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OU's Tournament Stock Falling Rapidly

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Many people are hitting the panic button. Are they justified?

Normally I'm not an alarmist, but I have to admit, even I am hitting the panic button right now. It's hard not to; OU's slide has been hard and fast. Meanwhile, the national media and casual fans are jumping off the bandwagon faster than you can say "another OU turnover". The common factor is that everyone knows that OU is in serious trouble. But how much has it hurt them? Let's take a look at the latest bracketology from around the country:

  • ESPN's Joe Lunardi has OU as a 3 seed in the East Regional, opening up in a Minneapolis pod against Stephen F. Austin. They would be in UConn's region.
  • CBS's Jerry Palm has OU as a 2 seed in the South Regional, opening up in a Kansas City pod against Long Beach State (Big West). They would be in UNC's region.
  • We've taken a hit in the KenPom rankings, not surprisingly as they were already hating on us. Interestingly, our pythagorean winning percentage (using an equation, what our winning percentage SHOULD be) is 0.934. While this collapse may seem unexpected by many OU fans, we are basically regressing to where we should be based on those calculations.

Analysis of OU's recent trends, and what our expectations should be, after the jump (click the link below).

Where Do I Think We'll Be Seeded

I think OU will be a 2 seed. In fact, I think we will be the 3rd or 4th 2-seed on the S curve. The bad news for OU is that this wasn't just one sudden bad loss, as OU has lost 4 of their last 6 and hasn't had less than 14 turnovers in the past 7 games. That will hurt them in the eyes of the selection committee. The good news is that a lot of the people right around them in the rankings have also lost recently (Pitt, UConn, Kansas). That helps ensure they won't fall too far. OU, despite all their recent troubles, is still only a 5 loss team - easily good for a 2 seed.

Will We Get Seeded Into Kansas City for the First Weekend?

Fortunately, I think OU will also likely luck out in this regard. The Jayhawks helped us out a lot by losing to Baylor as I think they will drop to a 3 seed. More deserving teams like Duke, Wake Forest and Villanova will get a look before KU. The committee will protect teams from travel if it can, so I think you'll see Memphis and OU get seeded into a Kansas City pod (each city gets 2 pods).

The Alarm Bells

There are a lot of alarming things about the Sooners, but I will try and make this list as concise as possible:

  1. To my knowledge, no team that has finished outside of the top-25 in adjusted defensive efficiency has made it to the Final Four since at least 1999. I could be wrong, but that's a stat I've heard thrown around. The bad news here is that OU's defense is not great, and their adjusted defensive efficiency is 47th in the nation.
  2. As an ESPN Insider feature, someone calculated a formula that basically predicts mid-major teams that have the best odds of pulling off an upset, as well as the major teams that have the best odds of being upset. I'm not going to give away everything, but let's just say OU is very high on the list of major teams that are likely to get upset, and very close to the almost automatic historical threshold of being upset.
  3. Awhile ago I took a look at PASE and what it said about OU's tournament chances. Back then, our team was looking a little better. What I didn't do was take a look at the PASE statistics overall. Turnover margin and assist to turnover ratios are the 2nd and 3rd most important statistics to teams that outperform seed expectations. As we are all aware, OU doesn't take care of the ball very well.
  4. Watching the epic Syracuse-UConn battle last night, I was struck by something. Syracuse battled. They battled hard and they battled even when they had almost nothing left to give. That was admirable. I wrote about our team's effort last night, and the difference between watching OU and then immediately watching Syracuse was shocking. Perhaps we just didn't care about the Big 12 tourney and we were caught looking ahead to the Big Dance. But sometimes it's difficult to just flip a switch and suddenly start playing with heart. The other thing that struck me was how clutch Syracuse's players were. It was depressing considering we shot 15% from 3 point range.
  5. We have the classic profile of an underachieving team who gets knocked out before the Sweet 16. The Sooners are slumping at the wrong time, can't play defense worth a lick, turn the ball over, and aren't using their advantage correctly (OU shoots a very high percentage and can be explosive on offense, but nobody is moving anymore). Think the Gardner-Webb game.

