Lon Kruger and the Oklahoma Sooners Men's Basketball team came into this season with little to no expectations whatsoever. Now, the team is at a point no one expected them to be at with an 8-1 record (out of 338 teams, only 36 have 0 or 1 loss on their record thus far). Their only loss comes from, again, something they were not expected to reach...the 76 Classic Championship Game.
It is apparent that this Oklahoma Basketball program that was going off the rails like a crazy train is now back on track and coasting into each stop ready to face any and every challenge that comes at them. This is the kind of team that is easy to get behind with the work ethic and hustle that is displayed each and every week. However, something has changed. Fans have gone from a "we simply hope we aren't the cellar dwellers" mindset to think this team could finish in the top half of the conference mentality.
While this team has made great strides under Kruger, are they, and the fans, setting themselves up for a disappointment?
Much of Oklahoma's success comes from their ability to rebound and rebound consistently. Lon Kruger and his staff have turned a concern into a strength. At the moment, the Sooners currently weigh in as the thirteenth best rebounding team in terms of average margin at (+9) per game. However, this is a far cry from where they started the season at which was fourth in total rebounds per game and has now dropped to 29th. Sure some of this can be attributed to the increase in shooting percentage as well as free throw percentage in the past few games, but we have yet to hit conference play.
It is no secret that Oklahoma is undersized and the physicality of the Big XII could see this number drop significantly. Rebounding is most definitely a team effort but you must expect it to start with the bigs as they are the ones banging bodies down low. Kruger and his staff have preached rebounding as the key to success for this team and it shows. Oklahoma is grabbing 16 offensive boards a game, but OU has yet to face a solid rebounding team.
Through the first nine games, the Sooners out rebounded Coppin St. by a grand total of 34 boards. This is significant because in the rest of the eight games, the Sooners have won the rebounding margin by an average of 5.9 rebounds per game. You can't neglect the Coppin St. game but it does skew the number just a bit.
As OU heads into conference play, size will play a much bigger role as the Sooners rely on two 6'8" players in the blocks. Technique will need to be an emphasis if the Sooners want to continue to put up similar numbers and have the chance at more possessions and more second chance points. All of this will be vital to the success of this Sooners program and so far so good. The question is will this margin dwindle to the negative as the season progresses or will OU continue to do the unexpected?