It was hard to expect Oklahoma to finish in the top half of the Big 12 this season given that Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State started very well in conference play. The Sooners play in conference games so far has been quietly surprising, even with losses to the likes of Stephen F. Austin at home. The Sooners did return their core of Steven Pledger, Romero Osby, and Amath M’Baye which has provided the bulk of the scoring and leadership.
Oklahoma finished a fairly easy non-conference schedule with only two losses, one being a blow out against Gonzaga. Given the quality of competition in the Big 12 this season, I don’t think anyone anticipated them getting to the 4-2 record in Big 12 play thus far. In addition to wins against underachieving West Virginia and overmatched Texas Tech, they’ve also beaten rival Oklahoma State at home.
The Sooners have an interesting mix in their starting five. Their three core guys are playing well, with Osby leading the way. He has posted solid numbers so far(14.4 pg, 6.4 rpg) and has elevated his play in conference games. He scored a career high 29 points in a win over Texas, and has scored 19.7 ppg through the first six conference games.
Pledger (10.9 ppg)started slowly this season, but has been showing signs of improvement. The senior guard will be a key contributor to Oklahoma’s tournament bid, and will need to be a consistent outside threat so that Osby can continue working in the paint.
The 6’9 M’Baye is the banger in the Sooners front court. He is putting up 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game so far, and his offensive output is becoming more consistent during the early conference schedule. He will have to be a bigger defensive presence, especially against the likes of Kansas, if the Sooners are going to be taken seriously.
Of the Sooners’ two freshman guards, Je’lon Hornbeak has developed steadily and Buddy Hield (9.4 ppg) is heating up as conference play continues. Hield is a relentless rebounder (4.7 pg), which fits perfectly into the Sooners game-plan. They get good depth from Andrew Fitzgerald and Sam Grooms. The Sooners have a chance to make the NCAA tournament and be a tough first round opponent for whatever team they play.
Updated Big 12 Power Rankings
1. Kansas 2. Kansas State 3. Oklahoma State 4. Oklahoma 5. Baylor 6. Iowa State 7. West Virginia 8. Texas 9. Texas Tech 10. TCU
Amit Tailor is a scout and correspondent for NetScouts Basketball and covers the Big 12. Thanks to isportsweb.com for the photo.