Big 12 Season Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 11th, 2014

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Oklahoma.

Strengths: Guards Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Jordan Woodard return for the Sooners, giving them potentially one of the best backcourts in the Big 12. Hield averaged 16.4 PPG and shot 38.6 percent from beyond the arc last season, both major improvements from his freshman season. The 6’4″ junior was a second-team All-Big 12 selection and was second in the conference with 1.4 steals per game. Jordan Woodard saw significant minutes (28 MPG) as a freshman and landed on the Bob Cousy Award watch list heading into this season after averaging 10.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 2.2 RPG last season. Isaiah Cousins was named the team’s most improved player last season after averaging 11 PPG and 4.2 RPG, and along with Hield and Woodard will give the Sooners one of the most experienced backcourts in the Big 12. They will be joined by junior forward Ryan Spangler, who started every game last season and led the Big 12 with 9.3 RPG. There are definitely holes to fill from last year’s team, but a lineup with Hield, Cousins, Woodard, and Spangler in it is a good place to start for head coach Lon Kruger.

Lon Kruger has talent this season, but will depth become a problem?

Lon Kruger has talent this season, but will depth become a problem?

Weaknesses: The loss of Cameron Clark could be huge for Oklahoma this season. Clark, a 6’7″ forward, might have been the most important player on last year’s team. He was certainly the most important big man. His departure leaves plenty of question marks down low for the Sooners. Spangler should be improved and will help, but that’s about it. There’s senior forward D.J. Bennett, I guess. But Bennett only averaged 9.1 MPG last season, so it’s hard to say what kind of impact he will have in 2014-15. The presumed fifth starter alongside Spangler looks to be Houston transfer Tashawn Thomas. That’s if he is ruled eligible by the NCAA. Thomas averaged 14.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG in three seasons at Houston. He elected to transfer this summer after Houston coach James Dickey left the program, and is waiting to see if the NCAA will let him play immediately for Lon Kruger. If that is the case, it would go a long way in solidifying an otherwise thin rotation for the Sooners. If not, we’ll see just how much of a load Spangler can carry.

Toughest Non-Conference Stretch: The Sooners have a respectable but not-so-challenging non-conference schedule. It’s probably just about right for this team. There are enough marquee games that will give them exposure and valuable experience, but nothing that will hurt their NCAA Tournament chances. Between November 19 and December 13 they play at Creighton before playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. They open the tournament against UCLA and will play North Carolina or Butler the following round. The top half of the bracket features heavy hitters like Georgetown, Florida, and Wisconsin. After returning home the Sooners host Missouri and have a sneaky-tough road game at Tulsa. In fact, gives the Sooners just a 43% chance of beating Tulsa on December 13.

Toughest Conference Stretch: The first seven games of the Big 12 season are anything but easy. Here is what it looks like: Baylor, at Texas, Kansas State, at West Virginia, Oklahoma State, at Kansas, and at Baylor. Statistically speaking, the best chances gives Oklahoma in that stretch are against Baylor and Kansas State at home, and even those games are projected to be four-point wins. Things cool off a bit after that, but Sooners fans should hope they don’t need a few late wins to grab an NCAA Tournament bid, because they end the season on the road at Iowa State before hosting Kansas on March 7.

Projected Starting Lineup:

  • G Buddy Hield (Led the team with 16.5 PPG)
  • G Jordan Woodard (So., Started 33 games as a true freshman and led the team with 4.6 APG)
  • G Isaiah Cousins (Jr., Started every game last season and averaged 11 PPG)
  • F Ryan Spangler (Jr., led the team with a 125.2 offensive rating last season)
  • F TaShawn Thomas (Sr., blocked 8.5 percent of opponent’s shots while he was on the floor last season at Houston)

Key Reserves:

  • G Dinjiyl Walker
  • G Frank Booker
  • F D.J. Bennett

If Everything Goes Right…TaShawn Thomas is ruled eligible, he and Ryan Spangler stay out of foul trouble most of the season, and the lack of front court depth is not an issue. Hield, Cousins, and Woodard all get better and become the best backcourt trio in the Big 12, and the Sooners surprise peope in the Battle 4 Atlantis. They beat the teams they should beat (Tulsa, Missouri, Washington) in the non-conference slate and have just two losses heading into Big 12 play. They shoot the ball well enough to finish in the top 4 behind Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State, and cruise into the NCAA Tournament.

If Everything Goes Wrong…TaShawn Thomas is ruled ineligible and the Sooner frontcourt falls apart early on. The guard play is good but not good enough to carry the team, and they pick up a string of early losses to Creighton, UCLA, Butler, and Tulsa. The lack of depth gets the team in foul trouble most nights and they struggle to stay in the top half of the Big 12 standings, ending up in the NIT.

KoryCarpenter (150 Posts)

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