It took two 20 minute halves and three stretches of 5:00 minute overtimes to crown the winner of Monday night's OU-Kansas game and the Sooners found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard. They fell 109-106 in a great college basketball game that was a treat for fans all across the country. Buddy Hield scored a career high 46 points in the loss and received a standing ovation from the crowd as he exited the Phog. It was a great performance from the senior guard in his last game in Lawrence.
The Sooners were probably happy to be apart of such an efficient and fun college basketball game but I'm sure those players would trade it for a sloppy win. Still, Lon Kruger should be pleased with his team's performance. So what's next for Oklahoma now that they join a long list of one loss teams in college basketball?
For starters, they have Kansas State on Saturday who swept the Sooners last season despite finishing the season with a losing record. If Oklahoma had taken care of business of the Wildcats last season, they would of won the Big 12 outright but instead finished tied with Iowa State for second place in the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma still has a great chance to win the Big 12 this year, but they can't afford very many upsets if they wish to win the conference. It would also derail all of the Sooners momentum if they went on to lose two straight conference games after starting the season 12-0. A win would put them right back in position to contend for the Big 12 and the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.
After that Kansas State game, the rest of the January schedule includes a bunch of potential "trap games" that Oklahoma can't overlook. A road trip to Stillwater to take on their in-state rival is never easy and a home game against #17 West Virginia comes two days before the Sooners travel to Ames to play #13 Iowa State. The following Saturday after that the Sooners host Baylor, who's first in the country in assists per game and is capable of beating anyone.
A week later, Oklahoma travels to Baton Rouge to take on Ben Simmons and the LSU Tigers. It will be a battle of the two best players in college basketball right now in Hield and Simmons and will have huge Player of the Year implications along with giving the Sooners one more big non-conference win. If Oklahoma wins that then they'll have gone through their entire non-conference slate without a loss, which is pretty darn impressive. A loss wouldn't destroy the Sooners but that game might have more Player of the Year implications than NCAA seeding implications. Don't tell that to either coach, but it might turn out to be true in the long run.
The Big 12 schedule gets easier in February and March with only two ranked opponents. A home game with Kansas on the 13th is the biggest game on the Sooners schedule and it could result in the roof falling off the Lloyd Noble Center. A week later they will travel to Morgantown to face #17 West Virginia who is the third best Big 12 team this year from what I've seen. Then it's rivalry week as Oklahoma faces OSU and Texas on the 24th and 27th. Both teams have had somewhat disappointing seasons but it's still a big week.
To end conference play the Sooners play Baylor at home and TCU on the road before the Big 12 Tournament. The Sooners have been disappointing in Big 12 Tournament's under Lon Kruger (1-4) but that could very well change this season with a veteran roster. A deep conference always means an exciting tournament where anything can happen but you would expect a talented team like this one to at least make it to their first Big 12 Championship under Kruger. The head coach will also be looking for his first Final Four appearance since 1994 when Oklahoma goes to the NCAA Tournament this spring.
It should be an exciting rest of the season for Oklahoma with lots of high expectations that this veteran team is ready to take on. Bill Self called them a championship team after beating them at home, which means a lot coming from the head coach who's won a championship himself. If Self believes in Oklahoma, then the fans should too. It's a really talented basketball team that's made from players who want to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. It's rare for that to happen in this age, and even rarer for a team like that to be so successful.