TUCSON, Ariz. — Besides practicing, coaches and players at the NCAA Tournament spend time on the day between games answering questions from the media.

Most of the questions at Oklahoma's press conference Friday centered on one subject — Utah center Andrew Bogut.

Coach Kelvin Sampson and Sooner players Kevin Bookout and Johnny Gilbert spoke extensively about the Ute big man, and at one point when someone asked about one of his players, Sampson joked, "You mean we've got players, too?"

But Sampson went on several long tangents about the Ute center, who could end up as the national player of the year.

"He's a freak," Sampson said. "I remember coaching a United States Junior World team against Australia. They always had kids like him but they were only 6-7 or 6-8. The difference is he plays like he's 6-7 or 6-8, but he's 7-foot with a 7-5 wingspan."

Sampson also gushed about Bogut's passing, saying, "He's not only a great passer, but he's a fun passer. He throws some of the doggonedest passes I've ever seen. He's fun to watch."

When asked about Bogut's weaknesses, Sampson replied, "I don't know what his weaknesses are. Maybe I'll come up with something by the second half tomorrow . . . but I probably won't."

FAMILIARITY: The Utah and Oklahoma teams saw each other up close and personal once already this year at the Great Alaska Shootout over Thanksgiving weekend.

They didn't play each other but have one thing in common — both lost to eventual champion Washington.

Utah lost to the Huskies 78-71, while the Sooners lost 96-91. If both teams had won the first round or both had lost, the Utes and Sooners would have played each other back then.

Players and coaches from each team said they really didn't see much of each other in Alaska and have had to rely on film to learn about each other.

Ute forward Bryant Markson can't remember much about Oklahoma in Alaska, but he had a feeling the two teams would play each other.

"I knew we were going to play them this year," he said. "It seemed like every time we'd scout another team, they'd be playing Oklahoma."

Three common early-season opponents were High Point, Coppin State and Northern Colorado.

COACH'S SON: Like many college coaches over the years, Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson has a son playing for him. Unlike Press Maravich, Al McGuire and Jerry Tarkanian, however, Sampson isn't planning on his son, Kellen, being one of his star players. And neither does Kellen.

The 6-foot-1, 182-pound freshman guard is a walk-on who redshirted a year ago. In high school he wasn't a top player, averaging just 8.5 points and 3.0 assists as a senior.

This season, young Sampson has appeared in 12 games, including Thursday's win over Niagara when he sank a jumper in the final seconds of a 17-point win.

Kellen knows he'll never be more than the guy who comes in for the final minutes of blowout wins, but he's more than happy to be on the Sooners, rather than play for a small-college team. He wants to be a coach someday, just like his dad.

"I had to see the big picture that I'm sacrificing personal goals and glory in order to accomplish my larger goals," he said.

MOVING UP: With at least one more game, Andrew Bogut has a chance to move further up a few Ute lists.

By scoring 24 points Thursday, Bogut moved within one point of Keith Van Horn's 686 point total from the 1995-96 season. With 21 points today, he can pass Van Horn three times and into seventh place on the Ute season scoring list. That's because the consistent Van Horn scored 686 points in '95-96, 694 points in '94-95 and 705 points in '96-97.

Bogut jumped ahead of Byron Wilson into 27th place on the all-time scoring list with 1,096 points and at 63.0 percent, is on track to break the season record for field goal percentage. Right now he's in a virtual tie with Nate Althoff for career field-goal percentage at 60.8 percent.

REPLAYS: To all the Ute fans who wrote me about the TV replay showing the UTEP player stepping out of bounds late in Thursday's game:

The comment in my story referred to what was shown on the Jumbotron in the arena and how the crowd reacted to it. I understand the TV replay showed otherwise, but the pro-UTEP crowd at McKale Center thought their player wasn't out of bounds in the one replay that was shown.

EARLY GAME: Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight made it through his press conference Friday afternoon with no conflicts with the media.

He did have some strong opinions about his team having to play the morning game today at 11:10 after playing the late game Thursday night.

"It's a disservice to the players to do that," he said. "It seems to me that no game should be played before 1 o'clock. I don't know why you can't do that."

At least the local fans should be excited about the game times today. They should be able to see most of their team's game this afternoon since the Wildcats play at 3:30 p.m. in Boise against UAB, just about the time the Utah-Oklahoma game should be wrapping up in Tucson.

UTE NOTES: Although Thursday's game with UTEP was close and decided in the final 45 seconds, when the Utes scored six straight points, they still haven't had any close games that were decided in the final seconds. Utah has played just five games all year decided by eight points or less and no games have been decided by less than four points. The Utes beat UNLV 57-53 and lost to New Mexico 60-56 . . . With Thursday's win, Utah upped its all-time record in Tucson NCAA tournament games to 6-0. The Utes won one in 1977, two in 1991 and two in 1997 in addition to the victory over UTEP . . . The Utes and Sooners have met just once in basketball, with OU winning 69-68 in 1979 at the Golden Gate Classic in San Francisco. Utah junior Tom Chambers led his team with 20 points that night . . . Utah has not made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in seven years, since the Utes made the Final Four in 1998. The Utes lost to Miami, Ohio in 1999, to Michigan State in 2000 and to Kentucky in 2003.


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