Monday, March 30, 2009

Oklahoma Sooner Men's Basketball: Eulogy for the 2008-2009 Season

There were some expectations.... some.

The Sooners only lost two seniors from the previous season in which they bowed out of the NCAA tournament in the 2nd round as a 6-seed.

The Big-12 was down. National champion Kansas lost over half-a-dozen players. Texas lost its best player and leader of the team. Kansas State lost Michael Beasley... which was their team. The Big-12 was ready for the taking.

There were questions, however. Was Blake Griffin ready to step up and be the leader and rock that the team needed? Was the guard play good enough to take the team deep into the tournament? Was freshman Willie Warren going to ruin the team chemistry with his selfish play?

The questions were answered. All points pointed to this Oklahoma Sooner team being something special. In Jeff Capel's third year in Norman... Sooner basketball was back and Oklahoma was primed for a title run. They ran through non-conference play with only one hiccup on the road at Arkansas. Then started Big-12 play 11-0. Oklahoma was #2 in the country and primed to take over number one as they headed to Austin to play an overmatched Horns team.

But then the unthinkable happened.

The, now hands down, best player in the country, Blake Griffin, got popped in the head by an sweeping elbow and was knocked out the the game. Concussions are a scary thing, and it was disturbing to see how "Out of it" Blake was during that game and the next on the bench.

Blake "The Behemoth" Griffin (nicknamed by AJ) returned after a week and the Sooners won against Texas Tech. The team chemistry, however, seemed shaky. The Sooners finished the season with 3 wins and 2 losses including a quarterfinal loss to Oklahoma State in the Big-12 tournament. All of the question marks returned. It was evident that the Oklahoma guards were not playing well enough to support Mr. Griffin for a tournament run.

Then, Jeff Capel pulled his team together. After struggling down the stretch, OU came out strong against Morgan State... but it is Morgan State.

An impressive and dominant 2nd half against Michigan sold me on the fact that this team was back on track and in mid-season form. Then came the mighty Orangemen. I thought it would be a dog fight and prayed that the Sooners would prevail. However, it seemed that the Crimson and Cream were the only players in the gym on Friday night. Syracuse couldn't hit a shot and OU couldn't miss one. Tony Crocker had the game of his life, and OU prevailed with ease. The only thing trying to stop OU and especially Blake Griffin, was the side of the backboard trying to attack Blake's forehead.

Then came the Tar Heels. Everyone in the country knew that the Sooners were overmatched at most positions. Even the great Tyler Hansbrough was going to at least contain BG23. Nay. Blake had his way with that wide-eyed school boy. Unfortunately for "The Behemoth," he was the only Sooner that remembered how to play basketball. Defensively OU played UNC quite well. The problem was the Oklahoma guards couldn't throw a marble into the Pacific Ocean. The team started 0-16 from the land of treys. That will not win you ball games. The sad thing is, if OU hit 25% from the land of treys... they are in the basketball game if not sending the game to an extra period.

In the end, before we bury this team, let's reflect on the great moments we had together and the pitfalls.

-Holding off Davidson's late charge and seeing Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry on the same court was a sight to behold.
-Beating Purdue to win the Pre-season NIT.
-Losing to Arkansas... a terrible team.
-Beating arch nemesis Texas by 15 pts in the first Big-12 home game. First win against Texas in about 5 years.
-Going to Stillwater and winning is always fun.
-Blake's 40 and 23 in only 31 minutes against Tech.
-Watching Blake go down in the Texas game.
-Watching the comeback against Kansas without Blake, and being crushed by the loss.
-Getting dismantled by Mizzou on the road.

-Holding off OSU for my last home game. Willie, I will never forget your 25-footer that sealed the game.
-Disappointed after landing in Boston and seeing we lost to OSU in the quarters of the Big-12.
-The first three rounds of the tournament were fantastic and exciting, especially the Syracuse game.
-Knowing we would lose, but hoping against UNC.

A few last words.

I will miss the Griffin brothers. Taylor Griffin was so underrated as a Sooner. He was awesome to watch and showed real heart in his final season. I will miss so much looking forward to Sportscenter's top-10 because it was guaranteed I would see at least two Blake Griffin plays. Blake... you are an animal and you will be missed.

Here is to you not playing for the Clippers next year...

and to the 2008-2009 Sooners.... may you rest in peace.

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