As the Oklahoma Sooners continue to slide, they will be looking to best what last years squad was capable of. The remainder of the schedule leaves very little opportunity for those wins. The game against the Iowa St. Cyclones is on the road, a place where the Sooners have had real struggles. OU's only conference road win still comes against the Kansas St. Wildcats who have dropped out of the rankings. Will Lon Kruger and his guys find another road win this season?
It has been very apparent that this team has lacked something since the loss of Calvin Newell. From that point on, while wins have been picked up, the scoring shifted to one or two major players every game. Looking at the upcoming game, Royce White is always going to be a focus. However, Oklahoma attempted to slow him down and in turn White took what was given to him finding the open man.
1 - Lon Kruger will not be able to game plan specifically for Royce White given his versatility. He can be a scoring option, but when the opposition focuses solely on him, White becomes a pass first forward as was seen last time these two teams met. That means that close-out/perimeter defense will need to be stout. The Cyclones hit 15 three pointers in the first meeting. Given that the inside meets double team after double team, they will shoot from outside early and often.
2 - Steven Pledger needs a complimentary player this game. This has been an ongoing theme this season as Pledger is saddled with the majority of the scoring responsibility along with the go ahead to create on his own. Last season Pledger went off for a career high 38 points in Ames, Iowa and OU may need a repeat performance out of him. Every team in the league is focusing on Pledger and the need for a secondary scorer has become more and more apparent. Andrew Fitzgerald does his part and has been a solid player for Lon Kruger. However, what happens when these two get in foul trouble? If someone is going to step up the time came a few weeks ago yet we are still waiting.
3 - Oklahoma must stay aggressive and attack the rim. Against the Texas Longhorns, the Sooners shot a season low 8 free throws. Head fakes are always key to get a defender up in the air. It is up to the ball handler to create the contact and get to the free throw line.
4 - Sam Grooms has to continue his trend of assist to turnover ratio. He moved up on the nation list to #4 in the category after the game against the Longhorns. The last eight games have really been a showcase for JUCO transfer Grooms and what he is capable of. Feeding the bigs and getting easy buckets will only help what Oklahoma is trying to do. Establishing that presence in the paint takes the pressure off Pledger and makes everything just a bit easier for the guards. But, like stated above, it all starts with up top with Grooms.
Oklahoma does have a chance to do better than last season's squad but it will be a challenge. I remain one of the few hopefuls and maybe some others will join my wagon before it's all said and done. The game in Ames is going to be a tough one but it is winnable...not holding my breath on this one though.