Moser comfortable leading OU in Big 12 Tourney
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Porter Moser didn't want his players to look ahead to the future.
He wanted them to look to the past. Before he got hired by OU in 2021, Moser spent 10 seasons as the head coach at Loyola Chicago. The Ramblers' best campaign came in 2018 when they went 25-5 (15-3 Missouri Valley) in the regular season.
Still, Loyola Chicago entered the Missouri Valley Tournament with an ultimatum: Win the title and get an automatic bid or miss out on the NCAA Tournament.
It's the harsh reality of teams in a one-bid conference, but as Moser prepared his guys to play for their season, he told them to reflect on the year they had.
"(Moser) said to think of all the moments and even in the summer time when we were going through boot camp and pushing each other," said Marques Townes, a Loyola Chicago redshirt senior at the time. "His ability to get guys going and to help the guys believe in each other is second to none."
Loyola Chicago won the Missouri Valley Tournament that season, and it went on to reach the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
It all started with an automatic bid, which is what the Sooners will be chasing in Kansas City.
OU (15-16, 5-13 Big 12) has no margin for error as it begins its run at the Big 12 men's basketball tournament against Oklahoma State at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Sooners aren't on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, meaning anything short of an automatic bid likely won't be enough to extend their season.
It's a tough situation for OU to be in, but it's one Moser is comfortable with thanks to his days at Loyola Chicago.
"I came from a league when I was at Loyola where we'd have an unbelievable year and had to win three in a row," Moser said. "I've faced this pressure. There were so many years at Loyola where we had to win three in a row. I know what that feels like. You just have to take one at a time."
The Missouri Valley Conference isn't the Big 12, though.
The latter is the most stacked conference in all of college basketball this season, with its 10 teams boasting an average NET ranking of 27.9. The second-best conference average in the nation is the Big Ten, with its 14 teams having an average of 57.4.
"This is a separate entity," Moser said. "This is the best league in the country's conference tournament, and you've just got to go one at a time." That first game isn't an easy one. OSU had OU's number in the two regular-season meetings. The Cowboys swept their Bedlam rivals by an average of 13 points.
Moser experienced some success in last season's Big 12 Tournament.
The then-first-year OU head coach led his team to a 72-67 win over thirdranked Baylor in the opening round. The Sooners nearly pulled off another upset in the semifinals, but they suffered a 56-55 loss to 14th-ranked Texas Tech.
"I think it's just the confidence factor," senior forward Jalen Hill said. "I think our team still has that. Last year's team, we did a great job of that. We just never lost hope, and I think this year's team has the same thing. We can just make a run."
As OU prepares to play for its season in Kansas City, Moser wants his team to look to the past once again.
He told his players to think about their statement wins over teams such as then-second-ranked Alabama, 12thranked Kansas State and 22nd-ranked TCU.
It'll take performances like that for Moser and the Sooners to create some postseason magic.