 13 points during that stretch. One game into the conference season and, barring injury, there’s no doubt who the Valley’s top point guard is— feel free to post that in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Usually points are much harder to come by with the opening of the conference season, but all five of the opening MVC winners this week have scored 70 or better, four of the five have managed 78 or more, three of them hit 80 and Drake put up 94 in their blowout of Evansville. I’d bet that’s an aberration instead of the start of a trend, although the winning margin in the first five games averaged nearly 20 points.
OU had just been blown out at Baylor, with road games at resurgent K-State and Bedlam in Stillwater, even the most ardent Sooner fans could see an 8-4 record in the making. But Oklahoma played with incredible purpose winning their last three games, then going to the Sugar Bowl and slaying the monster that is Alabama. Credit goes to Bob Stoops and his staff for staying the course despite rather loud grumblings in Norman. OU fan will never admit it now, but they were very nervous about how this game would turn out. Remember, the Sooners were embarrassed by Johnny Manzeil and Texas A&M in last year’s Cotton Bowl, I’m not sure they could have handled more humbling at the hands of the SEC. So, while they’ll claim they knew it all along, the fact is that most Sooner fans were just hoping to be respectable and that’s a fundamental shift in their expectations.
Maybe this will signal a return to prominence for Oklahoma which really hasn’t been a factor in the National Championship hunt since 2008. OU is likely to be the Big 12 favorite next year and the win against ‘Bama puts gale force winds in their sails for the off season. By the way, Bob Stoops is the only coach in the BCS era (since ’98) to win the Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta Bowl, Big Game Bob indeed. Big kudos to Geneo Grissom, the OU defensive end by way of Hutchinson was the best defensive player on the field last night. It’s hard to believe that he and KU’s Ben Heeney were on the same unit at Hutch, what a wrecking crew.