It’s time to start looking at Oklahoma as a basketball school instead of a football powerhouse. After all, this is the season for the Sooners to win the Big 12. Yes, still talking about Oklahoma basketball here.
How can a team that sits at 17-7, 8-4 in conference be considered a favorite to not only win the Big 12, but also be a real factor come March? The answer is quite simple: depth, balance and one of the most underrated rosters in all of college basketball.
Quick, name the leading scorer for Oklahoma. It’s Buddy Hield, who is averaging a shade under 17.6 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field. Not eye-popping numbers, but that’s a testament to the balance the Sooners have this season. KenPom has Oklahoma ranked as the 35th best offense in the country this season, a number that is much lower than its fourth-rated defense.
The defense is what makes Oklahoma special this season. Traditionally, the Sooners are known as an offense-dominated team and given up tons of easy points from the defensive side. However, the Sooners can still score when needed, as evident in their game against Iowa State last night. Just two days after beating TCU 68-56, Oklahoma exploded for a 94-83 victory over the Cyclones.
Want to talk about Kansas and its fancy 10-year streak of winning the conference? Sure, that’s nice and all, but Kansas still has a daunting schedule for the rest of conference play. Sitting at 8-2 in the Big 12, the Jayhawks still have two games against No. 21 West Virginia, home games against No. 16 Baylor and Texas. Oh, and the trip to Norman in the last game of the year. A game that could determine the Big 12 champion.
Oklahoma also has Lon Kruger, who is becoming one of the best coaches in the country despite making just one Final Four over 20 years ago. Kruger has turned his experience in the NBA into rejuvenating his college basketball career and drawing more talent to Norman than anyone ever expected.
With a roster this deep (three players are projected to be drafted in the next two NBA drafts), Oklahoma has the depth to play with anyone in the country. Yes, even Kentucky and Duke. The Sooners rebound as well as anyone in the country, grabbing over 38 rebounds per game, good enough for 21st in the country.
One of the most important factors for Oklahoma winning the conference, though, comes to intangibles. Looking at advanced stats and records is nice, but what about when you watch Oklahoma play? There’s one player who should stand out.
It’s junior forward Ryan Spangler who is the stereotypical glue player on this team. He does a little bit of everything, scoring over ten points and grabbing eight boards per game. Outside of that, he’s not afraid to play physically in the post and dive after loose balls. He’s the player that does all the things that don’t end up on a stat sheet.
Just remember, it’s not football season in Norman anymore.