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.

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Big 12 M5: Halloween Edition (Boo!)

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 31st, 2014

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  1. TCU made some recruiting news earlier in the week as 2015 recruit Jalon Miller gave his verbal commitment to the Horned Frogs on Sunday. Miller, a 6’8″ four-star small forward (according to ESPN) from Seagonville High School in the Dallas area, is the first pledge in that class for head coach Trent Johnson. Getting a verbal from Miller is huge for Johnson on two levels: 1) Miller is a pretty good player; and 2) Miller saying ‘yes’ to TCU sends a message to other top prospects in the Metroplex that the Horned Frogs are to be taken seriously in recruiting. Think about it: Talented players are pledging to schools like TCU and SMU. Welcome to 2014.
  2. For two seasons at Baylor, Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson were together a lot on and off the basketball floor. When Austin announced to the world that Marfan’s Syndrome would end his NBA career before it had a chance to begin, Jefferson decided to make sure that he and his college teammate would always be on the floor together. Jefferson, of course, was the final pick in June’s NBA Draft, eventually made the Nets’ final roster, and contributed eight points and two rebounds in his NBA debut Tuesday with Austin in attendance. This might be the best non-LeBron story of NBA’s opening week.
  3. Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins was in his hometown of Mount Vernon, New York, in late May when he was shot in the shoulder. Miraculously, Cousins was fully participating in practice less than a month later. Cousins opened up on his experience for the first time since everything went down, saying that doctors decided to leave the bullet in his shoulder simply because it’s lodged in between his shoulders and can’t really move. Opposing coaches will now be forced to add “superhero” to Cousins’ scouting report. You’d be foolish not to.
  4. West Virginia might be the most fascinating team in the Big 12 this season. Since arriving in the conference, they’ve been a big disappointment, and my wandering mind has wondered about how much job security Bob Huggins has. He’s done a lot of winning and he’s a native son in Morgantown, but how much will it take athletic director Oliver Luck to consider making a change at the top of his men’s basketball program? Fortunately for everyone involved, that’s probably not a decision that will need to be made. Huggins has perhaps his most talented team since joining the Big 12 and can put those matters to bed with a run to the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15.
  5. Bill Self and his some of his coaching staff did a very cool thing for Kansas students on Thursday. Self went to the Underground, an on-campus food court, and bought lunch for everybody there. Eventually, word got around campus through social media and students flocked because there was free food. There isn’t much Self has to do win the favor of the students because of all the winning he’s been able to do on the floor. But now, even the few Kansas students who don’t watch Jayhawks basketball can’t find beef with him because, dude, he just bought y’all lunch.
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Morning Five: 05.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 29th, 2014

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  1. Yesterday, we mentioned that the class of 2014 had only recently finished announcing where they were headed. It turns out that we may have jumped the gun a little as Chris McCullough, a top-25 recruit who signed with Syracuse, is still awaiting his SAT and ACT scores (yes, he took both) to see if he will be eligible. McCullough’s journey to Syracuse has been an interesting one as he transferred from Brewster Academy to IMG Academy last season after being kicked out of the former for violating unspecified school rules. With Syracuse losing its top three players to the NBA Draft (C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, and Jerami Grant), whether or not McCullough can play next year could be a critical factor in whether or not they will be towards the top of the ACC.
  2. He is not an incoming recruit, but the announcement that Jerian Grant has been officially readmitted at Notre Dame might be the most significant move since Myles Turner announced that he was heading to Texas at the end of last month. Grant was suspended midway through last season due to academic issues and soon after his suspension the Irish fell apart going 7-13. With Grant (and his 19 points and 6.2 assists per game) returning the Irish won’t be at the top of the ACC, but he should make them a mid-tier team and could make them an upset threat particularly at home.
  3. Much like Grant’s absence late last season for Notre Dame, the injury to Larry Nance Jr derailed Wyoming’s season last year. Given Nance’s contributions to the team–leading them in scoring, rebounds, blocks, and steals–it was not surprise that his absence would have such a profound effect. Fortunately for Larry Shyatt it appears that Nance will be ready for the start of fall practice. Even though Nance tore his ACL on February 18 there was no cartilage damage or any other significant injuries so if his rehab goes well he could make them a threat in the Mountain West if he returns to form.
  4. Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins was hit in the shoulder by an errant bullet while he was back home in New York. According to reports, Cousins found himself in the middle of what appears to be a long-running battle between two street gangs. He was reportedly with a group that was not affiliated with either side when he was struck by a bullet.  Cousins, who averaged 11.0 points and 4.2 rebounds last season, is expected to recover without surgery and return to the team when they begin summer activities in June.
  5. We have seen schools do a lot of things to keep coaches, but what Arizona is attempting to do seems unique. A donor is offering football coach Rich Rodriguez, basketball coach Sean Miller, and athletic director Greg Byrne a stake in an oil and gas company (via a MLP) if they stay at the school for another eight years. Based on the current value of the shares this could be worth $6,188,000 each for Rodriguez and Miller and $3,536,000 for Byrne. The Board of Regents will vote on the contracts on June 6 at which time they would go into effect. The only catch for these three is that they have no protection if the value of the company falls. Of course, their shares could also rise significantly. With the high stakes nature of college athletics it will be interesting to see if more universities and their donors follow this model.
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If You Ask Around, Oklahoma Has Already Lost to North Dakota State

