Feb 29 2012; Austin, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lon Kruger (right) talks with guard Steven Pledger (2) against the Texas Longhorns during the second half at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE
In 2005, the Sooners won a share of the regular season Big XII title along with the Kansas Jayhawks. However, the Sooners earned the #1 overall seed in the Conference Tourney due to beating KU head-to-head.
Now, Oklahoma is trudging through the desert in the middle of a drought in terms of reaching the Big Dance. The last trip the Sooners made to the NCAA Tournament came under Jeff Capel with a team headlined by Blake Griffin. But that was during the 2008-2009 season.
However, the incoming talent didn't stop with Griffin brothers. Capel was able to use them as a launching pad after the risk the university took in hiring him. The program went on a tear landing players like Willie Warren, Tommy Mason Griffin, and Tiny Gallon. With the name came the ego and the baggage. Now the men's program program sits in shambles.
Lon Kruger stepped into what he had to have seen as a mess. But, he was coming with a reputation and a plan. The one question that remains unanswered is, when will Oklahoma find themselves in the Big Dance once again?
Before you get too excited, that is not a question that I can answer. What I can offer is a little insight as well as an educated guess at the next time Sooner fans will see OU in the tourney.
(While this is a look at Lon Kruger's past head coaching positions, it will leave a couple schools out simply due to the fact that those schools were in no need of a resurrection process. The schools include Kansas St. and Illinois.)
In past years and at several past schools, Lon Kruger earned himself a reputation as the resurrector of programs surviving on life support alone. It all started at Texas Pan-American with his first head coaching position.
Texas Pan-American Broncs
As the story plays out, it is clear to see that Kruger inherited a team that was on its way out. His first season at Pan-American, the Broncs posted a 7-21 record. Not exactly what you would call a successful season. However, by his fourth season there, Kruger had nearly tripled the win output of his squad by maximizing what he had as well as bringing in his own recruits by hitting that magic mark of 20 wins.
The second team that needed a bit of resurrecting was the Florida Gators who found themselves with a losing record. Yes, Lon Kruger did return to his alma mater, Kansas St. before taking the position at Florida. However, the Wildcats were successful when he arrived and needed no resurrection story.
|1993-94||16-12||NIT First Round|
|1994-95||29-8||NCAA Final Four
Once again, Kruger found himself in a similar position that he was when he first became a head coach. This time, however, it was at a major school in a Big Six conference. We all know what Florida has been capable of in the past 10 years but would any of that have happened had Kruger not stepped in an taken over this team. Possibly but I still like to think of it as highly unlikely.
The final school the needed to be resurrected before Kruger arrived on Oklahoma's campus was the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. This is a position that he could have finished his career out on. Kruger was having much success with a mid-major squad and notched five consecutive tournament appearances before making the jump.
UNLV Runnin' Rebels
|2004-05||17-14||NIT Second Round|
|2006-07||30-7||NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|2007-08||27-8||NCAA Second Round
As you can see, Kruger was posting 25+ win season in 2006 and 2007. He would follow that up with 20+ wins in the 2008-09 through the 2010-11 seasons.
Now fast forward through his first season at Oklahoma. The Sooners posted a 15-16 record under their new head coach after a 14-18 outing last season. Yet, they are most likely going to retain every key player as well as adding a few components. So, how long before the Sooners make the jump back to the NCAAs? There are two common trends here. The first is the jump in number of wins between the first season and the second season. On average, at these three schools, there was a jump of four wins. (If you throw out UNLV, it would be a jump of nearly seven games.) The second trend is that each school hit the magic number of 20 by the fourth season and would be a shoo-in for a tournament bid especially as part of the Big Six.
At minimum, I would take a guess and say that OU will see the NCAAs within the next two seasons. However, if I were a betting man, I would put some money down on the fact that Kruger and his squad will reach a post-season tournament next season given the trends. Lon Kruger has some solid recruits coming in and is looking at getting a few more added to in 2013. Hopefully, Sooner Nation can be restored to power in the basketball realm.