Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Oklahoma.
Where We Left Off: Oklahoma returned to the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since Blake Griffin was in Norman. It was a short trip, however, as the Sooners lost to San Diego State in the round of 64, 70-55. Head coach Lon Kruger enters his third season at Oklahoma and is one of the most experienced coaches in the country. He has gone largely unnoticed, though, especially this year in a league that has (rightfully) been focused on Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart and the budding rivalry between the two players and their schools. Kruger, on the other hand, is slowly turning things around at Oklahoma. He won 15 games his first season and 20 games last year. If he continues that upward tick this season he should get consideration for Big 12 Coach of the Year because his top three scorers are now gone.
Positives: Sophomore guard Buddy Hield gained meaningful experience last season as a freshman, averaging 25.1 MPG, 7.8 PPG, and 4.2 RPG. He deferred to upperclassmen like Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Amath M’Baye, all of whom are gone. Hield could become the best offensive weapon for Kruger, which would mean good things for the future. Senior forward Cameron Clark also returns for the Sooners. Clark averaged 6.5 PPG last season while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Those two players, along with sophomore guards Je’lon Hornbeak (22.7 MPG, 5.6 PPG last season) and Isaiah Cousins (15.7 MPG) look to form the core for the Sooners offensively. Expect Hield and Clark to shoulder a lot of the load offensively early in the season.
Negatives: The Sooners averaged 70.6 PPG as a team last season and nearly 50 of those points per contest do not return this year. The top three leading scorers — Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Amath M’Baye — account for most of the missing production, averaging 37.7 PPG themselves. It’s unclear how that will affect returning players and if they will be able to maintain a similar offensive output. The 2013 recruiting class doesn’t look like it will make an impact this season either. Kruger signed a pair of three-star players, Frank Booker and Jordan Woodard, as well as unranked Keshaun Hamilton. It was a quiet recruiting class after signing Hield and Hornbeak, both four-star recruits in the class of 2012. With momentum following a five-win improvement last season, the Sooners will have surprised a lot of people if they continue that climb up the win totals column this season.