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 20th, 2014

The brackets were released late Sunday afternoon with #5 Oklahoma pitted against #12 North Dakota State in the West Region. Almost immediately, the near consensus was that the Sooners will get upset by the Bison. The Dallas Morning News compiled this list of predictions from various ESPN and CBS Sports personalities on Oklahoma’s NCAA Tournament forecast. That pessimism isn’t just relegated to the analysts; social media followed suit as well. It’s the classic #5/#12 game that most filling out a bracket anoint as a mark-it-down upset (they’re doing it with Cincinnati-Harvard too). But not all upset options are created equally.

Lon Kruger is the only coach in NCAA history to take five different teams to the tournament. (Young Kwak/Associated Press)

Lon Kruger is the only coach to take five different schools to the NCAA tournament. But he still gets no respect, no respect at all. (Young Kwak/Associated Press)

Does it make sense to pick against Oklahoma? Absolutely. The Sooners are constructed to be unappealing on purpose. There aren’t any superstar freshmen, All-American talent or a big-name head coach. And despite all this, it was Lon Kruger’s team that finished second in the best conference in college basketball. He came into 2013-14 without five of his top eight scorers from last season, but that didn’t matter — this year’s guard-oriented offense is averaging a surprising 82 points per game. Yeah, a Lon Kruger coached team is doing this. The four-guard (Cameron Clark, Jordan Woodard, Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins), one forward (Ryan Spangler) lineup that Kruger went with to start the season was risky because it appeared it would get outmuscled against bigger opponents. But interestingly enough, the Sooners were able to pull off season sweeps against Baylor and Texas, two teams with long and skilled frontcourts.

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Big 12 M5: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 6th, 2014

