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Tramel's ScissorTales: Big 12's performance in NFL Draft helps show why OU & Texas are headed to the SEC

Berry Tramel
Oklahoman

The NFL Draft’s first round was conducted Thursday night. No Big 12 players were selected. 

No Sooners or Cowboys. No Longhorns or Red Raiders. No Bears or Horned Frogs. No Mountaineers or Cyclones. No Wildcats or Jayhawks. 

Just like last year. 

First-round picks total the last two years: the Big 12 zero, the University of Tulsa two. 

Meanwhile, 12 players from the Southeastern Conference were picked in the first round Thursday night, same as last season. Seven SEC schools had first-rounders Thursday night; six SEC schools had first-rounders last year. 

Now you know why OU is headed to the SEC. 

Oh, sure, it’s more about money than anything. But it’s also about prestige and reputation and football recruiting. 

The SEC won the battle. Its hype long ago became reality. Players migrate to the SEC because of draft results. 

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Alabama has had 19 first-round picks in the last five drafts. Georgia’s defense alone had five Thursday night, giving the Bulldogs 12 over the five years. 

But it’s not just Alabama or Georgia. During that span, Louisiana State has had eight. Florida five. South Carolina and Mississippi State three each. Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky two each. Texas A&M one. 

That’s 57 over a five-year period; 4.1 per SEC school. 

Meanwhile, the Big 12 has had nine total. That’s 0.9 per Big 12 school. 

OU has had five of those picks, matching Florida. Texas Christian has had three, Texas Tech one. Baylor’s last first-round pick came in 2016. Texas’ last first-round pick came in 2015. OSU’s last first-round pick came in 2014. 

The Sooner brass saw the dollar signs of SEC membership, but it also saw the blue-chip talent that migrates south. 

Some of that is out of OU’s control. Some of it not. OK, so Bama and Georgia (and LSU) have spurted ahead of the Sooners. But Tulsa? 

Still, it’s sobering for the Sooners to see Arkansas with more top-shelf talent than Texas. South Carolina with more top-shelf talent than OSU. Kentucky with more top-shelf talent than Baylor. 

And it doesn’t seem to be changing. Particularly not at Alabama or Georgia. 

The five Georgia defenders going in the first round broke the draft record, previously held by Miami 2004 and Florida State 2006. Those were the days when the balance of college football seemed to be shifting not to a conference, but to a state. 

All things Florida ruled college football. Florida State won national titles in 1993 and 1999. Florida won in 1996. Miami won in 1991 and 2001. Big upsets kept the Floridians from even more – Alabama-Miami 1992, OU-Florida State 2000, Ohio State-Miami 2002. 

That tide eventually changed. This tide might not change. OU and Texas have decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. 

The SEC express shows no sign of slowing down. 

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Thunder report card: Ty Jerome 

Ty Jerome completed his second Thunder season but took a step back, with his offense this season not nearly as efficient as last season. 

Our series on Thunder report cards continues with the third-year guard from Virginia: 

Three-point shooting: D. Jerome’s time in the NBA depends on his ability to make long-range shots. A year ago, he made 42.3% of his deep balls. But this year, Jerome fell to 29%. Not good. Jerome took 16.1% of his 3-pointers from the corners, about the same as last year, and shot almost as good from there, 43.3%. But that meant Jerome’s 3-point shots from above the break took a major dip; he made just 26.3%. That will get him out of the league fast. 

Playmaking: B. Jerome was used less at point guard this season – an estimated 31% of the time, compared to 47% a year ago. But he continued to facilitate. Jerome’s assists per 36 minutes went down from 5.5 to 4.9, but so did his turnovers per 36 minutes, from 2.1 to 1.7. His assist rate (percentage of teammates’ baskets on which a player assisted) fell only slightly, from 23.7 to 21.3. 

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Oklahoma City Thunder's Ty Jerome poses for photos during the team's media day at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

On-court value: A. Jerome did not have a good season offensively, and he’s not a defensive upgrade. But somehow, the Thunder played significantly better with Jerome on the court than without him. The Thunder was outscored by 1.5 points per 100 possessions when Jerome was on the court. Among players who played at least 25 games, that was third-best on the squad, trailing only Kenrich Williams and Mike Muscala. And in games Jerome played, the Thunder was outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions, when he was on the bench. It helped that Jerome missed the latter part of the season, when the Thunder collapsed as a competitive team. 

Shot selection: A. Jerome knows how the game is played. He took 328 shots this season; only five were long 2-point attempts. One hundred of his shots were from the paint. That means 87.2% of his shots were from the paint or beyond the arc. He’s a dream for the analytics crowd.  

Playing with SGA: A. The Thunder is rebuilding around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, so cohesion with SGA is important. And Jerome had it. Lineups that included both Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome outscored opponents by 22.4 points per 100 possessions. By far the best tandem on the squad. Of course, it was limited minutes, but still, that’s promising for Jerome. 

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The List: Perfect shooting in the NBA Playoffs 

Chris Paul had a game for the ages Thursday night as the Phoenix Suns eliminated the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference playoffs. Paul scored 33 points and didn’t miss a shot as the Suns won 114-109. 

The NBA has seen some incredible individual games. Gary Payton, Thomas Bryant and Billy McKinney each have gone 14-for-14 in a regular-season game. Nikola Jokic once scored 35 points without missing a shot. Dwight Howard once went 11-for-11 and added 16 rebounds. 

But in the playoffs? Hard to produce numbers like that in the postseason. 

Here are the 10 games in NBA playoff history in which a player scored at least 24 points and didn’t miss a shot, and a couple involved the Thunder: 

1. Chris Paul, Suns, 2022, Game 6, West first round: CP3 had 33 points (and eight assists) on 14-of-14 shooting. Paul made just one 3-pointer but had zero shots from the restricted area. He was 4-of-4 on foul shots. 

2. Nene Hilario, Rockets, 2017, Game 4, West first round: Nene made all 12 of his field-goal attempts, though he did miss three foul shots, and scored 28 points as Houston beat the Thunder 113-109 in OKC. 

2. Larry McNeill, Kings, 1975, Game 2, West semifinals (first round): Don’t remember McNeill? He was a 6-foot-9 forward from Marquette who made all 12 of his shots against the Bulls and scored 28 points, though he did miss a foul shot. Kansas City-Omaha beat Chicago 102-95. 

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4. Serge Ibaka, Thunder, 2012, Game 4, West finals: Ibaka made all 11 of his shots, most of them elbow jumpers and none of them 3-pointers, and scored 26 points as OKC beat the Spurs 109-103. 

4. Scott Wedman, Celtics, 1985, Game 1 NBA Finals: The former Colorado star, 32 years old, scored 26 points on 11-of-11 shooting, including four 3-pointers, as Boston beat the Lakers 148-114. 

4. Brad Davis, Mavericks, 1986, Game 4, West first round: Davis, an original Mav point guard, took just eight shots but made them all, including five 3-pointers, and scored 26 points off the bench in a 117-113 closeout of the Jazz. 

7. Wilt Chamberlain, Lakers, 1969, Game 4 West finals: You figured Wilt would show up on this list. He made all nine of his shots, while going 7-of-12 from the line, and scored 25 points as Los Angeles beat Atlanta 100-85. 

7. Montrezl Harrell, Clippers, 2015, Game 2 West first round: The Clipper supersub scored 25 points on 9-of-9 shooting (7-of-9 from the line) as Los Angeles won 135-131 at Golden State. 

9. Yao Ming, Rockets, 2009, Game 1 West first round: Yao scored 24 points on 9-of-9 shooting and made all six of his foul shots as Houston won 108-81 at Portland. 

10. Don Nelson, Celtics, 1974, Game 4 East semifinals: You know him as the long-time coach, but Nelson could play a little, too. He scored 24 points on 10-of-10 shooting and made all four of his foul shots, but Boston lost 104-102 at Buffalo. 

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Miami has an NIL mess 

Occasionally, you’ll see Hollywood turn to sports for scripted series. HBO’s current “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” is an example. 

It’s a mess, of course, with exaggerated storylines and comic portrayals of characters. Jerry West ought to sue, but that’s another story. 

“Friday Night Lights,” “Ballers,” “Eastbound and Down,” “Coach.” “Playmakers.” There have been a bunch. They are wide-ranging in quality and tenor. 

Some even reach the level of absurd. 

If someone wants to do a show about the effect of the new economic frontier of college sports, the absurd would be reality. The name, image and likeness revolution is doing what some figured it would do. 

Sow serious seeds of discontent. And it’s bubbling up at the University of Miami. 

Will it come to the heartland? Probably. But it’s already on the beach. 

And it’s manifested with Miami basketball, which is a decent program but never has been mistaken for anything anyone cares about. The Hurricanes, who reached the Midwest Regional final of the NCAA Tournament in 2022, averaged about 4,400 fans per game at its Watsco Center. 

But Miami is paying big in basketball. 

The Hurricanes recently lured Kansas State phenom Nijel Pack from the transfer portal, and Pack’s NIL agent announced that Pack would get $400,000 a year for two years, plus a car, from Miami booster John Ruiz. 

