The NCCA men’s basketball tournament is down to a final four. The teams are Oklahoma, Villanova, Syracuse, and North Carolina.
Which of these teams is not like the other ones? Syracuse. The Orange finished tenth in their conference with a 9-9 record, thereby proving that they have no business playing for the national championship.
Yet here they are. That’s what I call March Madness.
On to the annual business of picking all-time all-star teams for the Final Four schools. I’ll start with Oklahoma, a hugely impressive team this year.
Daron “Mookie” Blaylock (1987-89)
One of the best defensive guards ever, Blaylock still has the second most steals in NCAA history in a single season and the most in a single game (13, twice). He was a first team all-American his senior season, when he averaged 20 points a game, 6.7 assists (sixth most in Sooner history), and 3.8 steals. Blaylock had a fine pro career, mainly with the Nets and the Hawks.
Buddy Hield (2012-16)
The best player in college basketball this season and arguably the best college shooting guard in years. Hield averaged 25.4 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting, including 45.5 percent on three-pointers. He also chipped in with 5.4 rebounds per game.
Wayman Tisdale (1982-85)
The best basketball player in the program’s history. Tisdale was a first team all-American in all three of seasons at Oklahoma, including his freshman year (he was the first freshman ever named an AP first team all-American). He is Oklahoma’s all-time leader in points and rebounds. Tisdale was also an accomplished jazz bass guitarist. Unfortunately, he died in 2009 at the age of 44.
Blake Griffin (2007-09)
He was national player of the year in 2009. That year, Griffin averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds per game. His field goal percentage was 60.8 percent, easily the best in Oklahoma history (Tisdale is second at 57.8). Griffin was the first player taken in the NBA draft when he left after his sophomore season. His pro career has been interesting.
Alvan Adams (1972-75)
Adams averaged 23.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game for his career at Oklahoma. He left Norman as the all-time leader in both categories, and is still third in rebounding and eighth in scoring. Adams had a terrific and underrated pro career. He retired as the all-time leader in points, rebounds, and steals for the Phoenix Suns.
Hollis Price (1999-2003)
He’s sixth on Oklahoma’s all-time assist list, fourth in steals, and seventh in points. As a senior, he averaged 18.0 points per game, making 43.3 percent of his three-pointers. Price was named Big Twelve Player of the Year that season.
Ryan Minor (1992-96)
Minor was a two-time All American and one-time Big Eight (as the conference was known then) player of the year. He’s sixth on the Sooner’s all-time scoring list.
Minor probably would have been a pretty good pro, but he opted for baseball instead and played for the Baltimore Orioles. I must say that I’ve never seen a major league hitter, never mind one of Minor’s size (6-7), with less pop.
Nowadays he manages in the Orioles farm system. I saw him last season with the Delmarva Shorebirds (low A ball).
Harvey Grant (1986-98)
Grant averaged 20.9 points per game for the great 1987-88 team that was upset by Danny Manning’s Kansas team (“Danny and the Miracles”) in the NCAA championship game. The 365 rebounds Grant pulled down that year are the third most in Sooner history. Grant had a good NBA career with Washington, among other teams. He has three basketball playing sons, two of whom (Jerian and Jerami) are in the NBA.
Garfield Heard (1967-70)
Averaged 10.6 rebounds per game for his career, third best in Oklahoma history. As a senior, Heard averaged 12.5 boards to go with 20.7 points. As a pro, he played with Alvan Adams on the Phoneix Suns. He’s best remembered for a shot he made at the end of double-overtime in the fifth game of the 1976 NBA finals against Boston to send the game into triple-overtime. Heard also had a short stint as head coach of Washington. Michael Jordan had him fired.
Stacey King (1985-89)
It’s very hard to leave this guy off of the first team. As a junior, he averaged 22.3 points and 8.5 rebounds for the team that lost in the NCAA finals to Kansas. The following year, King averaged 26 points and 10.1 rebounds a game and was a first team all-American. He’s also second on the Sooners’ all-time shot blocking list and holds their single season record in this category. King had a good ten-year run in the NBA.
Brent Price (1990-02)
Mark Price’s younger brother was a helluva point guard in his own right. A transfer from the University of South Carolina, Price averaged 18 points per game during his two seasons at Norman. He also averaged 5.8 assists and 2.7 steals. The latter mark is topped only by Blaylock. Price had a respectable NBA career as a backup point guard. I fondly remember his time with Washington for whom he hit some big shots.
Tim McCalister (1983-87)
Oklahoma’s third all-time leading scorer. As a senior, he averaged 19.8 points and was named first team all-Big Eight. McCalister would be Oklahoma’s second leading scorer if the three-point shot had existed prior to his senior year. As a senior, he 87 made of them, with a success rate of 39.7 percent.
Jeff Webster (1989-1994)
He’s the second leading scorer in Oklahoma history. His senior year, Webster averaged 23.7 points per game (best in the conference) on 51.4 percent shooting. He added 7.8 boards and was named first team all-Big Eight.
Darryl “Choo” Kennedy (1983-87)
He’s fourth on the Sooners’ all-time scoring list and second in rebounds. As a junior, Kennedy averaged 21 points and eight rebounds a game and made the all-Big Eight first team. His only negative is a mediocre shooting percentage — 44.4 percent for his career.
Eduardo Najera (1996-2000)
Najera earned first team all-Big 12 and third team all-American honors in 1999-00 as a senior. That season, he averaged 18.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, both second in the conference. He also received the Chip Hilton Player of the Year Award, which is given to a player who has demonstrated personal character both on and off the court.
After college, he became the first Mexican ever taken in the NBA draft and only the second to play in the League. Najera earned a good living for 12 years as a pain-in-the-ass rebounder and defender.
Don Sidle (1965-69)
Averaged 20.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in his three years playing center for bad Oklahoma teams. Had some good seasons professionally in the ABA.
Gerald Tucker (1942-47)
A center, Tucker was the star of the 1946-47 team that made it to the NCAA final game. He was national player of the year that season. More than 40 years later, he was named to the Final Four all-1940s team.
Lester Lane (1951-55)
A high scoring guard (better than 19.0 points per game in his last two seasons), Lane also played football on Bud Wilkinson’s legendary Sooner football team and was a pole-vaulter on the track team. In basketball, he was an all-American his senior year.
After Oklahoma, he played AAU ball and made the 1960 Olympic basketball team.
Jimmy McNatt (1937-1940)
A two-time all-American at Oklahoma, this guard led the Sooners to their first Final Four (1939). McNutt went on to have a stellar AAU career (the NBA didn’t exist then) playing for the Phillips 66ers, a team sponsored by Phillips Petroleum. Later, he became a petroleum engineer for that company.