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OKC Thunder: While Sooners & Cowboys have dipped, Thunder has soared

On Thanksgiving Friday – November 29, basically two months ago – I settled in for a day of watching football and a night of watching basketball.

That evening, the Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans 109-104 for its seventh win of the season. OKC’s record rose to 7-11.

That evening, the Oklahoma State basketball team won the Preseason NIT, routing Ole Miss 78-37 for its seventh win of the season. The Cowboys’ record rose to 7-0.

The Sooners didn’t play that day, but still, OU sported a spiffy 6-1 record.

On neutral courts, the Sooners had defeated Minnesota, Oregon State and Missouri. In the preseason NIT semifinals, the Cowboys had routed Syracuse.

Meanwhile, the Thunder to that point had lost at home to Washington and had padded its record with three wins over the decimated Warriors. The Thunder three times had failed to reach 90 points.

The basketball season was settled.

We would face a dismal NBA season; the Thunder would be a losing team and out of the playoff race for the first time since Season 1, way back in 2008-09, which began with the Bush Administration in the White House and iPhones having been on the market about 15 months.

But we might be enjoying quite the special college basketball season. The Cowboys seemed destined for Big 12 contention, much less a robust NCAA Tournament seed, and the Sooners seemed likely to join OSU has not just March Madness competitors, but serious players once getting there.

Fast forward exactly two months. The night of January 29, which was Wednesday.

OU went to Kansas State, trailed 28-22 at halftime and lost 61-53 only with a late flurry of Sooner points. OU’s record remains a respectable 13-7, but the Sooners are 3-4 in the Big 12 and among the great unwashed on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Later Wednesday night, the Thunder played in Sacramento, made 15 of 24 3-point shots, routed the Kings 120-100 and raised its record to 29-20. The Thunder is safely in the Western Conference playoff picture, closer to third-place Denver than to ninth-place Memphis.

And in Stillwater, the season has soured. OSU is 10-10, 0-7 in the Big 12 and four times in the last eight games has failed to crack 50 points.

This is an amazing turnabout. We’ve gotten the exact opposite from basketball season that we expected – not from preseason predictions, but from early-season results.

The NBA season is long, with turns and curves and hills. The Thunder’s turnaround was at least opportunistic. The college season is not so curvy. A dozen or non-conference games, half legitimate games, half automatic wins, followed by the rigors of conference play. The floor is shaky for OU; the floor has caved in for OSU.

An interesting way to gauge teams is to set aside close games. Games that go down to the final minute can go either way – a ball bouncing off a rim, a ref blowing a whistle, can determine an outcome. Games that are determined before that final minute are the best indicator of a team’s true prowess.

The Thunder, for example, has been really good in close games, signaling that while OKC is not an also-ran in the West, it also might not be the juggernaut we’ve seen since Thanksgiving.

But OU and OSU? Of the Cowboys’ seven losses in Big 12 play, only two were by single-digits, and one of those, an 89-82 loss at Iowa State, was a blowout much of the game.

OU has played better than that. But still, the results are alarming. Kansas State dominated Wednesday night; only a late OU flurry made the score presentable. The Sooners lost by 14 at home to Kansas and by 13 at Iowa State

It’s all very discouraging as Bedlam arrives Saturday in Norman. And yet, we have a salve. The Thunder is riding high, making winter nights a little more bearable for those who depend upon the hardwood for entertainment.

Related Photos
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0f70df1b871d17cb4a707bde08d5ef3c.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon, left, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-889d121db8f3224a91f72316601ed595.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a35e4534ab23929f39227e16ec70687b.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) grabs a rebound against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon (13) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) grabs a rebound against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon (13) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) grabs a rebound against Sacramento Kings center Dewayne Dedmon (13) during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-57e93664942808966998ee8768a1584a.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) dunks the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) dunks the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) dunks the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-90c9d3092242591a46457187a9e6069f.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f3d98434277537fe5c28cc440d8e6c3b.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Harry Giles III (20) reacts during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Harry Giles III (20) reacts during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Harry Giles III (20) reacts during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2e0d6804971e367f6e96c86ea6967107.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) shoots the ball over Sacramento Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica (88) during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) shoots the ball over Sacramento Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica (88) during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) shoots the ball over Sacramento Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica (88) during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5cb141c4b9af58f74e5a22b41dd4346b.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Kent Bazemore (26) dunks the ball during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Kent Bazemore (26) dunks the ball during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Kent Bazemore (26) dunks the ball during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a480d345843cfb6378fb1dbc3029b0ec.jpg" alt="Photo - Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; The Sacramento Kings play a special tribute video honoring the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports" title="Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; The Sacramento Kings play a special tribute video honoring the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports"><figcaption>Jan 29, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; The Sacramento Kings play a special tribute video honoring the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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