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The greatest programs: No. 24, Oklahoma

A handful of football schools made the list of the greatest basketball programs of all time. Couldn't be helped. Even football schools produce good hoops teams, though it seems like more and more are emerging.

And at No. 24, the Oklahoma Sooners are the first football school on this list. (I swear, it's a coincidence.)

It may seem strange that Oklahoma landed one spot ahead of N.C. State, one of the game's historic powers, but give the Sooners their due. They're worthy.

They score thanks to four Final Four appearances, 15 regular-season conference crowns and plenty of recent success. Oklahoma has 1,469 wins, 30th most among D-I schools, right behind Villanova and more than schools like Connecticut, Oklahoma State and St. Joe's all of whom are basketball schools. If not for struggling in the 50s and 60s when only football mattered in Norman, the Sooners might be higher on this list.

Consider:

  • Only Texas has more NCAA tournament wins without a title, while the 'Horns, Notre Dame and Temple are the only schools with more tourney appearances without a crown.
  • They've had talented, players, too. Sooners have been named consensus first-team All-Americans eight times, tied for 10th all time. That's more than Arizona, Louisville, N.C. State and Georgetown. The individual talent has been there.
  • And Oklahoma has finished as runner-up in NCAA or NIT three times. Sooner or later, it'll break through.

After all, Billy Tubbs' 1988 squad nearly did just that.

Those Sooners streaked to the NCAA championship game, only to be stunned by Danny and the Miracles. But that team deserves a place alongside '91 UNLV, '05 Illinois, '93 Michigan, '99 Duke and this year's Memphis team as the best single-year squads not to cut down the nets – and perhaps the most fun to watch.

Oklahoma finished 35-4 and topped the 100-point mark 20 times. It won 12 games by 30 or more points. With four future NBA draft picks – including three first-rounders in Stacey King, Mookie Blaylock and Harvey Grant – the Sooners ran, ran, ran.

"We played Dayton in Hawaii and I can remember seeing a headline in one of the papers, something like, 'Dayton scores 100, loses by 59,' " OU forward Dave Sieger told Rivals.com. "You don't see those kinds of headlines."

The squad had cultural impact, too. A Seattle band began calling itself Mookie Blalock, and became one of the '90s biggest icon. Seems the ex-Sooners point guard was a hero to some Pearl Jam band members.

The stage for the '88 team was set by power forward Waymon Tisdale, the first Michael Beasley, who's a huge reason for Oklahoma's inclusion on this list.

A three-time consensus All-American, Tisdale averaged 24.5, 27.0 and 25.2 ppg in three seasons in Norman, played on the gold medal 1984 Olympic basketball team and just missed playing the 1985 Final Four, losing to Memphis in the Midwest Regional final. (Now an accomplished jazz guitarist, Tisdale was diagnosed with bone cancer last year, but now considers himself cancer free. What can't the guy do?)

That Sooner team was one of Tubbs' best, finishing 31-6 and setting the stage for 1988 and Kelvin Sampson's impressive run in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ye, through all that success, Oklahoma was, and remains a football school.

Tisdale's team couldn't compete with Barry Switzer's 1985 squad. When Sampson led the Sooners to the 2002 Final Four, fans were still talking about Bob Stoops' 2000 BCS title. Six years later, it's the same thing for new coach Jeff Capel, who's trying to ensure the program doesn't get left behind by Big 12 powers Kansas and Texas.

Still, as long as the Sooners keep recruiting top-flight players, expect Oklahoma to maintain its spot as one of the greatest programs. It'll have to claim a title to climb higher, though.

Next Tuesday: No. 23 on the list of greatest college basketball programs.