OU Basketball 2015-16: Going Full Court from A to Z


OU basketball takes to the hardwood on Friday as the Sooner men’s team hosts Washburn University in the first of two exhibition games prior to the official tip-off of the 2015-16 season.

The Oklahoma men come into the new season with the expectations bar set high and  ranked in the top 10 in both the Associated Press preseason poll and the USA Today Coaches’ Preseason Top 25.

The Sooners return four starters – including Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield – and 75 percent of their offensive production from a team that finished 24-11 overall last season and tied for second place in the Big 12. OU is sure to field plenty of firepower on offense this season, and if 2015-16 is anything like a year ago, coach Lon Kruger’s squad can be expected to play a tough brand of defense as well.

Last season, Oklahoma held 28 of its 35 opponents to less than their season scoring average at the time they played them. The Sooners ranked 11th in the country last season in field-goal percentage defense, holding their opponents to a collective .386 shooting percentage from the field. That was the lowest mark by an OU men’s team in 56 years.

OU has improved its record every season in Kruger’s four years as head coach, including an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons. Oklahoma advanced to the Sweet 16 round last season as a No. 3 seed before losing to Michigan State in the East Region semifinals.

Mar 7, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Isaiah Cousins (11) attempts a layup against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot to like about this season’s Oklahoma men’s team, and I’ve tried to capture some of that for you in a quick snapshot of the Oklahoma Sooners and the 2015-16 college basketball season, from A to Z.

A – Oklahoma averaged 11,120 in home attendance last season. That ranked fifth in the Big 12. The Sooners, however, drew third best in the conference when they played on the road, averaging 11,176.

B – Redshirt freshman Dante Buford could be a valuable newcomer coming off the bench this season. A 6-7 swing man who can play at guard or small forward, Buford sat out all of last season because of academic issues.

C – The Big 12 men’s basketball coaches, in their annual preseason poll, picked Oklahoma to finish second in the conference this season behind 11-time defending champion Kansas and ahead of Iowa State.

D – Defense will play as much a part of the Sooners’ success this season as a potent offensive presence. OU allowed 0.92 points per possession on defense a year ago. That led the Big 12.

E – Expectations are very high for Sooner men’s basketball in 2015-16. No one is more aware of and excited about this than coach Lon Kruger. “It’s an older group, and we should be able to take that up a notch,” the fifth-year OU head coach told reporters this week at the team’s annual preseason media day. “We’ll have to cover a little bit better on the defensive end than we did last year. We’ll have to rebound a little better. Just across the board, we hope to do things a little bit better.”

F – Oklahoma led the Big 12 in free-throw percentage last season, shooting 74 percent from the charity stripe.

G – The Sooners were second in the Big 12 last season in made three-point field goals with 236. Buddy Hield led the team with 93 treys in 2014-15. That is the fourth most in a single season in program history.

HBuddy Hield, who led the Big 12 in scoring and was the Player of the Year in the conference last season, is back for another year and is a big reason why expectations are very high for the Sooners in basketball this season.

I – Senior Isaiah Cousins was the Big 12’s 12th leading scorer last season, averaging 11.7 points. For two years running, the native of Mt. Vernon, N.Y., has been named the team’s most improved player. Like his teammate, Ryan Spangler, Cousins is closing in on the 1,000-point club. He needs 142 points to reach that level.

JChristian James, a 6-4 shooting guard from Houston, is one of the Sooner newcomers this season. James was once a top-100 national prospect, but he broke his leg playing in an AAU game between his junior and senior seasons in high school and only played in two games his senior year.

K – Kansas is the only Big 12 team that owns a winning record over the Sooners in basketball. The Jayhawks lead the all-time series 142-66.

Mar 22, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lon Kruger during the first half against the Dayton Flyers in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

L – Head coach Lon Kruger is in his fifth season at OU. He has 561 career wins as a head coach and is 82-49 at Oklahoma. He is the only college coach to lead four different schools (OU, Kansas State, Florida and UNLV) to the Sweet 16 round in the NCAA Tournament.

M – Oklahoma opens the season Nov. 17 on the road against the University of Memphis. The Tigers were 18-15 last season and finished in fifth place in the American Athletic Conference.

N – If Oklahoma receives a berth in the NCAA Tournament this season, it will be the Sooners’ 27th NCAA appearance overall and 15th in the last 20 seasons.

ORashard Odomes, a four-star recruit by ESPN, is probably the best prospect in the Sooners’ 2015 recruiting class. A 6-7 guard, Odomes was a Texas Class 6-A All-State selection his senior year in high school, where he averaged 25.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

P – Oklahoma had a +5.9 points differential against Big 12 opponents in 2014-15. That was second best in the conference.

Q – Quotable: Buddy Hield on the upcoming season: “Out goals have gone from making the NCAA Tournament my freshman year to reaching Houston (site of the Final Four) this year. It will be easier said than done, and nothing is guaranteed, but we will work for it, take one practice at a time and when it comes to our first game at Memphis (on Nov. 17), we’ll compete as hard as we can.”

R – The Sooners play seven teams (4 of them in the Big 12) this season that are currently ranked in the USA Today Preseason Top 25. They have games against Villanova, Wisconsin and LSU in the nonconference schedule and two conference games each with Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor and West Virginia.

S – Senior forward Ryan Spangler has started in 68 consecutive games for the Sooners. He is 345 points shy of reaching the 1,000 point club for his OU career. He would join 41 other Sooners who have reached that scoring milestone. Spangler also stands second all-time at Oklahoma with a .582 field-goal percentage.

T – The Oklahoma men’s team travels to Hawaii two separate times this season. The Sooners play No. 9-ranked Villanova (USA Today Coaches Poll) in Honolulu on Dec. 7 and then return to the island two weeks later to participate in the Diamond Head Classic.

U – The Oklahoma men have had four undefeated seasons in the 108 years of the program (1909-10, 8-0; 1912-13, 8-0; 1918-19, 12-0, and 1927-28, 18-0).

V – The Sooners will face Villanova, ranked 9th in the 2015-16 USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll (11th in the Preseason AP Top 25) in Honolulu, Hawaii, in their sixth game of the season.

WJordan Woodard is one of four returning starters from last year’s OU squad. The 6-foot point guard averaged 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and nearly 4 assists per game last season as a sophomore.

X – The X-factor this season will be the contribution from the Sooners’ bench. There is talent among the reserves, but with so many newcomers, Division I experience is extremely thin and will have to be developed in-season.

Y – Year to year, each of coach Lon Kruger’s Sooner teams have finished higher than where they were picked to finish in the preseason Big 12 coaches poll. In 2011-12, the Sooners were picked to finish ninth and ended up eighth; in 2012-13, they were projected to finish seventh and wound up tied for fourth; in 2013-14, they were picked tied for fifth and ended up second, and last season, the coaches tabbed them for a third-place finish and they tied Iowa State for second place in the league.

Z – Zany prediction: The Sooners will enter Big 12 play this season with a 10-1 record (the only loss to Villanova in Hawaii) and win their first two conference games, including defeating Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse (after a conference-opening win over Iowa State in Norman).