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Finding a starting lineup that has meshed well along with scorers coming off the bench will be key in this upcoming week. Conference play will be up the nation in no time as all are making a push for the NCAA Tourney. What works best and what has completely failed?
The Oklahoma Sooners have been tinkering around with the starting five for obvious reasons. Scoring as well as shots taken from players like Amath M'Baye have been down as of late. With a roster full of talent and the mentality that you must earn your spot on this team, things are currently up in the air...at least for now.
In watching practice after practice, there is one thing that has become apparent as the Sooners prepare to take on the Ohio Bobcats, a Sweet 16 team from last season who returns their top nine scorers. The starting five has begun to morph as Oklahoma marches down the final stretch of non-conference opponents. Isaiah Cousins has been practicing with the second team as the shooting guard while Buddy Hield has moved up. M'Baye has been bumped down as well and Cameron Clark has been running the forward spot opposite Romero Osby, a niche discovered against the Texas A&M Aggies.
Nothing is set in stone as of yet. With two games to continue narrowing down the rotation as well as who works best together, there is ample time to review and change the starting five. However, before too long, conference play will be upon the nation as Oklahoma takes to the road against the West Virginia Mountaineers, a team they beat earlier this season.
Who takes the floor tomorrow night as Oklahoma and Ohio clash in the first tinkering fans may see? Here is my prediction:
Defensively, this lineup takes a hit without M'Baye on the floor as a shot blocker. However, while it is rumored that Tyler Neal has the most hops on this roster, Clark can jump out of the gym as well. That pins him as a potential shot blocker with the ability to jump with the best of them. Yet, for Lon Kruger, it is about seeing if the success of Clark was a fluke or not. Ohio is a solid team that will expose or reaffirm the confidence of the coaching staff to rethink and tinker a tad more down the road. Look for Clark's agility and ball handling skills to take over creating mismatches yet again in favor of the Sooners.
The other major change is Hield taking over where Isaiah Cousins once was. Ball handling may be a concern here as both are youngsters learning to deal with the pressure from some of the more experienced players in game-time situations. Let it be known, that Buddy can hold his own though. He is a speedy yet physical style of player who has an incredible motor and drive to score. Hopefully Hield can pick up some of the more recent slack in scoring while players like Neal, Sam Grooms, Cousins, and M'Baye carry the load off the bench.
Some light will be shed on the future as Oklahoma hosts Ohio in Norman on December 29th at 7:00 PM (CST).