Sooner Basketball on Top of Its Game Heading into Big 12 Play


There’s a lot to like about OU Sooner basketball as the clock ticks down on 2015.

The Sooners are on top of their game and on top of several individual an team categories as they prepare to tip off the more competitive second season in college basketball on Saturday, when conference play begins.

Unlike their brothers in arms in the OU football program, whose season schedule was back-loaded, with the three most difficult games coming in succession at the very end of the season, the Sooner men’s basketball team begins conference play against the two teams they are expected to be in a fight with for the conference crown in basketball.

The Sooners host the 11th-ranked Cyclones of Iowa State on Saturday, and two days later travel to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., for an ESPN “Big Monday” date with 11-time defending league champion and 2nd-ranked Kansas.

Dec 25, 2015; Honolulu, HI, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) goes up for a layup over Harvard Crimson center Zena Edosomwan (4) during the second half at the Stan Sheriff Center. Oklahoma Sooners defeated the Harvard Crimson 83-71. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma is ranked No. 3 in the latest Associated Press poll (No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll). Nine of Oklahoma’s 11 wins this season have been by double digits, and the Sooners’ 20.9 scoring margin ranks ninth in the country.

Here are some of the notable reasons the Sooners are off to their third best start in men’s basketball in the past 26 years:

  • Oklahoma teams in 2008-09 and 1989-90 both began the season going 12-0. The 1985-86 Sooner basketball team, one season after Wayman Tisdale departed, went 17-0 to begin the season and won 21 of its first 22 games. That one loss was a 98-92 defeat at Kansas.
  • At least three Sooners have posted double-digit figures in all 11 games this season.
  • Isaiah Cousins had only six points in Oklahoma’s win over Harvard in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic tournament, but those six points put him over the 1,000-points milestone for his OU career.
  • Ryan Spangler is a prime reason why Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in rebounding, averaging 43.8 per game through 11 games. Spangler had a game-high 15 boards in the win over Harvard. He has 35 games of 10-or-more rebounds in his career.
  • The Sooners lead the Big 12 in field-goal percentage defense. OU opponents are shooting just 36 percent from the field against the Sooners.
  • Buddy Hield, last season’s Big 12 Player of the Year and the favorite to repeat that honor again in 2015-16, is the conference scoring leader with a 24.9 average, five points better than the next best player, Georges Niang of Iowa State.
  • In the closing seconds of a game, you don’t want to foul either Buddy Hield or Jordan Woodard of the Sooners. The pair are one, two in the conference in free-throw percentage. Hield is shooting 90 percent from the charity stripe, while Woodard is just a tick behind at 89 percent.
  • Oklahoma is No. 3 in the nation in three-point field-goal percentage. The Sooners are averaging 10 treys per game. It’s no surprise then that three OU players (Hield, Woodard and Cousins) rank in the top five in the Big 12 in that category.
  • The Sooners’ seven-footer, Akolda Manyang, averages just 10 minutes a game, but his ranks second in the Big 12 with almost two blocks per game.

Oklahoma’s most difficult stretch of the season will come over the next three-plus weeks, when Buddy Hield and Co. will take on seven conference teams with a current combined record of 55-11. Four of those seven games are away from Lloyd Noble Center: at Kansas, Bedlam vs. Oklahoma State, at Iowa State and at Baylor. How OU does in that dangerous stretch will have a lot to say about the Sooners’ chances of unseating reigning conference champion Kansas and capturing Oklahoma’s second Big 12 crown in basketball and 15th league title all-time.