The day has finally arrived that all Sooner Basketball fans have been dreading and anxiously anticipating: The start of the Big 12 regular season. Only 11 games into the season, the Sooners have already begun this season uncharacteristically. For the first time since the 2012-2013 season, OU has lost three consecutive games. In the past two seasons, Oklahoma has only lost two home games. Oklahoma has already accounted for one loss this season in Norman, and the Big 12 regular season has yet to begin. After the Final Four run this past season, the Sooners managed to only drop eight games, while the team this season has already given away five games. Is there any hope for the Sooners this season? This question will be answered when the no. 4 Baylor Bears team travels to Norman to begin conference play.
How to watch
The Sooners and the Bears tip-off at 6:00 PM CT at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, OK. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2, and can be streamed live online on Watch ESPN. This game may result in excitement or anger, and this can expressed in the comment section below as this will be the game thread for the game.
If the Sooners should have a glimmer of hope going into this matchup, it could be because of their historical dominance over the Baylor Bears. These two programs have met 56 times, and the Sooners have walked away victorious 44 times. That is a winning percentage of 79 percent. What may be even more impressive is the longest winning streaks each school has against each other. OU's longest winning streak against the Bears is a whopping 30 games, while Baylor has only strung together three games against Oklahoma. However, Baylor has managed to find more recent success against the Sooners. In the last 16 games, the Bears have won seven times (over half the total number of times Baylor has beaten OU). Although this history can provide some confidence to this young Sooner squad, they will be entering a rare environment.
There have only been four games between these two programs in which Oklahoma was unranked and Baylor was ranked. The highest Baylor has been ranked in those games was no. 6 in the country. This season, they enter the game as the no. 4 team in the country with an unscathed record. In each of these games, Baylor had already suffered from at least one loss before meeting the Sooners. In those four games, Baylor won three games, while beating OU both times in Norman. The Sooners will need to reverse the course in these unchartered waters to walk away with a victory.
What to expect
Unlike the football team that raced out to a great start at the beginning of the season because of a cupcake schedule, this Baylor team is highly-ranked because of the quality of their wins. The Bears have already accumulated four wins against ranked opponents, with three of those being in the top ten. How have they won those games?
Baylor will not beat anyone shooting from the 3-point line. However, they will attack the rim all game. They are ranked 13th in the country for shooting percentage (49.7 percent), and that is mostly due to 2-point shooting percentage of 56.3 percent, making them 16th in the country. Rebounding and passing have also been vital to their success. They currently are 17th in the country for assists per game, and are limiting their opponents to 18.2 defensive rebounds, making them 6th in the country. Their defense has suffocated opponents, only allowing 59.2 points per game and are 10th in the country. So what can the Sooners defense do to attack this lethal team?
OU has lost five games already, but all of these games have been by 10 points or less with two of them occurring in overtime. This shows that this team is talented and capable of winning big games, but the ball has not been bouncing their way this season. One of OU's strengths is their 3-point shooting percentage, which they rarely rely on. They are currently 20th in the country, with Christian James being tied for 69th in the country for his 3-point shooting percentage of 51.2 percent. The Bears will be a huge test, as they are 5th in the country for their opponent's 3-point shooting percentage. Being able to make jump shots will be key in this game, as the Bears protect the rim very well, being 6th in the country for blocked shots per game. Oklahoma has a clear advantage with total rebounds per game, as they are 56th in the country compared to the Bears who are 144th in that category. The rebound battle and second-chance points may determine who wins this game.
Who to watch
The four leading scorers for the Baylor Bears are all Juniors. Lead by Jonathon Motley with 16 ppg 8.7 rpg and 2.3 apg, this team is very balanced and dangerous. Al Freeman (12.7 ppg) and Manu Lecomte (11.6 ppg) are great additions, but someone that the Sooners may not be able to guard is Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. This 7-footer is averaging 10.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 4.1 bpg. This core four will be a lot for the Sooners to handle.
It is evident how much these Sooners need Jordan Woodard. Although they almost escaped with a victory with him sitting out last game, there was an obvious missing piece to the puzzle. He has managed to lead most of the season in scoring (17.6 ppg), assists (3.6 apg) and steals (2.1 spg). He needs to play this game for the Sooners to have a chance. Christian James has brought some necessary contributions, averaging 12.4 points per game along with 4.6 rebounds per game. Two players that are under the radar but could change the landscape of this game and season are Rashard Odomes and Jamuni McNeace. Odomes is averaging double-digit points (10.1 ppg), while also grabbing 3.2 rebounds per game. McNeace has brought some stability at the center position, and has given the Sooners some pivotal minutes down the stretch of games. These two will need to step up even more as the season goes along.
This win would be massive for the Sooners. A win for Oklahoma would be much more significant to their program than if Baylor lost. Oklahoma cannot afford to drop any more games, and will need to start building their resume before March rolls around. Unfortunately, the urgency of this game will not be enough to counter the attack of this Bears team, and the Sooners will drop another game.
Oklahoma 72 Baylor 81