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The Oklahoman

Tramel's ScissorTales: Will another Big 12 team win the NCAA Tournament in 2023?

By Berry Tramel, Oklahoman,

2023-03-14

The NCAA Tournament is not nearly as much fun as it is when we’ve got a bunch of Oklahoma men's basketball teams competing.

Which is not the case in 2023 . Oral Roberts is the sole flagbearer for Oklahoma . The 12 th -seeded Golden Eagles play Duke on Friday in Orlando.

But the NCAA Tournament remains tons of fun. Even when college basketball gives us a blah season full of low-scoring games and indistinguishable teams caused by transfer portal makeovers, even when coaches won’t take their hands off this sport’s neck, March Madness never disappoints.

Cinderellas like St. Peter’s and Loyola-Chicago, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, and some even stay in the castle, like Butler and Gonzaga.

Major-conference upstarts, like Texas Tech and Oregon State, Auburn and Kansas State.

The NCAA Tournament is nothing like its football brother. This is an equal opportunity endeavor, full of buzzer-beaters and instant heroes, broken brackets and broken hearts.

The tournament starts Tuesday with two games. Sixty-five more will follow over a three-week period that captivates America.

Here are my picks, with the chances of getting every game right something along the lines of four quintillion. I’ll consider it a success if I go 2-0 on the Tuesday First Four games.

More: Men's NCAA Tournament 2023: 10 bold predictions for March Madness

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First Four

16-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. 16-Southeast Missouri State: A&M-Commerce. This is SEMO’s second NCAA appearance, joining the 2000 team. A&M-CC was in the First Four a year ago.

11-Mississippi State vs. 11-Pittsburgh: Hail State. The Bulldogs were 12-8 when they hosted Texas Christian on January 28 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Mississippi State pulled out the upset in overtime, starting a 9-5 stretch that put Hail State in the NCAAs.

16-Texas Southern vs. 16-Fairleigh Dickinson: TSU. The Tigers have cracked the code; they’ve won three straight First Four games, 2018, 2021, 2022.

11-Arizona State vs. 11-Nevada: ASU. The Sun Devils probably don’t make the dance without a halfcourt shot that beat Arizona a few weeks ago. But halfcourt shots count.

More: Tramel's ScissorTales: Avery Anderson's injury keeps OSU basketball out of NCAA Tournament

Midwest Regional

First round

1-Houston vs. 16-Northern Kentucky: UofH. Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars get a breather to begin their journey.

8-Iowa vs. 9-Auburn: Auburn. What a gift for the Tigers. A first-round assignment in Birmingham, 110 miles from the Loveliest Village.

4-Indiana vs. 13-Kent State: IU. I can’t explain it, but Mid-American Conference football teams are much more likely than their basketball brothers to spring an upset.

5-Miami vs. 12-Drake: Drake. Call me a sucker for the Missouri Valley.

3-Xavier vs. 14-Kennesaw State. Xavier. This is the first NCAA Tournament for Kennesaw State, which sits in the Atlanta suburbs.

6-Iowa State vs. 11-Mississippi State: ISU. Lots of First Four teams advance once they reach the main bracket, but the Cyclones’ defense is tough. That’s why Iowa State was swept by the Sooners and Cowboys. Its forte was negated. OSU and OU can’t score on anybody.

7-Texas A&M vs. 10-Penn State: A&M. The Aggies seem underseeded. They placed second in the Southeastern Conference, in both regular season and tournament.

2-Texas vs. Colgate: UT. Whoa, Nellie. A&M vs. Texas for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Second round

1-Houston vs. 9-Auburn: Auburn. The groin injury to Houston star Marcus Sasser worries me. If he can’t go, the Cougars’ Final Four chances take a big dip.

4-Indiana vs. 12-Drake: Drake. You know a 12-seed is reaching the Sweet 16. You just don’t know which one. I’ll stick with the Mo Valley.

3-Xavier vs. 6-Iowa State: Xavier. I just can’t go too far with a team that got swept by both OSU and OU.

7-Texas A&M vs. 2-Texas: UT. The committee doesn’t go out of its way to set up these juicy showdowns. But sometimes it happens naturally.

