Tournament watch: Oklahoma firmly entrenched among nation's best

The Sooners' surge in January has OU positioned well in NCAA Tournament projections, sitting as a 4-seed in one expert's bracket
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The Oklahoma Sooners (12-5 overall, 7-4 Big 12) may not have to worry about their bubble bursting this season.

After beating four top-10 opponents in January, Lon Kruger’s team now has their eyes on just how high their stock can soar.

In Jerry Palm’s latest NCAA tournament projection on CBSSports.com, the Sooners are projected as a No. 4 seed, drawn into the region where the Michigan Wolverines are slated as the top seed. OU would meet South Dakota State in the first round, and play the winner of Virginia and Toledo if they made it to the second round, per the the projection.

The strength in Oklahoma’s case for seeding in the NCAA Tournament lies in its 4-5 record in Quadrant 1 games. Quadrant 1 matchups are defined as games at home versus teams ranked 1-30 in the NCAA NET rankings (a tool used by the NCAA Selection Committee in ranking every team in college basketball), neutral site games against teams ranked in the top-50, and road games against teams ranking in the top-75.

Brady Manek

Brady Manek

Plenty of potentially resume padding games are left on the Sooners schedule as well.

Of their remaining seven games (including a potential reschedule of OU’s matchup with the No. 2 Baylor Bears), three matchups would grade out as Quadrant 1 wins (at West Virginia, at Oklahoma State and hosting Baylor).

The Cowboys, who currently sit at 37 in the NET rankings, could become a fourth Quadrant 1 matchup when they visit Norman if they could just rise two spots in the rankings between now and Feb. 27.

While losing is never good, the only two losses that could really tank Oklahoma’s tournament stock come in OU’s back-to-back matchups at Iowa State and Kansas State. No matter how the Sooners close the season, if they post wins against the Cyclones and Wildcats, they shouldn’t fall too far past a 4-seed.

As far as Kruger is concerned, if Oklahoma takes care of business on the court, everything else will work itself out.

OU will face its next test Saturday when the Sooners travel to Morgantown for a noon game televised by Big 12 Now on ESPN+.