Some Thoughts on OU Basketball After Upset Win Over Missouri

Missouri wasn't ranked, but they were receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches' polls from January 11th. The Sooners weren't. Missouri was also a team that had compiled a 14-3 record coming into the game, was riding a 9 game win streak, and had recently beat a very good Kansas State team at home.

They were ranked #10 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings, #37 in RPI, and #6 in Adjusted Scoring Margin (ASM) - a great predictor of tourney success.

Make no mistake about it, the Sooners accomplished something big today. They got a coveted quality win. I don't care if it was at home, where they remain undefeated, it was a quality win.

We got a big contribution from Willie Warren today who was in the doghouse during the Bedlam battle - committing a career high 7 turnovers against the in-state rivals. From the official site:

Warren was replaced after a series of his career-high seven turnovers during a win against Oklahoma State on Monday night, and the fans let it be known they were glad to see him leave the game.

"Not just the crowd. It was everybody," said Capel, the Sooners' coach. "Me included."

Willie finished the Missouri game with 21 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, made all 8 of his free throws, and he shot 43% from beyond the arc. Let's also not diminish the efforts of Cade Davis who had 15 points and 11 rebounds. And Ryan Wright stepped up in what might have been the best game I've seen him play - 12 points and 8 rebounds in 27 minutes.

So where do the Sooners stand right now? They have 13 games remaining now. 6 of those will be played in the comforts of home at the Lloyd Noble Center - Iowa State, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State,  Baylor, and Texas A&M. Three of those teams are ranked in the AP Top 25 (Texas, K-State, Baylor). The other seven on the road include Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Kansas, and Texas. Only two of those teams are ranked in the AP Top 25 (Kansas, Texas). 

So, their road schedule is noticeably easier than their home schedule, even though they've gone undefeated at home so far this year. The Sooners seem to have a different tenacity at home.

They have an incredibly brutal stretch of games from February 20th through March 1st that consists, in order, of K-State, @Kansas, Baylor, and @Texas. So they're going to need to try and win as many games as possible over the next four weeks to set themselves up for a brutal finish with 4 of their last 5 games against ranked opponents.

Making The Tournament

Making the Big Dance is an incredibly subjective mish-mash of complexities. A lot of it is actually based on the RPI sheets that the people making the decisions will be thumbing through. RPI is calculated basically by breaking it down into 3 parts - 25% team winning percentage, 50% opponents winning percentage, 25% opponents' opponents winning percentage. So, obviously it helps to play a tough non-conference schedule and be in a solid conference to get the RPI a boost. Luckily the Sooners have both of these. Other things that help:

  • A Signature Win:  as far as I can tell they are going to have limited opportunities - Texas (2/6), K-State (2/20), @Kansas (2/22), @Texas (3/1).
  • Perception Of Being From A "Tough Conference":  right now the Big East and Big 12 are probably considered the top two conferences. Normally about 70-85% of the at large bids to the tournament are from the "Big 6" conferences. That usually amounts to about 22-28 of the 34 at large bids.
  • Performance in Last 10 Games:  as we mentioned, this is one chip that is not likely to fall in the Sooners' favor. They finish with a really tough schedule. They might wind up having to win a couple of games in the tournament, depending on their regular season record.
Teams that don't win their conference tournament, and receive an at large bid, typically need about 19 or 20 wins to reach the tournament. Take a look at last year's field. Maryland qualified with a 20-13 record, Wisconsin 19-12, Arizona 19-13, and Michigan 19-13. These teams are typically slotted in a 10, 11 or 12 seed.

So the question remains whether or not the Sooners can win about 8 of their last 13, or finish the regular season 8-5 over the last 13 games. If they go 7-6 or 6-7, they'll probably need to get a win or two in the Big 12 Tournament to qualify.

The Sooners are playing well enough at home to beat the 3 non-ranked opponents they'll play in the LNC the rest of the way. They should also be able to steal one from Texas, Baylor, and K-State. If they can win 4 of their last 6 at home, they'll make things much easier on themselves.

On the road, they'll need to take care of business against Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas Tech (who have faded recently).  If they can do that, and pull off a surprise, they'll probably make it into the tournament, something I hadn't thought possible after the Gonzaga loss.

The problems will start if the early-season Sooners re-emerge and start choking in the winnable games. Right now they are sitting at 11-6. But imagine where we would be if we had beat Houston and San Diego! 13-4 would be an incredibly nice spot to be sitting right now.

Anyways, the Sooners have played their way back into the discussion for the tournament, and the win over Missouri today is likely to raise a few eyebrows. Boomer Sooner!
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