Sweet 16

9-Auburn vs. 12-Drake: Auburn. My love for the Valley only goes so far.

3-Xavier vs. 2-Texas: UT. The Longhorns are loaded and playing great.

Elite Eight

9-Auburn vs. 2-Texas: UT. A rather easy path for the Longhorns to the Final Four.

More: Tramel: Why a nine-game SEC football schedule is no sure thing when OU, Texas join

West Regional

First round

1-Kansas vs. 16-Howard: Kansas. Coach Bill Self is expected back, but just as important is wing man Kevin McCullar, who missed most of the last two Big 12 Tournament games with back spasms.

8-Arkansas vs. 9-Illinois: Arkansas. Tough matchup for Illini coach Brad Underwood, who is in his sixth season since leaving OSU . Underwood is 2-2 in the NCAAs with Illinois and hasn’t advanced to the Sweet 16.

4-Connecticut vs. 13-Iona: UConn. Rick Pitino, coaching Iona, vs. an old Big East power, while being rumored for some Big East jobs (St. John’s, Georgetown). That’s a rich storyline.

5-St. Mary’s vs. 12-Virginia Commonwealth: VCU. Classic mid-major matchup. St. Mary’s isn’t playing well, VCU is.

3-Gonzaga vs. 14-Grand Canyon: Gonzaga. Know who coaches Grand Canyon? Valparaiso legend Bryce Drew, who 25 years ago this March hit the famous buzzer-beater in Oklahoma City.

6-TCU vs. 11-Arizona State: TCU. Can the Horned Frogs help the Big 12 go 7-0 in the first round?

7-Northwestern vs. 10-Boise State: Boise State. The Broncos are known for football, but here they come on the hardwood.

2-UCLA vs. North Carolina-Asheville: UCLA. In NCAA Tournament games with the Bruins, coach Mick Cronin is 7-2. That’s a heck of a record.

Second round

1-Kansas vs. 8-Arkansas: Arkansas. Tough matchup for the Jayhawks. The Razorbacks are ultra-athletic. Kansas is ultra-unathletic.

4-Connecticut vs. 12-Virginia Commonwealth: UConn. I’ve got Bobby Hurley going out in the first round with Arizona State, but I’ve got Danny Hurley’s Huskies advancing.

3-Gonzaga vs. 6-TCU: Gonzaga. The Zags are battle-tested. What a culture. Gonzaga has been to 25 straight NCAAs. They’ve won 41 March Madness games from 1999-2022.

10-Boise State vs. 2-UCLA: UCLA. Hey, I wish Mick Cronin had stayed at Cincinnati. That would make Big 12 basketball even tougher going forward.

Sweet 16

8-Arkansas vs. 4-Connecticut: Arkansas. The Razorbacks under Eric Musselman are good in March; 6-2 the last two years.

3-Gonzaga vs. 2-UCLA: Gonzaga. A West Coast dream matchup in Las Vegas. The Pacific Coast’s top two programs.

Elite Eight

8-Arkansas vs. 3-Gonzaga: Gonzaga. The Bulldogs long ago left the land of Cinderella. But this year, they’ve gone a little incognito.

More: Tramel's ScissorTales: Jennie Baranczyk's passion includes taking to the practice court

South Regional

First round

1-Alabama vs. 16-Texas A&M-Commerce: Bama. The Brandon Miller saga begins. As many questions about a Tuscaloosa murder as the Crimson Tide basketball team.

8-Maryland vs. 9-West Virginia: WVU. The biggest threat to the Big 12 in the first round.

4-Virginia vs. 13-Furman: Virginia. Lots of pundits think Furman will take out the Cavaliers, but I don’t see it.

5-San Diego State vs. Charleston: San Diego State. The Mountain West went 0-4 in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Now the Mountain West again has four teams in. Surely it won’t go winless again.

3-Baylor vs. 14-Cal-Santa Barbara: Baylor. The Bears’ defense isn’t what it was in the NCAA championship year of 2021, but the Bears remain potent.

