Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE
There is a lot to like about this season's Sooner men's basketball team and here are some fun facts, quotes and reasons why.
As the Sooner men get ready to take on Kansas on Saturday in their second straight trip north to the Sunflower State in as many weekends, here are some fascinating fun facts and what some folks are saying about this season and the Oklahoma basketball squad:
- The Sooners, at 13-4 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12 Conference, are off to their best start in basketball since Blake Griffin's final season in 2008-09. Even if they play 50-50 ball the rest of the way, they would end up with a regular-season record of no worse than 19-11 and 10-8 in league play, a considerable improvement over their sub-.500 finish the past three seasons. Regardless of how things ultimately work out, head coach Lon Kruger and his staff have brought back an exciting brand of basketball to Lloyd Noble Center.
- A year ago, OU was among the bottom feeders in the conference in scoring offense and dead last in scoring defense. Don't look now, but the Sooners are scoring at a higher clip (71.6 points per game) through five league games than any team in the conference. This may change as the quality of competition improves markedly over the next couple of weeks, but the fact remains that OU's more up-tempo, ball-pressuring defense is leading to better shots and more scoring opportunities, which bodes well for the Sooners' continued success on the court the remainder of the season.
- The Sooners also lead all conference teams at this stage of the season in free-throw percentage (78 percent as a team in Big 12 play) and field-goal efficiency (46 percent from the field). This sets up an interesting story line for Saturday's game with Kansas. While OU leads the conference in scoring and a Big 12-best FG percentage, the Jayhawks are the league's best shutting down opposing offenses. KU is holding its opponents this season to 36 percent shooting from the field.
- In OU's huge Red River Rivalry win over Texas this past Monday, the student section of Lloyd Noble Center was packed and the arena was filled, something that was highly motivating to witness and, sadly, hasn't been the case the past several years. And if you don't think the players notice and positively react to something like that, you would be wrong. An energetic crowd that is having fun and into the game "makes the environment hostile," said Sooner senior forward Romero Osby, "So we always need that young energy, standing up and going wild. You look around the country and you watch games on TV, and the student sections are going crazy. I think our student section could be better than any of them."
- Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse has been Death Valley for KU opponents, dating back to 1955, when the "House that Wilt (Chamberlain) Built" was opened. Kansa has won 86 percent of the games played there all-time. In Bill Self‘s 10 seasons as KU head coach, Kansas has lost only seven times at Allen Fieldhouse in 162 games, and they have won 101 of their last 102 games playing at home. To put KU's home court dominance in perspective, Oklahoma has not won there in 11 straight trips to Lawrence, Kan. OU's last victory at Allen Fieldhouse was in 1993, an 80-77 victory.
- ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has the Sooners projected as a No. 8 seed in the 2013 NCAA Basketball Championship, which would be OU's first appearance in the tournament in four seasons.
- Romero Osby had a career-high 29 points in the Sooners 73-67 win over Texas earlier this week. The 6-8 senior forward has been on a terror the past 10 games. During that time, Osby has shot 50 percent or better in all 10 games and has averaged almost 17 points per game. He currently is second in the league in scoring in Big 12 games, with a 19.2 average and is shooting at a cumulative 58 percent clip.
- Osby on Kansas, the Sooners' next opponent: "They're a really good team. They're a top-three team in the country, and they're not rated there by mistake. We've just got to come out and play as hard as we can possibly play, take care of the ball, rebound the ball and just get some things to go in our favor."