Oklahoma Basketball: One Step Forward & One Step Back

Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

In what should have been a step forward, Oklahoma left the hardwood with many of the same questions they stepped onto it with.

The final exhibition match for the Oklahoma Sooners this season was held in the historic McCasland Fieldhouse against the UCO Bronchos (yes, that is how they spell it). As former greats, such as Alvan Adams, returned to catch a game in a place they once held dear, the Sooners upended the Bronchos 94-66.

What we still do not know:

In what should have been a step forward, Oklahoma left the hardwood with many of the same questions they stepped onto it with. Many expected to see a starting lineup change as Lon Kruger employed three newcomers in Amath M'Baye, Je'lon Hornbeak, and Isaiah Cousins in the first exhibition against Washburn. These three are key in the ability to spread the floor and open things up inside. Many expected a little more "experimentation" with the game against UCO. However, the starting five remained unchanged while Sam Grooms and Andrew Fitzgerald once again were found coming off the bench along with heralded freshman Buddy Hield.

This does not imply that the starting five will never change. In fact, it will have to morph and adapt as each team provides different match-ups and mismatches throughout the season. The tweener type bodies will afford Coach Kruger the ability to interchange multiple pieces in this puzzle and style of play he is creating.

We have hashed over the fact that Kruger is installing an uptempo style of play multiple times through different avenues, so I won't bore you with that again. However, this style of play requires a group that extends past the seven deep mark on the bench and OU has that kind of depth this season. Fresh legs will be essential later in the season if the Sooners are looking for continued success.

Awareness of a wear and tear factor has resulted in no player seeing more than 25 mintues of playing time per game thus far and manifest itself in a 10 man rotation. In both exhibitions, Oklahoma has cleared the bench while featuring future red-shirts D.J. Bennett (against Washburn) and C.J. Cole (against Central Oklahoma).

Fans are left to ponder who will be the starters once conference play begins.

What we do know:

The first staple of this team can be tracked through the rebounding margin. In the first outing, Oklahoma out rebounded their opponent by a margin of +4. They followed it up against Central Oklahoma with a margin of +9 while there were 20 more shots fired up during this game. The margin differential is a tell tale sign that the guards are getting involved in crashing the boards, not just the post players.

Take note of the 21 turnovers against Washburn and 17 against UCO. Why? Because, turnovers are going to be a facet of this team regardless of how fans and media feel about it. Fans must realize this is a young team playing at a fast pace resulting in less time to survey the floor and quick decisions. This put the magic number at 20. Anything over that mark and Oklahoma could struggle. However, the vice versa is true as well as anything below that number will favor the Sooners.

Lastly, the Sooners will been seen as an agressive team in getting to the charity stripe. Driving the lane and drawing the foul are vital to the success of this team. In two games, Oklahoma has attempted 75 FTs while making 55 of those. If they can keep this pace, teams will have difficulty downing OU in close games. I expect this squad to challenge teams many think they have no business hanging around. Translation? FTs could decide if the Sooners make the post-season or not.

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