In Oklahoma, where the football spiral comes whistling down the plain, basketball is reaping a whirlwind of interest. "I used to beg people to come out to games," says Guard Bo Overton. "Now they're begging me for tickets."
And for good reason. The Sooners will be runnin', gunnin', pressin' and generally scarin' the daylights out of other Big Eight teams. They'll be playing multiple, pressing defenses and a fast-break offense. "Any time our guys make more than three passes, they get migraine headaches," says Coach Billy Tubbs, who is at once affable, quotable and flexible. "My definition of a good shot is anything that goes in."
That's entertainment, but that's not why 10,800-seat Lloyd Noble Center will be sold out. Back from a 22-11 team are four starters, and Tubbs recruited one of the nation's prize freshmen in Center Wayman Tisdale. The 6'9" Tisdale, 6'6" Calvin Pierce and 6'10" Charles (Big Time) Jones will rotate in the double post; Chucky Barnett, David Little and Don Gandy will share the two forward spots and Overton and Jan Pennell will alternate at point guard.
"Last year our inside guys were adequate on defense, but we didn't have confidence in their scoring," says Tubbs. "Our lack of an inside game put pressure on our outside game." Nonetheless, Barnett and Little finished one-two in Big Eight scoring with averages of 18.9 and 18.5, respectively. Still, Missouri beat the Sooners three times and won the league title because Steve Stipanovich had no competition under the boards. "With Wayman around, Chucky and I won't have to score so much to win," says Little.
But the happiest man in Norman is undoubtedly the 6'10", 26-year-old Jones. After high school Jones spent three years on a construction gang and two laboring at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. Then he transferred to Oklahoma and was redshirted his first year and given an impossible rebounding job his second. Now he'll have some support. "The big man," he says, deferring to the shorter Tisdale, "should help a lot."
Tubbs, who went 9-18 his first year at OU and 22-11 his second, coaches by mixing invective and humor. "The most important things in being successful are recruiting and schedule," he says. Tisdale heads the best freshman class Oklahoma has ever had. And Tubbs says, "I don't see anyone on the schedule we can't beat. Our football team is a national contender every year. Why shouldn't we be?"
Barnett and Little will score Sooner or later.