There’s no way Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin could have played in Monday’s key conference clash against Kansas University.
Those who watched the game on ESPN saw the 6-foot-10 sophomore phenom rubbing his temples on the home team’s bench, agonizing from the after-effects of the concussion he sustained Saturday at Texas.
But for talk-around-the-water cooler’s-sake, what if college basketball’s leading player-of-the-year candidate had been on the court for, say, 30 to 40 minutes?
Here’s Daily Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson’s take:
“With Griffin, the Sooners beat the Jayhawks by double figures,” Carlson wrote for Monday’s newspaper and online edition. “He was in no shape to play against the Jayhawks. If he would’ve been, the Sooners would’ve dominated because Griffin would’ve dominated.
“The Sooner big man would’ve had his way with Cole Aldrich. Despite 15 points and 20 rebounds, the Jayhawk center was oddly underwhelming in a game where he faced a depleted frontline. He should’ve asserted himself Monday night, going to the goal and taking advantage of his prowess. Instead, Aldrich settled for jumpers and hooks.
“The two big fellows have known each other for several years, and they walked off the court together Monday night.
“‘I wish I would’ve had the opportunity to play against him tonight,’ Aldrich said. ‘He’s fantastic.’
“Griffin would’ve shown it against Aldrich. He would’ve eaten his lunch, his snack and his dinner, too.”
Certainly those paragraphs could be bulletin-board material for the Jayhawks if there’s an upcoming rematch in the Big 12 postseason tournament in Oklahoma City. As it stands now, suffice it to say KU fans will beg to differ with the OKC writer.
“It definitely would have been a different type game,” KU assistant coach Joe Dooley said on Tuesday’s Hawk Talk radio show. “The pace may have been slower in some regards. They’d probably have thrown it in more. As far as the outcome, I can’t tell you that. The game probably would have had a different feel.
“Cole ... he went and got it,” Dooley added of Aldrich pursuing the basketball. “With Blake not out there, there are a few more rebound opportunities. He was terrific as usual.”
Coach Bill Self agreed that Aldrich had a big impact.
“Cole gets 20. That is remarkable,” Self said. “Our second-leading rebounder gets three (Marcus Morris) and we outrebound them by five (38-33). Cole’s been unbelievable.
“We certainly hope to play them again. It’d mean we each won one or two games in the Big 12 tournament. It’s not often our guys get a chance to play against the player of the year and No. 1 NBA draft pick,” Self added.
Aldrich also hopes to play against his buddy.
“We talked a little bit before the week started. We were looking forward to facing each other. He’s off the charts good,” Aldrich said. “I look forward to playing against him in the future.”
• Instant classic?: It remains to be seen if Monday’s game will be deemed an ESPN “Instant Classic.” The Jayhawks at one point trailed by 14 points (22-8), then led by 20 (58-38) before seeing the lead dip to three.
“We talked about them coming out with energy and playing at a high level because Blake wasn’t playing,” Self said Tuesday, referring to the Sooners rallying around their fallen hero. “We weren’t good early. We got sped up and didn’t make shots on top of everything else.
“We didn’t guard like we’re capable. The light came on for whatever reason and defensively we were great from the 10-minute mark the first half until the 10-minute mark of the second. Unfortunately those other minutes they scored 60 points. They had 40 points the last 10 minutes in large part because fouls extended the game.
“Our guys showed a lot of character and poise. We were on the verge of putting ourselves in a hole we couldn’t get out of. To turn it on a dime like the kids did was pretty remarkable,” Self added.
• Stephenson update: Lance Stephenson, a 6-foot-5 guard from Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y., who attended last Saturday’s KU-Nebraska game in Allen Fieldhouse, is planning on making trips to Wake Forest and UCLA, his dad told Rivals.com. Stephenson, however, said in an interview that appears on zagsblog.net he has eliminated USC and UCLA and is down to KU, St. John’s, Maryland and Wake.
His dad told Rivals his son will likely make his college choice known on April 15. Stephenson told zagsblog that he might announce his choice on March 21 if his team makes the PSAL title game in Madison Square Garden.
“The fans at Kansas are great,” Stephenson told Rivals.com. “I just love how they cheer the players and how they treat them. I was very surprised when people came up and knew who I was. Some of the people asked me for autographs. I enjoyed the game, too. It was a tough game, but Kansas pulled away late.”
• Johnson in Festival: KU signee Elijah Johnson tells Rivals.com he’ll play in the Kentucky Derby festival all-star game on April 11 at Freedom Hall in Louisville.
• Collins on list: KU’s Sherron Collins has been named a Naismith Trophy midseason candidate, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Tuesday. League members joining Collins include Texas guard A.J. Abrams and Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. There are 30 candidates in all.