Big 12 Team Previews: Oklahoma SoonersPosted by cwilliams on November 4th, 2011
Projected Finish: 9th
2010-11 Record: 13-19 (5-11), 10th (tie)
Head Coach: Lon Kruger, first season.
Key Losses: Cade Davis (14.2 PPG)
Oklahoma is looking to turn a new leaf and start a new chapter in the story of Sooner basketball. OU starts fresh with a new coach, Lon Kruger, a coach who has proven he can turn troubled programs into perennial tournament contenders. The Sooners lost their biggest scoring threat from last season, Cade Davis, but hope their junior class, especially Andrew Fitzgerald and Steven Pledger can replace Davis’s productivity. While fans may not have too much to root for on the hardwood in Norman this season, they can expect Kruger to get the program back on its feet and eventually relevant again.
The Stars: Andrew Fitzgerald and Steven Pledger, the dynamic Sooner duo from last year, both return for their junior year. They are expected to be the leaders of this inexperienced Sooner squad in the 2011-12 season. Cameron Clark started every game last season as a freshman. He averaged 9.0 PPG in 2010-11, but I expect that figure to increase this season. All these players have certain aspects of their game that must improve in order for them to become stars. Fitzgerald needs to get stronger and tougher, Clark needs to gain more experience, and Pledger needs to find consistency.
The Veterans: The seniors of Oklahoma will most likely be more of a vocal force than an on-court force. T.J Franklin has been reduced to a bench role his entire career in Norman, and I don’t see that changing this season. Barry Honroe is a very athletic player, but does not seem to possess the other traits necessary to be a complete player. C.J Washington could be a threat under Kruger’s system, especially because he runs so well. He has not put up impressive numbers yet, and I will be interested to see if he thrives under a new system.
- Casey Arent, a 6’10” junior center who transferred from Sierra College (CA), is big. The biggest on the team, in fact. He averaged 19 points and 11 boards per game at his junior college, but don’t expect Arent to put those numbers up in his first year playing Big 12 basketball. He will, however, need to continue to be a presence in the paint with the Sooners.
- Sam Grooms is a three-point threat junior college transfer from Chipola College. He will continue to be a three-point shooter under Kruger. Grooms was ranked as the 3rd highest junior college recruit.
- Romero Osby will be eligible to play this season after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He came from Mississippi State, where he was a threat both on the inside and outside.
- James Franschilla is another name that will ring a bell to college basketball fans; he is the son of ESPN analyst Fran Franschilla. He will get more attention by the media for his last name rather than his play. The walk-on is not expected to see much court time.
Breakout Candidate: Cameron Clark is my breakout candidate for the Sooners this season. Clark, a dynamic and athletic player, started every game for the Sooners as a freshman. I expect his level of contribution to increase, and for him to average around 15 PPG this season.
Why they’re better than you think: After last season’s debacle, Oklahoma needed a new start. With a slew of newcomers and some talented underclassmen joining the ranks of upperclassmen, the Sooners could very well have a strong lineup this season. This have all the necessary parts, they just lack the consistency and proper discipline. With Lon Kruger at the helm, these faults might be quickly fixed.
Points of concern: In my mind, Oklahoma has many of the right parts but they haven’t yet been properly assembled. Some of their junior college transfers will struggle to adapt to Big 12-caliber basketball, but given that their juniors and sophomores have been so inconsistent to date, it wouldn’t surprise me if this inconsistency carried over to a new regime. Also, these players aren’t used to Kruger’s system, and if they can’t adapt well to it, it could end up another long season in Norman.