It’s a rivalry game that can only be described with one word:
Although this year’s matchup features two teams that are in the midst of underperforming seasons, no one should expect Oklahoma (13-7, 3-4 Big 12) nor Oklahoma State (10-10, 0-7 Big 12) to give anything less than max effort come Feb. 1.
“(Oklahoma State) has had some really good wins on the year,” head coach Lon Kruger said. “They’ve battled people. We know that we’ll have to play very well to win on Saturday.”
Sometimes, the raw emotions of in-state rivalry games result in situations that make the college basketball world stand still.
In the final moments of the Kansas-Kansas State game on Jan. 21, an on-court altercation between Kansas' Silvio De Sousa and Kansas State’s DaJuan Gordon cleared both benches as an all-out brawl broke loose. The fight resulted in four players, two from each team, receiving suspensions from the Big 12. De Sousa received a 12-game suspension from the league, the most of any player, after he attempted to swing a stool during the fight.
While those types of moments are ones the NCAA most likely wants to avoid in the future, it is a moment that captures the essence of a heated rivalry.
Oklahoma assistant coach Alvin "Pooh" Williamson can attest to just how heated Bedlam can get, he’s watched it for years.
“As I grew up (in Oklahoma), you obviously paid attention to OU, OSU,” Williamson said. “You knew all the guys that played at Oklahoma, you knew the guys who played at OSU… it's one of those deals where it's one of the smallest states on the basketball map but there's good players, and great games.
“When you get guys like Brady (Manek) and Kristian (Doolittle), there's plenty of talent. There’s a lot of pride that goes into it, especially playing and being a guy from Oklahoma.”
Williamson, who embraced the ‘Pooh’ nickname at an early age, grew up roughly two hours away from Norman in Beggs, and spent four seasons playing point guard at the University of Tulsa from 1991-1995.
After his playing career came to a close, Williamson immediately started his coaching career and hasn’t looked back since. After coaching stints at 10 different universities, Williamson returned to the state of Oklahoma in June 2019.
“(Coaching at OU) shows you dream no little dream,” he said. “Who knew when I was dribbling around a basketball in the streets of Beggs, Oklahoma, that I could be an assistant coach because of the game of basketball?”
(I came) to Oklahoma for a chance to coach at the University of Oklahoma, for Coach Kruger and to be back (close to) where I grew up…" he said. "And I wanted a chance to get (OU) back to the Final Four.”
Like Williamson, senior forward and Edmond native Kristian Doolittle knows just how big Bedlam is for both teams and the entire state.
“Bedlam’s always meant a lot (to me), in both basketball and football,” Doolittle said. “I always watched those games, just because of the level of competition, seeing that it means more than just a game. It’s bragging rights between us and them, we gotta make sure we win this game”.
Oklahoma’s only true senior, Doolittle has the most Bedlam experience on the team. Of all the moments he’s had playing against the Cowboys, his favorite moment came a season ago.
“Last year, my first time winning at OSU,” he said. “It was my first time being able to say we swept them. It was a pretty cool moment being able to see the seniors’ excitement on their faces when we beat them at their place. (Jamal Bieniemy) came through really big for us then as a freshman, that was really his breakout game. I know he’ll be excited (for) this game, as we all will be. Just gotta handle business.”
It’s not only the native Oklahomans wanting to walk out of the Lloyd Noble Center with a win against OSU — junior forward Kur Kuath from South Sudan will be making his first-ever Bedlam appearance on Saturday.
Though he doesn’t share the Oklahoma roots that some of his peers have, he does share their drive to beat Oklahoma State.
“You can’t keep emotions in check during these types of games,” Kuath said. “You have to play with all your emotion just because this game means a lot to Sooner nation, to past Sooners that played for Oklahoma, to (our coaches). It’s a pride thing. It’s why we wear ‘Oklahoma’ on our shirts, because we take pride in that. We’re the University of Oklahoma, and we’re the No. 1 university in the state.”
Tip-off for Oklahoma’s game against Oklahoma State is set for 2 p.m. on Feb. 1 in Norman. It will be broadcasted on ABC.