6-Creighton vs. 11-North Carolina State: Creighton. The majority thinks N.C. State is the least-deserving team in the field, but the Wolfpack wasn’t even asked to play in Dayton for the First Four.

7-Missouri vs. 10-Utah State: Utah State. Maybe you haven’t heard of Utah State coach Ryan Odom. But you’ve heard of his former team. Odom coached Maryland-Baltimore County to a 2018 NCAA upset of Virginia, the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed.

2-Arizona vs. 15-Princeton: ‘Zona. The first NCAA Tournament since legendary Princeton coach Pete Carril died last August.

Second round

1-Alabama vs. 9-West Virginia: Alabama. How did it ever happen that OU beat Bama 93-69 back in late January?

4-Virginia vs. 5-San Diego State: Virginia. First team to 48 wins.

3-Baylor vs. 6-Creighton: Baylor. I know people are down on Baylor, after back-to-back losses to Iowa State. But the Cyclones are particularly built (elite perimeter defense) to stop the Bears.

7-Utah State vs. 2-Arizona: ‘Zona. Much like Oral Roberts is Oklahoma’s only NCAA Tournament team, Utah State is Utah’s only rep. Brigham Young and Utah did not make the field. But it ends here for the Aggies.

Sweet 16

1-Alabama vs. 4-Virginia: Bama. Virginia can slow down teams. But not Alabama. Not enough.

3-Baylor vs. 2-Arizona: ‘Zona. Two big and good teams, but the Wildcats are just a tad bit better.

Elite Eight

1-Alabama vs. 2-Arizona: ‘Zona. The Wildcats pull the upset, sparing America a “Dateline” episode at the Final Four.

More: Tramel: How Brett Yormark's TV deal is already paying off for Big 12 Conference

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East Regional

First round

1-Purdue vs. 16-Texas Southern: Purdue. Probably going to be awhile before there’s another Maryland-Baltimore County.

8-Memphis vs. 9-Florida Atlantic: Memphis. I have to plead ignorance. I know very little about FAU. I looked it up. Second all-time NCAA Tournament appearance. Coach Dusty May was a student manager under Bobby Knight in the late 1990s.

4-Tennessee vs. 13-Louisiana-Lafayette: Louisiana. The Volunteers lost star point guard Zakai Zeigler to a major knee injury last week.

5-Duke vs. 12-Oral Roberts: Duke. Bummer of a draw for ORU. The other 5-seeds – Miami, St. Mary’s, San Diego State – would have been much easier to navigate than are the Blue Devils.

3-Kansas State vs. 14-Montana State: K-State. Much of the nation will be pulling for KSU coach Jerome Tang, who finally got a shot at a good head-coaching job and has made the most of it.

6-Kentucky vs. 11-Providence: Kentucky. Providence star Bryce Hopkins transferred from UK.

7-Michigan State vs. 10-Southern Cal: Michigan State. Tom Izzo has taken the Spartans to Final Fours in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2019. So Izzo is about due again.

2-Marquette vs. 15-Vermont: Marquette. Can the Catamounts create a homecourt advantage? It’s only 150 miles from Burlington, Vermont, to Albany, New York, site of this game.

Second round

1-Purdue vs. 8-Memphis: Purdue. The Boilermakers haven’t reached a Final Four since 1980. Remarkable drought for such a tradition-rich program.

13-Louisiana vs. 5-Duke: Duke. The Ragin’ Cajuns aren’t likely to produce back-to-back upsets.

3-Kansas State vs. 6-Kentucky: K-State. The Wildcats beat UK in the 2018 Sweet 16.

7-Michigan State vs. 2-Marquette: Marquette. Shaka Smart took VCU to a Final Four and was shoved out at Texas but now is riding high with the pride of Milwaukee.

Sweet 16

1-Purdue vs. 5-Duke: Duke. Oh, the humanity. On March 15, 1980, Purdue beat Duke in the Mideast Regional final to reach the Final Four. The next day, Duke coach Bill Foster resigned to take the South Carolina job (yes, the South Carolina job). Two days after that, Duke hired Mike Krzyzewski to coach the Blue Demons. Since then, Duke has been to 13 Final Fours. Purdue has been to zero.