Reasons For Hope / The Silver Lining

Sorry to pile on the depressing news and statistics. But there are reasons to hope. I also wrote an article awhile back about how the difference between a 1 seed and a 2 seed is almost non-existent, and it depends on how the teams perform in the tournament. The seed has nothing to do with it at all. 2 seeds have won a championship before.

When we try and put forth effort, this team is great offensively. Our KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency is good for 8th in the country. Players need to move more on offense and if we're going to take 19 three pointers, we better make more than 3 of them. Capel needs to show them tape of the beginning of the conference season and say, "that's how you need to play on offense".

The PASE article I wrote explained how we do have a lot of the attributes of an overachiever for a 1-3 seed. None of them have shown up in recent games, but still, we have proven we are more than capable of doing those things.

All that needs to happen is for the team to pull together and say, "Hey, on defense all we need to do is step up and challenge shots, not play flat footed and put forth some effort. We step it up on defense, and everything will fall into place". Taylor and AJ need to show some senior leadership. I think this team misses a strong leader to kick their rears every now and then to whip them into shape. If we can pull together and find a competitive fire, OU is a very dangerous team.

But will they? Well, as they say, that's why they play the games.

A Few Notes To Close It Out

Oubulletlogo_medium Some interesting excerpts from a Tulsa World article this morning. I'll post a few quotes and then give a sentence or two of thoughts afterwards.

In one respect, Oklahoma's Big 12 Tournament Bedlam loss Thursday came down to two plays, one officials' call, one officials' non-call, and one question, asked by a member of OU's team outside his dejected locker room:

"What the (bleep) was that?"

First, credit the author for not giving away which player that was, we don't need that right now. Second, you can tell this team is angry right now and they are turning that into negative energy. They need to figure out how to channel that into positive energy sometime in the next week.

Griffin was whistled for a foul. Anderson went 2-for-2 and the Cowboys led, 71-70, with 2.3 seconds remaining.

"It's physics," OU coach Jeff Capel said. "If you have a 255-pound guy (Griffin) and he happens to run into a guy that is going for the ball, a guy that's 200 pounds (Anderson), he is probably going to move him a little bit."

Basically Capel said what a lot of people were thinking - the officials decided the game, they blew the whistle when they shouldn't have over contact that didn't constitute a foul at that point in the game. Plus, Anderson initiated the contact.

After a Sooner timeout came the second play, and the non-call. OU's Taylor Griffin rifled a three-quarter-court pass that Blake Griffin left his feet to grab while being bodied by Anderson.

"I caught the ball, and (Anderson) was trying to make a play on the ball, just like the play before when they called me for a foul," Blake Griffin said. "He hit me, but I didn't fall to ground."

Asked whether falling to the Ford Center floor would have drawn an Anderson foul, Griffin replied, "I don't know. I'm not going to fall to the ground over something like that."

First, I'm glad he didn't flop. Second, this sounds like a "call it both ways" quote. This is elaborated on shortly thereafter in the article:

Asked if falling seemed to be the key to the two plays, and the two officials' decisions, Griffin replied: "I would say that. Yes."

Asked if there seemed to be full-body contact by Anderson on the long inbound pass, Capel replied, "You can write it."

You can tell the Sooners are annoyed with the officiating, but to their credit, they also blamed the loss on a lack of consistent play through the entire game in their post-game pressers.

Oubulletlogo_medium A different Tulsa World article makes a great point. Get the ball to Blake Griffin more! I was not aware Blake only took 9 shots in the game:

No, that's not a misprint. Although I certainly can understand why you would question it.

When a team has the best player in the country, and he happens to tower over every one of his opponents by at least four inches, he should be launching nine shots every few minutes instead of getting off that paltry number for the entire 40 minutes of the Bedlam contest at the Ford Center.

By comparison, Tony Crocker took 9 shots, Willie Warren took 11 shots, and five players on Oklahoma State took more shots: Eaton (12), Harris (12), Page (11), Muonelo (11), Anderson (9).