A former NCAA Division I coach and now ESPN analyst, Fran Fraschilla took a moment out of his busy schedule to sit down with CCM. The topic was Big 12 Hoops and the NCAA Tournament as March is just around the corner.
The Oklahoma Sooners will have a chance to walk away with a great win over a productive Kansas St. Wildcats team this Saturday. Of course there will need to be a few changes from round one to this matchup.
Crimson And Cream Machine - What does Oklahoma have to do this time around in order to walk away with a win over Kansas St.?
Fran Fraschilla - This will be a great game between two hot Big 12 teams. Oklahoma must handle the Wildcats' pressure much better this game. In addition, they must be aware of where Rodney McGruder is in Bruce Weber's motion offense at all times. They lost him too often in the last game.
Not only does Oklahoma start a trio of newcomers, two of those are true freshmen. It is a theme that has permeated through basketball at the top schools quickly being labeled as "one-and-dones." Usually this level of talent winds up at Kansas or Texas within the Big 12 Conference.
CCM - Around the Big 12, is this the year of the freshmen?
FF - It's always the "year of the freshman" in the Big 12 because of the outstanding recruiting that goes on each year by the league's coaching staffs. So. while there is no Kevin Durant in the conference, guys like Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore and Isaiah Austin are, rightfully, getting a lot of national attention. But, there are a number of freshman who will be around the league longer than those guys. Iowa State's Georges Niang is having a terrific season, as well as Oklahoma State's Phil Forte. Texas has a lot of talented young guys, as well.
Lon Kruger has nurtured his three freshman, Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Je'lan Hornbeak expertly. All three have contributed and are played about 67 minutes between them. They have a great future.
At the beginning of the season, Oklahoma was picked to finish 7th in the preseason polls. While it was a team surrounded by uncertainty in a few areas they have taken the conference by storm up to this point. Currently sitting in second place in the conference...
CCM - Are the Sooners a surprise performer in the Big 12? Where would you rank them in the conference to date?
FF - They may be a surprise to most people but not to those who know Lon Kruger and how he builds basketball programs. They are improving to the point of being a definite post-season team right now with a real chance at an NCAA berth.
We are all familiar with Lon Kruger's track record. There is a major jump in progress from season one to season two.
CCM - Lon Kruger has a great track record in his second season with a particular school. Is it his ability to recruit or more so his system that is the major component to his success?
FF - Coach Kruger's philosophy, in my opinion, is to keep it simple, execute what you do well and don't beat yourself. It's a proven formula. The players he inherited are high-character guys who have bought in and his newcomers have, as well.
Often times you have heard us here at CCM say that Oklahoma will need to reach the magic number of 20 wins in order to see an NCAA Tournament bid. They currently sit at 14 wins with a few others down the road that should be wins putting them just on the edge of 20. It begs the question.
CCM - For the Sooners, many are saying the magic number is 20 wins in order for them to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Is this an accurate statement?
FF - Not necessarily. I'd look at things like RPI, strength of schedule and quality wins, both home and away. Base on where the team is right now, twenty wins is certainly in reach but it is not the automatic it used to be for power conference teams.