3-Kansas State vs. 2-Marquette: K-State. Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson become household names across the NCAAs.

Elite Eight

5-Duke vs. 3-Kansas State: Duke. Jon Scheyer becomes a worthy successor to Krzyzewski.

More: Tramel's ScissorTales: Oklahoma State coach Jacie Hoyt's basketball dream began in Kansas City

Final Four

2-Texas vs. 3-Gonzaga: Texas. Longhorns repeating the 1989 Michigan story, with interim coach Rodney Terry. Those Wolverines won the NCAA championship with an interim coach, Steve Fisher, after Bill Frieder was fired for dancing with Arizona State.

2-Arizona vs. 5-Duke: ‘Zona. Wildcat coach Tommy Lloyd has been great after working for Mark Few at Gonzaga.

Championship Game

2-Texas vs. 2-Arizona: Texas. The Longhorns make it three straight NCAA championships for the Big 12, and Rodney Terry keeps the job.

More: Tramel: Tanner Groves reminds us that even in defeat, you can find joy in basketball

The List: Oklahoma State quarterback transfers

Alan Bowman, originally at Texas Tech but late of Michigan, has transferred to OSU and apparently is in line to become the Cowboy starting quarterback, though rising sophomore Garret Rangel will have something to say about that.

Transfer quarterbacks are all the rage these days, but that’s not part of OSU’s heritage. Excluding junior-college transfers, I found only three quarterbacks transfers in the last 70 years who played for the Cowboys.

1. Dru Brown, 2019: Transferred from Hawaii and was Spencer Sanders’ backup in 2019. Brown played in six games and started the final three, after Sanders was injured. Brown led OSU to a win at West Virginia , then lost at OU and to Texas A&M in the Houston Bowl. He completed 67.3 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns and one interception.

2. Daxx Garman, 2014: Transferred from Arizona and replaced the injured J.W. Walsh early in the 2014 season. But Garman struggled and eventually gave way to true freshman Mason Rudolph. Garman completed 54.9 percent of his OSU passes, with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He transferred to Maryland and played little.

3. Houston Nutt, 1979-80: The son of Houston Nutt Sr., who played basketball for Henry Iba at Oklahoma A&M, Nutt grew up in Little Rock and went to Arkansas but transferred to OSU in 1978, then played two years for the Cowboys. In 1980, Nutt started a few games for OSU. His career numbers were 53.8% completions, three touchdowns and six interceptions. Nutt went on to become head coach at Ole Miss and Arkansas .

More: Is Oklahoma State football transitioning back to more traditional tight end usage?

Maryville Madness: Southern Nazarene pulls upset

Javon Jackson began the season on the bench. Southern Nazarene’s men’s basketball team has a bunch of veterans , successful veterans, and freshmen often must wait their turn, even in Division II.

But Jackson quickly asserted himself, became a Crimson Storm starter and found himself with a slingshot Sunday night at just the right time.

Against NCAA power Northwest Missouri State, Jackson turned giant-killer.

With the shot clock winding down in a tie game in the regional semifinals in Maryville, Missouri, Jackson spun for jumper on the baseline and knocked down the shot. With 14 seconds left, Southern Nazarene had a two-point lead and went on to beat the Bearcats 61-57.

This was beating Alabama football in Tuscaloosa. Beating OU softball in Norman.

Northwest Missouri State hadn’t lost an NCAA Tournament game since the opening round of 2018. The Bearcats won Division II titles in 2019, 2021 and 2022. They also won in 2017, giving Northwest Missouri State four of the last five national championships.

But Southern Nazarene took out the Bearcats and now plays Minnesota-Duluth at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner advances to Evansville, Indiana, where next week the eight regional champions will complete the D-II bracket.

“I can’t overstate how good of an opponent that was,” SNU coach Adam Bohac said. “To win in that environment, against that team, in this building — it takes more than just somebody playing really good.

“It takes a bunch of character and a bunch of other stuff, and that is the part that is perhaps the most satisfying.”

