The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel waxes nostalgic for the 1987-1988 Oklahoma Sooners that plowed through all comers — often by cartoonishly-high margins — before being upset by Danny Manning’s Kansas Jayhawks in the 1988 NCAA Tournament Final:
They pressed full court, created turnovers galore, shot quickly and played ferociously. The starting unit of Grace and Blaylock and Harvey Grant and Stacey King and Dave Sieger became so well-conditioned that by season’s end [Head Coach Billy] Tubbs rarely had to substitute, and the assault was never-ending.
There is nothing like it in college basketball anymore. The days of Nolan Richardson’s 40 minutes of Arkansas hell and Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels and OU’s BillyBall are over. The game is pedestrian, played not by refined stars but by young prospects headed for the NBA after a college drive-thru.
I told Tubbs on Friday his ‘88 Sooners would beat Kentucky’s most recent national champ by 40 points.
“Fifty,” Tubbs said with that wry smile. “The game has turned into push and shove. It would be really hard to play like we did. We dictated the tempo of the game with our defense. Nobody really wants to get out and defend 100 percent of the floor anymore.
“The whole face of the game has changed. From a team standpoint, it would take a couple of years to learn to do what we did defensively.”
Much of that team (along with numerous other OU basketball alumni spanning from the 1940s to recent years) is back in Norman this weekend for the OU Legends/Alumni game, to be held at noon Saturday at Lloyd Noble Centre.
Say what you want to about Billy Tubbs, but I have to love a guy that once admonished a particularly fussy LNC crowd, “No matter how bad the officiating is, please stop throwing things on the floor!”
This is my era. I was a freshman at Kansas the year that Danny and the Miracles upset the Sooners, and I can attest that they were a blast to watch, however terrifying it was when they were playing your own favorite team. It was a championship-caliber team without a doubt.