Throughout the season, it became very evident that the very goal of this squad was to reach the NCAA Tournament. After putting together a solid run through the non-conference portion of the schedule, fans began to take notice with the realization that this could mark the end of the drought. However, it was only a matter of time before the faithful caught on to the fact that conference play was an entirely different monster.
Romero Osby proved to be an irreplaceable part of this Oklahoma Sooners squad as his leadership, work ethic, and mentality proved to be what kept this team on track often quoted as saying "one game at a time." It must be noted that Osby is every bit a family man. With his priorities in line and his humility, it is easy to see why Roe quickly became the player that he did.
We can only hope that even in the absence of Roe, his words and mentality will continuously be echoed in the practice gym. A narrow focus keeps a team grounded and puts the bigger picture in perspective. Yet, it is this same focus that allows them to reach a level of greatness.
Opposite of Osby, Sooner fans were introduced to a trio of freshman in Isaiah Cousins, Je'lon Hornbeak, and Buddy Hield along with transfer Amath M'Baye as the athleticism of this group soared. Despite all of the new names, it would be Hield who quickly surfaced as a fan favorite and vocal leader.
Heading into the season with a fresh crop of talent, head coach Lon Kruger took every opportunity to lay down a solid foundation for the future. Not only did Kruger begin to do so by emphasizing defense, he solidified it with giving the youngsters valuable experience by trusting them in tough situations. While not every outcome proved to be favorable, it was later used as a teachable moment.
Take for example Hornbeak who struggled during a stretch of the season as he was thrust into the starting point guard role. Lack of ball handling experience hurt this team in more ways than one as the point guard carousel continued to turn. In turn, one final spin landed Hornbeak on the wing and he began to find a groove as he excelled.
Enter recruit, Jordan Woodard who is a natural PG and should see significant time with the loss of Sam Grooms. While Woodard may not start early on as a freshman, he has the potential of shifting a few others back to their natural positions much like the insertion of Grooms into a starting role did for Hornbeak.
The wheels are in motion as more pieces will be added to this Oklahoma roster next season. Defense will remain an emphasis as will transition offense with the athletic and ready to run squad. Yes, major factors like Osby will be missing but it is all a part of the college game. There is no doubt in my mind that Kruger will have this team ready for a repeat performance if not a better outing than this past season held.