Oklahoma basketball: ESPN’s Power Index doesn’t think highly of Sooners

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08: Chimezie Metu
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08: Chimezie Metu /

Men’s Oklahoma basketball continues to climb in the national polls and in the ESPN “Bracketology” projections.

But not every college basketball comparative team analysis model shares that same respect for the Sooners this season.

OU’s 12-1 record, which includes road wins over three ranked teams, has earned them the No. 7 ranking in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll.

In addition, the Sooners boast one of the lead candidates for national player of the year this season in freshman point guard Trae Young.

The Sooners may rank as a top-10 team in the human polls, but the computer model that is the basis of the ESPN Basketball Power Index is not enamored by the prospects of this young Oklahoma team, especially going forward.

While the weekly human polls are more a snapshot of a team’s immediate past performance, the BPI claims to be a measure of a team’s strength and an analytical projection of that team’s performance going forward (as opposed to a retrospective-only measure).

Adjusted daily, the Basketball Power Index currently has Oklahoma in the No. 22 spot. The Sooners were No. 26 in the BPI, but moved up four spots after their 109-89 defeat over Oklahoma State in Bedlam on Wednesday night.

Most college teams would be thrilled with a top-25 standing in the BPI. And believe me, after last season’s 11-20, ninth-place Big 12 finish, Oklahoma is, too. Except for the unsettling fact that four other Big 12 teams are ranked higher in the BPI than the Sooners – one of which, TCU, OU has already beaten on the road.

Wichita State, a team that the Sooners defeated by eight points in mid-December in Wichita, is rated 12 spots higher than Oklahoma, at No. 10, according to the BPI rankings.

Kansas (11-3) is the highest ranked Big 12 team in the latest BPI, positioned at No. 5. Texas Tech (13-1) in No. 8, West Virginia (13-1) 11 and TCU (13-1) 20.

What the BPI data is saying is that the Sooners are not expected to continue playing as well as they are and that the teams positioned ahead of them in the BPI should perform better than OU for the remainder of the season.

We all know that the only thing certain about college basketball once conference games get underway is its uncertainty, and nowhere is the probability higher than in the parity-rich Big 12, where there literally are no easy games. So all of this is likely to change as the rest of the season plays out.

At the beginning of the season, Oklahoma wasn’t even ranked among the top 30 teams in college basketball, and the Big 12 coaches picked the Sooners to finish sixth in the conference. That is evidence of how fast things can change, and when you have one of the best players in the country on your team – like the Sooners do in true freshman sensation Trae Young – your chances of winning are fairly good every time out.

According to BPI, the Sooners rank 38th in strength of schedule, 5th in strength of record and 3rd in RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). In contrast, Kansas, the highest-ranked Big 12 team, according to BPI, ranks 60th in strength of schedule, 31st in strength of record and 26th in RPI.

Oklahoma can control all of this by continuing to win.

The defense rests.