That sends shivers all over athletic department in the Power 5 Conferences. If a Miami basketball player is getting $400,000 a year, what is a player worth to Alabama football or Kansas basketball or Ohio State football or Kentucky basketball? 

But the shivers subsided in recent days when ESPN reported the fallout from Pack’s deal. 

Miami star Isaiah Wong told ESPN that he will enter the transfer portal if his NIL compensation isn't increased. 

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Miami guard Isaiah Wong shoots during a game against Duke in Jan. 2022.

"If Isaiah and his family don't feel that the NIL number meets their expectations, they will be entering the transfer portal tomorrow (Friday), while maintaining his eligibility in the NBA draft and going through the draft process," said NIL agent Adam Papas of NEXT Sports Agency. 

Here’s where it gets rich. Papas is Pack’s agent. 

Wong is a two-time all-conference player and averaged 15.3 points a game last season. 

“Isaiah would like to stay at Miami," Papas said. "He has seen what incoming Miami Hurricane basketball players are getting in NIL and would like his NIL to reflect that he was a team leader of an Elite Eight team.” 

Of course Wong has seen what Miami players are getting. His agent is working both sides of Biscayne Boulevard. 

And Miami has to play along, even though the Hurricanes are prohibited from facilitating such deals. 

But Ruiz, the billionaire, isn’t happy, either. He has funded NIL payouts to more than 100 Miami athletes for promoting his companies, LifeWallet and Cigarette Racing, according to the Miami Herald. 

“Isaiah is under contract," Ruiz texted to ESPN. “He has been treated by LifeWallet exceptionally well. If that is what he decides, I wish him well, however, I DO NOT renegotiate!” 

You can’t make this stuff up. Write a script and get the cameras. Truth is better than fiction. 

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Mailbag: SMU football’s marketability 

I’ve written a little in recent weeks about potential Big 12 expansion beyond the four schools soon to join. And at least one reader has an idea. 

Ken: “Thanks for the strength in numbers perspective on the Big 12. I agree. Here’s my two cents. As a Northern California native and resident, I have no interest in watching Memphis, Air Force, San Diego State or Boise State. I have a son at Colorado State, but nobody else I know would watch them on TV. People here watch pro sports, not college. SMU is the only one that moves the needle. People here know the name and that they used to be big and don’t realize they aren’t. Plus there’s the Dallas angle. And a belief that they will work NIL to legally get back to the top. Honestly, most people here would rather watch SMU over TCU, Texas Tech or Baylor, based on old prejudices. I’m just a guy without a football team, from a school with two Sugar Bowl victories well before my dad was born – Santa Clara University. For what it’s worth, I’ll watch SMU on TV.” 

Tramel: Interesting take. And certainly, SMU has a historical hold that indeed Boise State or Memphis or even Baylor and Texas Tech can’t match. But that hold does not extend to the masses. 

Southern Methodist University no longer has a national brand. The Mustangs last were nationally relevant in the early 1980s – 40 years ago – and haven’t been all that regionally relevant in almost that long. 

Just for grins, I went back to sportsmediawatch.com’s list of weekly college football viewership numbers. It’s a tool I used extensively a year ago, when the Big 12 first considered expansion

And the 2021 numbers indict SMU. It’s not like the Mustangs were a bad product. Under Sonny Dykes, SMU had three straight solid seasons – 10-3 in 2019, 7-3 in 2020 and 8-4 in 2021. The American Conference, with Cincinnati and Houston and Central Florida, was playing good football, and the Mustangs were part of that. 

But the public didn’t care. 

On Nov. 27, SMU played Tulsa on ESPN2 and drew 119,000 viewers. That same day, Utah State-New Mexico on Fox Sports1 drew 139,000, and Fresno State-San Jose State on Fox Sports1 drew 309,000. Sure, time slot and competing games can play a major role in ratings. But so can network. ESPN2 is a better brand than is FS1. 

In mid-season, SMU played Tulane on a Thursday night ESPN game and drew 392,000. The next week, Troy-Coastal Carolina, same time slot same network, drew 290,000. So that seems accurate. SMU is a bigger draw than Coastal Carolina. 

Heck, earlier in the year, SMU and Texas Christian played on FS1 and drew 186,000, which I assume is as big of an indictment of TCU as SMU. 

SMU’s only big audience came on Nov. 20, when 938,000 watched the Mustangs play unbeaten Cincinnati on ESPN. Two weeks earlier, in the same time slot but on ESPN2, 796,000 watched Tulsa play Cincinnati, a difference that is about the norm for ESPN and ESPN2. 

Sorry, I just don’t see the allure of SMU. I’m in Dallas quite a bit. I get no SMU vice even in Dallas. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.