Oklahoma’s High-Powered Offense Provides Some Hope in a Crowded Big 12 RacePosted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 10th, 2013
A month into the new season, the Big 12 may be more crowded at the top than originally thought. Perennial favorite Kansas is the most talented team, but the Jayhawks have looked vulnerable as their stud freshmen have shown that they are not immune to growing pains. After several signature wins, some other conference teams such as Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor have proven that they too will have the talent to compete with Bill Self’s squad. One Big 12 team that may be flying under the radar and could make some noise come conference play is Oklahoma. Lon Kruger’s young team is currently 8-1 with no bad losses — the single defeat was to Michigan State – and it may also have one of the best offenses in the league.
In October, the Big 12 Preseason Media Poll selected the Sooners to finish fifth mostly due to the fact that Kruger had lost his top three scorers from the year before (Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, and Amath M’Baye) and did not have any immediate impact recruits to fill the void. Because of this, Oklahoma’s starting lineup consists of one senior, Cameron Clark, and four underclassmen. This was supposed to be a transition year for the Sooners, but after 27 years of success spanning six schools, maybe we should have had more faith in the underrated head coach. Those underclassmen who were supposed to take this year to transition into bigger roles are all averaging double-figure points per game and have converted the Sooners into the 13th most potent offense in the country, scoring 87.4 PPG. The reasons: They run their offense at a fast pace and score at a high rate. The young Sooners average 74.9 possessions per game (eighth nationally) and score 1.14 points per possession (25th).
At the BB&T Classic on Sunday Oklahoma faced George Mason, an upperclassmen-laden team projected to challenge for the Atlantic 10 championship. The Patriots have had some bad early losses but still provided a good test for the Sooners due to their top-60 defense (allowing opponents only 0.96 points per possession). However, the Sooners proved their offense could handle the competition, scoring 1.04 points per possession and having its way in the paint, outscoring George Mason by 30 inside. Paul Hewitt’s team made some headway when it applied the full court press on the Sooners, at one point closing the gap to only seven points in the second half. But once Oklahoma adjusted, it ran away with the game and won 81-66. Three Sooners recorded double-doubles: Clark (22 points and 10 rebounds), Ryan Spangler (13 points, 13 rebounds), and Buddy Hield (12 points, 10 rebounds).
While Oklahoma’s offensive prowess has been impressive, it still has yet to be tested against an elite team. Breaking a well-coached mid-major defense like George Mason is one thing, trying to penetrate the perimeter defense of Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks is another thing. In fact, Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor all have top-50 defenses and rank higher than George Mason in that regard. So while the Sooners’ offense gives them a glimmer of hope to notch an upset or two by getting hot in conference play and ultimately competing for an NCAA bid, this team will need to first prove that it can compete with the top tier of the conference.