NCAA Tournament 2001 - Sooners like seed, schedule


Sooners like seed, schedule

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson felt his team could have been a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. It turns out the Sooners are No. 4 in the South, and that's just fine.

"Did we play well enough to deserve a No. 3 seed? Yeah, I think we did," Sampson said in Kansas City, Mo., after his team won the Big 12 Conference tournament title. "But who do you knock out?

"Do the math. Four times three is 12, so that means to get a three seed, we have to be one of the top 12 teams in the country. We're close to that."

The Sooners (26-6) open NCAA tournament play Friday in Memphis, Tenn., against 13th-seeded Indiana State, winner of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Sampson said he was pleased to see his team get sent to a regional that begins Friday instead of Thursday, so the Sooners will have an extra day to rest. They played three tough games to win the Big 12 tournament, beating Missouri, Kansas and finally Texas.

The players groaned when they saw they were a fourth seed, and didn't show much excitement. Sampson said not to misread that reaction.

"This week took a lot out of our basketball team. This is a very emotional weekend for us," he said. "There's been so many different emotions in the last 24 hours. But we're still excited."

Oklahoma's run in Kansas City capped a strong but difficult year. The Sooners began conference play 1-3, then won nine out of 10. But the player who carried them through that stretch, guard J.R. Raymond, was dismissed from the team two weeks ago.

Oklahoma has won five of six games since then, however, with the only loss coming at Maryland. At the conference tournament, they beat Missouri by two points on Friday night, beat Kansas by five on Saturday afternoon, then overcame a 14-point first half to beat Texas 54-45 on Sunday.

"What these kids did this weekend, I hope they get the proper credit for what they've accomplished," Sampson said. "It's an unbelievable accomplishment."

Indiana State (21-11) likely would not have gotten the NCAA bid if it had not won its league tournament. Sampson saw the Sycamores play last year at a tournament in Alaska and said he was impressed. Their victory over Creighton in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley tournament also impressed him.

"If you beat Creighton on a neutral court, you're good," he said.

Oklahoma is making its seventh straight NCAA appearance under Sampson. The Sooners reached the regional semifinals two years ago and lost in the second round last year.

"We've got a championship under our belt, we've won 26 games and we have a lot of confidence going into the tournament," he said. "But everybody starts over now."

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