- Associated Press - Friday, March 4, 2011

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - When the NCAA tournament bracket comes out on Selection Sunday, Ray Hoyt is already prepared for the likelihood that no Oklahoma team will be in the 68-team field.

As it stands now, none of the state’s four Division I teams _ Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and Oral Roberts _ figure to make the Big Dance without a surprising run in their conference tournaments. It would be the first time that’s happened since 1981 in a state that loves basketball, if not as much as football.

And perhaps bad timing for Tulsa, which will be hosting early round NCAA games for the first time since 1985.

“You always like to have a local team but I think this year that’s really not going to come to fruition,” said Hoyt, the Tulsa Sports Commission’s executive director. “I still think if we get Texas or Kansas or some of those other (regional) teams … that’ll really sell tickets for us as well.”

Not every state can put a handful of teams into the field, as New York, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and California figure to do. Traditional powers North Carolina and Arizona should be back in along with Kansas, UCLA, Duke and Georgetown _ giving the District of Columbia representation that many states won’t.

Oklahoma isn’t alone. Among the other states that could be underrepresented in the field:

_ Iowa. Neither Iowa or Iowa State has made the NCAA tournament _ or the NIT, for that matter _ since 2006, when the third-seeded Hawkeyes were stunned in the first round by Northwestern State 64-63. In recent years, it’s been Northern Iowa _ remember that stunner over top-seeded Kansas last year? _ and Drake that have represented the state in the Big Dance. But this year none may make it.

_ Illinois. The fading Illini may be the only representative for a state that’s been shut out two of the past three years. Northwestern started the season 9-0 but has wilted in Big Ten play and DePaul _ with just one win in conference play _ is not among nearly a dozen Big East teams hoping to get in.

_ Mississippi._ Mississippi State nearly made it to the NCAAs last season but lost by one to Kentucky in the SEC championship game and had to settle for a top seed in the NIT. This year could become the second in a row the state is shut out if the Bulldogs, Ole Miss or Southern Miss don’t win an automatic bid.

_ Oregon. It’s shaping up to be the fourth time in five years that neither Oregon or Oregon State will be on the bracket, with the Ducks making the only appearance in that span. And much of the rest of the Northwest could go unrepresented, too. Minnesota, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming could all get shut out this year.

None of those states have been represented in the tournament as consistently as Oklahoma.

The Sooners have made it to the tournament 22 times in the past 28 years, Oklahoma State has been there 16 times and there’s been only one year when both didn’t make the field. Oral Roberts kept the streak going in 2007 with one of its three consecutive NCAA berths.

Led by future NBA guard Paul Pressey and coach Nolan Richardson, Tulsa started the current streak by making the 1982 tournament.

All four teams have hit roadblocks this season.

Oklahoma, which was a win away from the Final Four two seasons ago with Blake Griffin, had a mass exodus after losing nine straight games to finish last season. Five underclassmen left, none of them as NBA first-round picks, and coach Jeff Capel had just four remaining scholarship players before bringing in a batch of newcomers.

The Sooners are 11th in the Big 12 after losing their last eight games and are in jeopardy of tying the program’s worst losing streak ever, 10 in a row in 1964.

“For our young guys, this is making them better basketball players. This is helping me become a better coach,” Capel said. “I don’t like losing, our guys don’t like losing but this is helping us.”

Oklahoma State surged into the NCAAs after sub-.500 Big 12 starts in Travis Ford’s first two seasons, but hasn’t been able to climb out of a 2-5 hole this year. The Cowboys are just 6-9 in the Big 12.

“Should you get to the finals of the conference tournament, if you have the league fight for you … you never know. We’re sitting there in RPI,” Ford said. “I probably won’t be watching on Selection Sunday. We won’t be having any party or anything.”

Tulsa (17-12, 10-5 Conference USA) and crosstown rival Oral Roberts (17-14, 13-5 Summit) could keep the streak going by winning their conference tournament. ORU earned the No. 2 seed at its league tourney by winning its last eight games.

Still, Tulsa is the only NCAA host site in a state that doesn’t figure to have at least one “local” team in the bracket. Hoyt says Tulsa has sold between 11,000 and 12,000 tickets for the second- and third-round sessions at the approximately 17,000-seat BOK Center.

“I look at it as the cup is half-full and the opportunity is we can sell those last 6,000 seats to people from Texas or Kansas, and that’s certainly a good thing,” Hoyt said.

___

AP Sports Writers Luke Meredith in Des Moines, Iowa, and Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Ore., and Murray Evans in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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