College basketball feels like it started last week, but all of a sudden we’re more than halfway finished with the regular season. This is my midseason OU basketball team report card… So far.
At first glance, you’ll look at the Sooners’ 12-6 record and judge them as an average, maybe just above average team. Deeper fishing is required for this team; and while the team is on a current in the midst of losing three of four, the overall resume should still raise some eyebrows. Four of the Sooners’ six losses were against teams ranked inside of the top twenty at the time of the loss. The only exceptions are Creighton and Kansas State. In the visit to Creighton, which featured a sellout crowd of 17,393, the Sooners were up 18 points in the second half before relinquishing the lead with 49 seconds left in the game. Against Kansas State, Wildcats guard Marcus Foster drained a three in front of a light Norman crowd with 4 seconds left in overtime to secure the Wildcat win. Other than those two games, none of OU’s losses have been weak losses at all, the other four coming from Wisconsin, Washington – who has admittedly fallen since that game – West Virginia, and Kansas.
Inside Play: B+
Former Oklahoma high school Gatorade Player of the Year and Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler has been a low key force inside for the Sooners this season. Spangler only averages 9.7 points per game, but he does average 8.3 boards per game and shoots a rather surprising 55.7% from the field. The problem is that the guards do not feed Spangler the ball enough. Of the five Sooners starters this season, Spangler has had the second fewest shot attempts, only ahead of the faltering point guard Jordan Woodard. TaShawn Thomas, the Houston transfer (who was somehow deemed eligible to play this season despite a transfer between division 1 school), has been electrifying for the Sooners. He leads the team in field goal percentage at 54.6% and is bound to make a giant dunk on some occasion during every game. His defense has also been noteworthy as he has slapped his way to 29 blocked shots in 18 games this season.
Outside Play: A
Jordan Woodard is holding this team back on most nights. The sophomore is shooting a mediocre 33.9% from the field and has only managed to get five three point shots to go through the rim ALL SEASON! To give him credit, at times his ball handling can be rather impressive and his lane driving skills range from great to awful, depending on the night. Then there’s Buddy Hield, the junior sharpshooter regarded by some as one of the best players in the entire country. Hield is the commander of this squad thanks to his play on the court and his demonstrated leadership. He averages 18.1 points per game and shoots almost 40% from three point range. The only one better from behind the arc is Isaiah Cousins, who shoots 43.8% from long. Cousins has been the surprise of the team so far this season. Also, he is the best defender of all the Sooner guards, leading them in rebounds and blocked shots.
So, while the overall resume is good, it could use some improvement, and that’s definitely achievable. The Sooners have shown some flashes of brilliance throughout games. The most prevalent example to come to mind is their 21-3 run to open the second half in Lawrence on January 14. OU was down 51-32 to the Jayhawks at the half, but ended up pulling to within 53-54, and eventually taking the lead later in the game. Another example is the home Bedlam rout on January 17. Buddy Hield was perfect – no, literally perfect – he shot 10/10 from the field including four three pointers, and as a whole the team shot 55.8% from the field. Basketball greatness has made its way to Norman this season, it just has yet to stay. Hopefully Lon Kruger can continue his successful tenure as head coach and create something come March that is worth fearing in the NCAA Tournament