The Oklahoma Sooners are 10-1 after playing their pre-Big 12 schedule and are now preparing for their conference opener against West Virginia on Dec. 31.
With that, we have five thoughts about the Sooners at the break.
At the Moment
The Sooners have had a great non-conference run, with one notable exception — a 124-78 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City the second week of the season. It was a stunning loss on the road, but the Sooners have bounced back nicely, winning their last seven games, with the final one being a 95-79 win over Florida at the Jumpman Invitational. The Sooners have a 2-1 record against Power 6 teams, an 0-1 record against Top 25 teams, and a win over future Big 12 member BYU.
The Sooners have one of the deepest, most experienced teams in the Big 12, led by their three super-seniors. Forward Madi Williams is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week (16.5 points, 5.9 rebounds), guard Taylor Robertson (10.4 points, 2.5 assists) is closing in on the NCAA record for most 3-pointers in a career and guard Ana Llanusa (9.5 points, 2.5 assists) is showing no ill signs of last year’s injury. Meanwhile, guard Skylar Vann (11.4 points, 7.0 rebounds) is second on the team in points and first in rebounds. And, guard Nevaeh Tot (10.0 points, 4.2 assists) has grown as a scorer and facilitator this season. Coach Jennie Baranczyk has played 10 players at least 10 minutes per game so far this season. That includes forward Liz Scott, guard Aubrey Joens, guard Reyna Scott and freshman forward Kiersten Johnson, all of whom are averaging at least five points per game. One player the Sooners haven’t had all season is Kelbie Washington, who has been out with an unspecified injury.
The Recruiting Class
Baranczyk continues to bring in high-level talent to Norman, as she snagged the signature of guard Sahara Williams, who was rated a Top 30 player by ESPN.com. Baranczyk went back into her old Iowa stomping grounds (she was formerly at Drake, based in Des Moines), to grab the Waterloo, Iowa, product. The other signee in the early period was Tuttle, Okla., center Landry Allen. The Sooners have a half-dozen seniors on the roster, with Williams, Robertson and Llanusa most assuredly out the door after this season. Baranczyk should have room to pursue at least one more prep player come the April signing period.
Well, it’s the defense. The Sooners giving up 124 points to Utah is a significant red flag. While the Sooners are the top-scoring team in the Big 12 (87.5 points), they are the worst-scoring defense in the Big 12 (73.3 points). In fact, their average is 12 points higher than Iowa State (61.7). What’s the problem? Some of it is Oklahoma’s style of play, which basically allows it to fire off more shots than most teams in the country. But, some of it is the Sooners’ own defense. Oklahoma’s field-goal defense (38.1 percent) is the worst in the Big 12. The Sooners are also forcing the second-fewest turnovers in the Big 12 (15.3 turnovers per game) and with their own turnover rate of 16.5 per game, the Sooners have the worst turnover margin (-1.18) in the conference. The Sooners need to flip that, and quickly.
The Big Stretch
The Sooners’ start to the Big 12 slate will be worth watching. The Sooners start by traveling to West Virginia, which has lost just two games this season. After that, the Sooners host Baylor and Iowa State, both ranked teams. After a trip to Texas Tech — which has lost one game entering the week — the stretch ends with a home game against ranked Kansas. Three games against ranked teams in their first five games should test the Sooners.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard