Feast Week Mission Briefing: Oklahoma in the Tire Pros Invitational

Posted by Justin Fedich on November 17th, 2016

Feast Week is almost here. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments over the next couple weeks, our Feast Week Mission Briefings begin today with Oklahoma in the Tire Pros Invitational.

Catching Up: Oklahoma upperclassmen Jordan Woodard and Khadeem Lattin were projected to have much bigger roles this season, and it’s already clear after just one game (a season-opening 97-61 win over Northwestern State) that they will. Lattin on Sunday notched his third career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Woodard poured in 16 points and collected five rebounds. Oklahoma’s big lead also allowed young players such as freshman Matt Freeman, who came off the bench to score 15 points, to get involved. The fact that Lon Kruger’s team easily managed a 97-61 victory is a good sign, but a win over an 0-2 team that ranks among the bottom 60 teams nationally in the KenPom rankings won’t be found on the front page of Oklahoma’s final NCAA Tournament resume.

We're not sure what Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is telling his players at this moment. It's likely he is sharing something basketball related here but I wouldn't rule out Kruger explaining to him the lyrics of "Coconut" by Harry Nilsson. (CBS Sports)

Lon Kruger, one of the Big 12’s best on the sidelines, will once again have Oklahoma right in the thick of things. (CBS Sports)

Opening Round Preview: Tulane hosted North Carolina last Friday night to open the season and was quickly dispatched, 95-75. The Green Wave then returned Monday to beat Southeastern Louisiana, 93-76. Longtime NBA head coach Mike Dunleavy is now the man in charge in New Orleans, but it will take him some time to instill his values and system into a program that has long been considered a basketball backwater. If Oklahoma beats Tulane, the Sooners will then face the winner of Arizona State and Northern Iowa on Friday — both of which are beatable.

Potential Later Round Match-ups: The most complete team in the Tire Pros Invitational this season is Xavier. Like the Sooners, the Musketeers were a No. 2 seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. However, Xavier is lucky to return its top two scorers from a season ago in Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner. In the opening round tonight, the Musketeers should easily handle a Missouri program that is in the midst of rebuilding. A rising Clemson program awaits in the semifinals, but Xavier is likely to meet Oklahoma in the championship game. Wins over Tulane and either Arizona State or Northern Iowa should be enough to vault the Sooners into the Top 25, but a win over top 10 Xavier would put Kansas on notice that this year’s Big 12 regular season title will not be a cake walk.

Outlook: Oklahoma wasn’t an underdog very often during last season’s non-conference schedule, but the Sooners will likely play the underdog role at some point this weekend. Xavier has the best team on paper, and the two most productive players suit up for Clemson (Jaron Blossomgame, profiled here) and Davidson (Jack Gibbs). Woodard will need to play well and the young players will have to continue improving to give Oklahoma a fair chance to string together three consecutive wins. If the Sooners falter, Oklahoma will have another couple chances to bolster its non-conference resume with games against Wisconsin and Wichita State in December along with Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge in January.

Justin Fedich (11 Posts)

Justin Fedich is a sports journalism graduate of the University of Georgia. You can follow him on Twitter @jfedich.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *