The fans have spoken.
On Sunday, we posted a poll to Twitter that was birthed from my Coronavirus-quarantine boredom.
It was a simple premise; which Oklahoma State loss would you flip: the 2011 football loss to Iowa State or the 2004 Final Four loss to Georgia Tech? As I mention, the fans spoke, overwhelmingly in fact.
POLL: If you could flip one of these #okstate losses to a win, which one are you taking?— Cowboys Ride For Free (@CowboysRFF) March 22, 2020
While I was not surprised by the winner, I was a little surprised by how drastically it won. Out of the 884 people that voted, roughly 784 chose the loss to Iowa State.
I have a few takeaways from this.
First, I chose the 2004 Final Four loss to Georgia Tech. The two-point loss to a team that you knew had no chance at beating UConn in the national championship game (The Huskies won 82-73 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates).
I was a freshman in college. It was my one season at OSU. That 2003-04 Eddie Sutton led Cowboy team, that featured the Graham brothers, John Lucas III, and my favorite OSU (and NBA player) ever Tony Allen, turned my blood to America’s Brightest Orange. I wasn’t a sports fan growing up. I didn’t have a professional or college team that I held allegiance too, until that team, that year.
It was my first real taste of sports greatness and bitter disappointment (outside of playing soccer in first grade, but that’s neither here nor there).
So yes, I have a personal attachment to that team.
But really, it’s the last time and period that OSU was REALLY good at basketball. There was the team the following year, that was good, but not the same without Allen. There were the two years with Marcus Smart, but they didn’t do anything in the NCAA tournament.
It’s been 16 years since 2004. That’s at least 18 years-worth of OSU fans that didn’t experience that loss.
Which is why the outcome doesn’t surprise me.
The 2011 loss is more recent. It still burns. It burns about every OSU fan, even ones who came after it occurred (as fans we adapt both the joys, celebrations and frustrations of the years that came before our fandom began).
At this point, OSU is more a football school than a basketball school. Hell, it might be more of a baseball school if you’re going off success both in the regular and postseason. Wrestling will always be king, but it’s been 14 years since a national team title.
I get it. That’s a loss that likely kept OSU out of a chance at their first football national championship, something this fan base has only ever dreamed about. It was the straw that broke the back on allowing for a College Football Playoff, which has made it harder to get to the promise land of a title.
But removing my personal feelings out of the it, the 2004 Final Four game guaranteed a title game birth while the 2011 loss to Iowa State did not.
If OSU beats Jarrett Jack and Georgia Tech, they’re in the ‘ship against a Huskies team that, yeah, I still think they could have beat (how the hell were OSU and UConn No. 2 seeds?).
If OSU beats Iowa State, how does that affect their game against Oklahoma the following week? Do they still blow out the Sooners? Or riding an 11-game win streak, with an undefeated season, Big 12 title and entrance into the national championship game, does OSU crap the bed, lose Bedlam and still end up 11-1 and facing Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl?
I think they probably still beat OU, but it’s not a guarantee.
Either way, both losses suck, and will suck and sting forever, and no loss might ever top them.
*speaking of OSU causing major change. The Big 12 basketball tournament used to end on Selection Sunday. OSU getting a No. 2 seed when many believed they should have gotten a one, was in part, blamed on their Big 12 championship win happening on Sunday and thus not having the impact it should have on the committee’s decision. The Big 12 title game was eventually moved to Saturday, in part because of this. Or at least that’s how I like to remember it.