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  1. Is it time to hit the panic button in Lawrence? San Diego State walked into Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday and beat Kansas, 71-67, ending the Jayhawks’ 68-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. The Aztecs committed five more turnovers, blocked five fewer shots, had five fewer assists, and took 10 fewer free throw attempts than Bill Self’s team, and still somehow managed to get the huge win. It doesn’t get any easier for Kansas, though, as their first five Big 12 games over the next couple of weeks come against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
  2. Speaking of panic buttons, Oklahoma State opened up Big 12 competition with a loss to still-streaking Kansas State. CollegeBasketballTalk cites Michael Cobbins’ season-ending injury as a key reason for the loss. Although Kansas State only outrebounded the Cowboys by one board, Cobbins’ presence would have been helpful against Thomas Gipson, who went for six of his 11 points in the final five minutes of the game. It’ll be something to continue to monitor as Travis Ford’s team deals with strong frontcourts at Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State midway through conference play.
  3. Oklahoma got its best win of the season on Saturday, rallying to beat arch-rival Texas, 88-85. The game could have ended differently for the Sooners, as Isaiah Cousins received two technical fouls that resulted in an ejection after elbowing Texas guard Demarcus Holland late in the game. In the first half, Cousins and Texas guard Isaiah Taylor were hit with technical fouls for jawing at each other. Fortunately, Jordan Woodard stepped up to score the Sooners’ final 10 points, sealing the win with two free throws at the 1:08 mark. Up next, Kansas invades the Lloyd Noble Center on Wednesday night.
  4. Another day and another win for unbeaten Iowa State. The Cyclones got out in front of Texas Tech by 15 before the Red Raiders mounted a comeback to tie the game with 12:33 in the second half. Enter the Cyclones’ Monte Morris. He checked in seconds later and finished the half with five points, one steal and a blocked shot in the 73-62 victory. I guess we can add Morris to the arsenal of Fred Hoiberg’s many weapons at his disposal.
  5. West Virginia basketball fans will remember Saturday’s win against TCU as its own version of “The Flu Game.” (Eh, maybe not). In addition to the Horned Frogs’ front line, Eron Harris battled the flu all week and still dropped 22 in WVU’s 74-69 win in Fort Worth. “I was sick all week—sick out of my mind,” Harris told MetroNews. “It was the flu. I just couldn’t go (during the week of practices), but I felt better waking up today (Saturday).” First there was Michael Jordan and now… Eron Harris. That’s a fair comparison in my book.
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Big 12 M5: 12.05.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on December 5th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. While you weren’t looking, Texas Tech is going through a meat-grinder of a non-conference schedule. Their losses include one to Alabama and undefeated Pittsburgh but now you can add Arizona to the list. The season schedule was made well in advance of Tubby Smith coming to town but they still have to contend with a pair of much improved LSU and Arizona State squads. There’s no shame in losing to a team like the incumbent #1 on its home floor. Due to Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina last night, if Arizona can finish out the week unbeaten, they would become the nation’s newest No. 1 team on Monday. Take pride in that, Texas Tech. You played the best and lived to tell about it.
  2. The Oklahoman sat down with Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins, who split time at the point last season but is now in a larger role out on the wing. Going into today’s game, Cousins is posting 11.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and three assists per game among the Sooners’ four-guard lineup. “I think it’s going pretty good,” Cousins said. “I’ve been getting a lot of minutes trying to pick up from last year, and I’ve got a bigger role. I like the role I take. I think it’s a good fit.” No kidding. We should point out that Oklahoma’s game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi originally scheduled for 7:00 PM will actually tip off at 2:00 PM at the Lloyd Noble Center due to some inclement weather moving into Norman tonight. Adjust your pocket watches accordingly.
  3. It’s getting a little awkward around Oklahoma State basketball as of late. Stevie Clark, the freshman backup point guard, was suspended by coach Travis Ford and sent home from the Old Spice Classic. Here’s what Ford had to say on the issue yesterday: “Wait and see. We’ll wait and see.” According to Ford, Clark is still a part of the team but we don’t have a clue as to why he was suspended. Whatever unfolds here will have implications for not only this season but for the future at point guard for Oklahoma State. Smart is definitely leaving for the NBA and if Clark (9.8 PPG, 5.0 APG) were to transfer or worse, get kicked off the team, it’s back to square one for Ford. I guess we shall wait and see.
  4. Here was the headline from this recent piece in the Kansas City Star: “With Marshall Henderson in town, Kansas State hopes for better home basketball crowd.” As far as “official” attendance numbers go, the difference between paid attendance and arena capacity never exceeded 1,000 seats. I haven’t seen a K-State home game on TV yet so I can’t tell if a lack of attendance is apparent from that perspective; but if it is, that’s really disappointing. In the Bob Huggins/Frank Martin era, Bramlage was arguably the best home environment in the Big 12 outside of Lawrence. I guess you could call it “The Octagon of Plenty of Room,” amirite? I regret this already.
  5. A high school recruit has grabbed the attention of five of the league’s 10 teams and many others. Cheick Diallo is a 6’9″, 220 pound center who attends Our Savior New American in New York. Diallo is primarily known as a defender but is improving on his offensive game by averaging 12.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game on the Elite Youth Basketball League circuit. He currently holds offers from Kansas, Texas, West Virginia, Iowa State and Baylor. But if there’s a Big 12 leader in the clubhouse for Diallo, it might be the Cyclones, where he has already made an unofficial visit to campus in September. What does all this mean? Not much at this point, but it’s fun to see half the conference battle over one guy.
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Morning Five: 06.24.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2013

morning5

  1. North Carolina is not getting the headlines that other programs like Miami and Penn State have received for their respective scandals, but at some point we assume that the NCAA is going to step in on the various scandals surrounding the school. We all know about the academic scandal that the school continues to dig through, but now the school has to deal with the NCAA investigating the potential involvement of P.J. Hairston with an agent. The agent that they are investigating is Rodney Blackstock, the same agent who allegedly paid an AAU coach money to influence Ben McLemore. This only adds to a month that Hairston would like to forget as he was arrested earlier this month for misdemeanor marijuana possession. And of course there was the gun found outside of the car that we think still does not have an owner. Officials are investigating if the rental car Hairston was using at the time was paid for by Blackstock. Given the speed that the NCAA runs its investigations we would be surprised if Hairston was playing for the Tar Heels at the start of the season.
  2. Although his freshman season (0.9 points and 1.2 assists per game) was nothing to write home about (maybe to write home about transferring),the announcement that L.J. Rose was transferring from Baylor to Houston is a pretty big coup for the Cougars. Despite Rose’s meager production the fact remains that he was the #9 rated point guard in the class of 2012 and was stuck behind Pierre Jackson at Baylor, which limited his playing time and hence his numbers, but may also have taught him quite a bit about playing the position at the college level. With the pieces that Houston has put together they could be a dangerous NCAA Tournament team over the next few seasons.
  3. After a rough freshman season where he lost his starting job you would expect that Oklahoma point guard Isaiah Cousins would be working hard over the summer to prove that last season was a fluke. Instead, he was arrested on charges of public intoxication and interference on Saturday morning. For their part Oklahoma says “the matter will be handled internally”. If this is Cousins’ first brush with the law, we expect he will probably get nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the judicial system and the school. Still it cannot be comforting for Sooners fans to hand their team over to a guard. We also doubt that Cousins will be with the team on their European trip that starts on August 6.
  4. With all of the issues that the NCAA is going through some of the issues that their leadership debates continues to be a source of amusement for us. The latest example is the vote to overturn live scouting, which did not pass, meaning that live scouting will only be allowed under limited circumstances. We are not sure what those limited circumstances are (we are assuming teams and coaches can watch other teams play in tournament play before or after their games), but it appears that the original discussion was a question of resources and whether it created on unfair playing field where the more wealthy schools had access to better quality video while the other side argued for deregulation. In the end it seems like a big waste of time for an issue that isn’t nearly as important as many of the other ones the NCAA is dealing with at this time.
  5. In Friday’s Morning Five we mentioned the interesting potential case of the athlete (or athletes) who are involved in the Ed O’Bannon vs NCAA case. We briefly discussed the implications for the athlete and the extra scrutiny that they would be under. Andy Staples took a deeper look at the issue and compared it to the case of Curt Flood who was instrumental in leading a similar change in Major League Baseball and subsequently all professional sports in America. As Staples points out the athlete should ideally be one who is on television a lot to give greater publicity to the cause being championed.
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Big 12 M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 13th, 2012

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  1. This. Is. Awesome. T. Boone Pickens, everybody’s favorite Oklahoma State alumnus, has purchased the 4,000 remaining tickets for a New Year’s Eve showdown with Gonzaga and will give them away for free. Considering the Cowboys’ surprising start and increased expectations, this might be one of OSU’s more important home games in some time. With as much greed and power in sports today, it’s nice to see a guy like T. Boone give some tickets away for us common people to enjoy.
  2. We wrote a few days ago about the relative weakness of the Big 12 through the first month or so of the season. Here’s another look at the league’s early woes. This article digs deeper into the problem: Only Kansas and Baylor find themselves in the Top 100 of the RPI, and the conference as a whole has dropped to fifth. Stunningly, the Big 12 is also 0-5 against the Big Ten. The odd thing is that Oklahoma State is really the only team who has overachieved so far this season, but it’s early enough that Texas, West Virginia and several other teams could easily rebound.
  3. Oklahoma seems to have a lot of interesting characters on this roster. Buddy Hield made an earlier appearance in the Morning Five for his fun-loving antics, and here’s a look now at fellow freshman Isaiah Cousins. He brings a New York City attitude to the Sooners, a style of play often found up East but not normally in leagues like the Big 12. As teammate Romero Osby puts it, “Guys from New York City are always edgy.” Fair enough.
  4. The John Beilein days at West Virginia seem far removed. Hard to believe that less than a decade ago, Kevin Pittsnogle and the crew roamed Morgantown and created a semi-powerhouse in the Big East. His departure to Michigan wasn’t all that messy, and that’s why his match-up against the Mountaineers this weekend in Brooklyn shouldn’t be too awkward for him. Plus, West Virginia got another hometown man with Bob Huggins, and it seems to be sailing along just fine after a Final Four appearance in 2010. So don’t expect to hear the Boo Birds out in full force in Brooklyn on Saturday.
  5. To end this edition of the Morning Five, we’ll point you to a story that doesn’t necessarily relate to the Big 12 but involves a current coach in the league. We all know Bruce Weber‘s reign at Illinois did not end very well. He found a good gig at Kansas State and never looked back. But his old team has taken off under new head coach John Groce. He’s not bringing up last year, though. At all. “I haven’t certainly talked to them about it at this juncture and maybe in large part of it is I wasn’t here last year and don’t have relevance to that,” he said. No matter Weber’s involvement with this Illinois team, he’s in a decent position in Manhattan and it was certainly time for him and the Illini to part ways. It’s interesting to see how his old guys have fared, however. Maybe he wishes he’d had just one more year in Champaign.
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