February 15, 2013

First-place Cowboys ready to take on the Sooners

Back at the beginning of the season, if I had told you these three things what would you have responded with?

1: Markel Brown would lead the team in scoring with seven games left in the season.

2: Of the two stars on the team, it's more likely that Marcus Smart will go to the NBA Draft after the season than it is Le'Bryan Nash departing.

3: Travis Ford would be in the discussion for the Coach of the Year Award, while Smart would be setting the tone for the National Player of the Year Award.

I know I probably wouldn't have believed you. In fact, the farther down the list you get the less likely I would've believed it. But that's where the team stands as they head into tomorrow's Bedlam matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners.

They're at the top, tied for first place in the conference and ready for another matchup with a solid Big 12 team.

But this game is even bigger. Since the first matchup in Norman, the Pokes have torn it up (7-1 since then) while the Sooners have mellowed out, going 5-4 since the 77-68 OU win on January 12th.

The key for OSU's success has been in those three players mentioned above. Brown is white-hot right now (he made seven of his eight total threes against Texas Tech on Wednesday), Smart has found an almost perfect balance between facilitator, game-changer, and scorer, and Nash seems to have accepted his role as third fiddle for the time being, even though he has the talent to be number one.

On the flip side, OU has more of a team-oriented approach. Three guys average double-digit points per game, while four more average over 5 ppg. Not only can anyone on their team beat you if you let them, but they have the intangible that makes it a potentially fatal matchup for the Pokes.

"Effort," Brown said of them. "They go full-speed all the time no matter what. You can game plan all you want, but that's something that you're either ready for or not."

Brown will be the key in not only stopping the Sooners, but beating them, and he knows what to expect.

He's posted 20+ point halves twice in the last four games (Both in the first half against Kansas and Tech), while averaging an unbelievable 53.6% from three-point range. That even includes an 0/6 outing against Baylor.

He knows that the Sooners know he's lighting it up from long-range, and he expects them to close out on him. How does he counter that?

By doing what made him famous in the first place-Going to the hole and giving Sportscenter's Top Plays something to work with in the form of mind-blowing dunks.

But that's not all OSU will need to beat OU. Mistakes doomed them the first time around in the form of 15 turnovers and 6/21 shooting from three-point range.

If the new and improved version of the Cowboys come to play tomorrow, they shouldn't have too much of a problem handling these Sooners. If the team that's taken the court lately against OU comes out of the locker room? It could be a different story.

It will definitely be worth watching, which is why the game has officially been listed as a sellout as of this morning. People understand that those three statements listed at the beginning of this story have been crazy so far, and they want to see the magic in person.

Gallagher-Iba Arena will be rocking, the first-place Cowboys and the Sooners will be battling, and emotions will be running high.

Those three statements way above this are true, and they'll be on display come 12:45 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. It should be a fun one.

After all, it is Bedlam.

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