the fate of oklahoma basketball after two back-to-back losses (and one surprising road win)
The Oklahoma Sooners are coming off back to back losses for the first time this season and it doesn’t look good for the remaining part of the spring.
The recent wins have been close ones and sometimes, the w’s are too close for comfort.
The basketball team the nation has seen for the games against Texas Tech and Kansas is not the same team that went into triple OT against the Jayhawks in early January or even the team that dominated the Cyclones in Norman weeks ago.
Where did the team go?
The Sooners have a habit of dropping the ball during key points in the season. Whether it be football against Clemson in the Orange Bowl or in basketball when sophomore center Khadeem Lattin missed free throws against the Jayhawks to end double OT, it is common for the Sooners to lose their cool in crunch time. Oklahoma can be described as the girl at the bar who doesn’t give her number to a guy after he buys her a drink.
Well, it can come from a few different places. For football, ego plays a huge key in their ability to win. When the team believes without a doubt it can win, it doesn’t.
For basketball, it looks like exhaustion. The missed shots pile up and the level of confidence from the three-point lines drops significantly.
If exhaustion is piling up, the Sooners have to find a way to rebound from it. The best player in the nation is feeling it too, Buddy Hield has not been able to find a groove in the past four games and it was felt in the last game.
Hield missed shot after shot, even from his comfortable three-point place, and now it is in question whether he is going to be able to keep shooting fire from the arc, or even keep shooting at all.
It is unsure where his head is during the game, but he does not rebound well from missed shots. It is going to be a matter of finding a place to be comfortable this late in the season and if the star player doesn’t, then he is taking Oklahoma down with him.
Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler are feeling the same thing Hield seems to be showing on the court. Cousins has felt moments of spark connecting with the net on threes, but Spangler seems to pass the ball every time he is in possession.
The Sooners have to find a new groove. There are plenty of strong players on the bench. Jamani McNeace and Dante Buford have had moments of spark on the court and extra practice could send them into the starting line-up.
If the starting roster isn’t going to change, head coach Lon Kruger is going to have to find something that works against the rest of the Big 12 rematches for the rest of the season.
The depth chart needs some rearranging and quickly. Buddy Hield is not going to hold the team through the tournament and he cannot last through every single game the Sooners play.
As well as rearranging the depth chart, Kruger needs to be able to reinvigorate senior forward Ryan Spangler again. After a disappointing shot record against Texas Tech, ‘air ball’ might be his new nickname.
What needs to change?
The defense needs to return to blocking shots. Lattin needs to find his rebounds, and fast. Against West Virginia the sophomore Houston-native was able to find 13 successful rebound opportunities.
The offense needs a powerful presence from jump ball to the end of the fourth quarter too. Yes, the Sooners won yesterday, but that’s one win after two miserable losses.
Kansas’ defense with Devonte Graham shut down Hield’s shooting ability. Kruger needs to find opportunities for Hield other than the three-point line so he doesn’t find himself completely shut down during a game. Hats off to Graham, it was an incredible performance.
The loss to Tech has to be fluke. The team that arrived on the court is not the team that showed up at the LNC against Tech late in January.
What do I think?
The loss against Kansas was miserable. The Sooners were 0–10 from the three point line until two minutes in to the second half. Hield was outplayed by Kansas sophomore guard Devonte Graham. The slow start killed Oklahoma’s shot for a win and the trailing score did not help the team either. Let downs were made on offense and defense by the entire team. The final straw was the amount of missed shots, the lack of rhythm and the lack of rebound ability from missed opportunities.
One would think after one tough home loss, the Sooners would find a way to rebound over Texas Tech in Lubbock. The win was probable for a variety of reasons and Oklahoma was favored in Lubbock. First off, the Sooners dominated Tech in Norman earlier in the beginning of Big 12 play. Secondly, Oklahoma has a stronger roster.
The lackluster performance in Lubbock was a complete 180 from the original matchup between the two in late January. In Norman, the Sooners were able to keep the pace after missed shots and fouls. In Lubbock, the slow moving beginning and inability to fire shots in pivotal moments handed Oklahoma their fate.
Is there are next stop?
If redemption against Kansas was possible, that would be the best next step. There is hope to see the Jayhawks in the tournament and the Sooners would need to control the power in transition and play to seal a win.
Until then, Oklahoma barely survived the win against Texas and it is going to be more pivotal at this stage in the game to pull out another win. Surviving isn’t going to cut it, so the Sooners are going have to find a well-oiled pace to defeat the Longhorns.
Outlasting Baylor and TCU are going to be easier feats for the worn-down Oklahoma team. Luckily, the Bears are traveling to Norman for the next matchup and the home court advantage, with the home crowd advantage, seems to work for the Sooners.
Oklahoma traveling to TCU should not be an issue, as the Horned Frogs dominate the national football stage, but not basketball.
I see the Sooners getting by the end of the season with close wins, but with four more wins and finishing first or second in the Big 12. If a conference title is not possible, a long ride in the playoffs could be possible for the seasoned Oklahoma team.
Luckily for Oklahoma, there are plenty of good Big 12 wins that can make up for lackluster basketball conference losses.
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