Oklahoma's men's basketball team have a few opportunities to get run out of the gym on Monday afternoon when they played the Kentucky Wildcats in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. There's no doubt in my mind that last year's squad would have done just that but this year's team did something we never saw last season. They played with heart and fought to the very end. In the process they taught us a few things while playing their strongest competition of the season this far, some positive and some negative.
- This team still struggles in perimeter defense - This has been a constant during the Jeff Capel era but in my opinion it has been a player issue more than a coaching issue. Some year's it has been about effort (last season) and other's inexperience. That said, I don't expect to be a season long issue as this team is teachable.
- This team is teachable - One of the things that I really enjoyed watching was that this team allowed Jeff Capel to coach. I never saw the, "I know better than the coach" attitude that we saw from last year's squad. This bodes well for the season as they should show consistent improvement as time moves on.
- This team has a big hole in the middle - Maybe he will be someday but as of right now Nick Thompson isn't a Big 12 caliber big man. He doesn't lack attitude or effort its just the ability isn't there right now. His stat line for the game was - 4 points, 6 boards, 1 assist and 4 fouls. Waiting for him to develop may be Oklahoma's biggest weakness this season. Oklahoma was out rebounded 37-29.
- This team has to get better at free throw shooting - A 50% shooting percentage from the charity stripe won't cut it in the Big 12.
- This team needs Cade Davis to lead them - Andrew Fitzgerald keep the Sooners alive in the first half with 10 points but the on the floor leadership by Cade Davis allowed them to pull within 6 during the closing moments. However, Davis needs to not force things but show a little patience and let the game come to him. His 23 points allowed Oklahoma to keep the game respectable but some better decisions could have made it even closer.
- This team is more talented than we thought - There was a clear talent mismatch on the floor between Oklahoma and Kentucky but the gap wasn't as big as we may have previously thought. I said on Sooner Nation Sunday night that I hoped they could keep it under 20 and the Sooners were actually in the game with two minutes left. Jeff Capel has something to work with in this squad.
- This team plays with heart and toughness - This is a team that won't quit. They've proven twice this season that they are going to fight until the very end. Against North Carolina Central it allowed them to come back and win and against Kentucky it allowed them to make a run at the upset.