SNU, 26-4, is ranked 15 th in D-II. Northwest Missouri State was ranked third.

The only Oklahoma team to win the D-II national title was Northeastern State in 2003.

SNU has been a force in the Great American Conference and a frequent NCAA Tournament team. But for postseason play, SNU often has found itself in Maryville, home of Northwest Missouri State, where it’s difficult to win.

But the Crimson Storm found a way Sunday night.

Led by Jackson, a 6-foot-3 freshman from C.E. King High School in Houston, who worked his way into the starting lineup and is averaging 15.7 points. He had 24 points for SNU on Sunday night.

Nick Davis had 15, and Tyler McGhie had 10.

After Jackson’s go-ahead basket, Northwest Missouri State missed a foul shot, then SNU’s

Adokiye Iyaye made two game-sealing foul shots.

“That is a great environment, and we’ve been preparing the whole year to play a team like that,” Iyaye said. “Just being able to knock those two free throws down was very thrilling.”

Those were Iyaye’s only points of the game.

More: Three years after March 11 NBA shutdown in OKC, where are key Thunder-Jazz figures now?

Mailbag: Thunder-Spurs

For the Monday ScissorTales, I wrote about the Thunder’s accelerated rebuild, as compared to the Spurs.

Bob: “Your analysis is very complete and helpful. Thanks. I tweeted yesterday my thought that Pop (Gregg Popovich) is good for a veteran team but not for rooks/young'ns. I think Thunder may be so far ahead of Spurs due to talent, but also because coach (Mark Daigneault) is young and better connected with youthful players than Pop (or me) could ever be. Imagine if Billy (Donovan) was still coaching the Thunder, where would we be? I'm a terrible employer of youth. Can't believe how stupid they are.”

Tramel: Excellent point. There are different times for different coaches. And it takes a certain coach to go all-in on youth, even when it’s not a massive rebuild.

Scotty Brooks was slow to embrace young players. Sam Presti had to trade Jeff Green just so Foreman Scotty would start Serge Ibaka. Donovan was partial to veterans.

That’s not an indictment. That’s a common trait across all levels and all sports. Bill James has written about this very subject extensively when it comes to baseball managers.

But Daigneault – with the obvious push from Presti – has committed to young players, and in this Thunder age, that’s been a great thing for OKC’s future.

More: 'We laid a foundation': Members of 2008-09 OKC team reunite at Thunder Legacy Weekend

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Langston extends Chris Wright contract

Contract extensions for college basketball are routine. They are not routine on the NAIA level.

But the incredible success of Langston University basketball prompted the school to announce a four-year contract extension for Chris Wright, who has the Lions in the NAIA national tournament.

Langston plays Georgetown of Kentucky at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I have never witnessed this magnitude of a program shift in one year," Langston athletic director Donnita Drain-Rogers said in a press release. “The total culture of the men’s basketball program has been impacted by Coach Wright’s leadership.”

Langston hired Wright last off-season, and his roster overhaul has produced a 31-2 season. Langston went 1-27 a year ago.

"The success coach Wright brings to this team and to our institution is special,” said Langston president Kent J. Smith Jr. “Their impact is not isolated to athletics alone; it’s building positive momentum for the institution at large. There are a lot of programs that would benefit from his style of coaching. We are happy that coach Wright has found his home here at Dear Langston.”

Langston hosted an NAIA regional last week and won twice to reach Kansas City.

Wright coached Talladega College to the NAIA national title game last March. A change in administration prompted him to look elsewhere, and he landed in Logan County, where Langston’s basketball tradition isn’t strong, at least not since the Marques Haynes days of the 1940s.

But now Langston sets its sights on a national title. Oklahoma teams won 11 NAIA national titles from 1966 through 2015 – Oklahoma Baptist in 1966 and 2010, Bethany (now Southern) Nazarene in 1981, Science & Arts of Oklahoma in 2002, Mid-America Christian in 2015 and Oklahoma City University in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Langston rarely has been a basketball contender. But that changed under Chris Wright.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Tramel's ScissorTales: Will another Big 12 team win the NCAA Tournament in 2023?

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