Oklahoma basketball: What’s happened to the Sooners?

NORMAN, OK - FEBRUARY 05: Rashard Odomes
NORMAN, OK - FEBRUARY 05: Rashard Odomes /

The Oklahoma basketball season is in a total freefall, and there is no immediate relief in sight.

This is the stage of the season that the truly good teams are reaching their stride and solidifying their body of work, all geared toward securing a high-seed berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners, on the other hand, seem to be headed down a much different path, and if they don’t get things figured out pretty quickly, their postseason experience will be short-lived and destined for one-and-done.

A month ago, Oklahoma was the fourth-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25. Admittedly, that might have been an overreach. But in the weeks since then, the Sooners have been in a steady downhill slide. They were down to No. 17 last week, and this week they run the risk of falling out of the top 25.

Outside of super freshman Trae Young, who is struggling himself of late as opponents concentrate on blanketing the uber -talented OU point guard, the rest of the Oklahoma roster doesn’t have much going right now. It doesn’t take much analysis to figure out that Young, as extraordinarily good as he is, can get it done by himself.

After all, basketball is a team game, and the Sooners clearly are not performing as a team.

So what is the remedy to this disturbing and imperiled pattern?

Let’s get something straight from the outset: There is not a simple, quick-fix solution to this problem. It is a convergence of issues that have put Oklahoma in the quick sand of trouble in which it presently finds itself.

Opponents have quickly discovered that if you tightly pressure Young, force him to take contested shots and deny him the ball when he gives it up, no other Sooners are going to beat you.

Until OU is able to come up with a more balanced scoring attack and provide some offensive support to the nation’s scoring leader, it isn’t going to win many, if any, of its remaining games this season. The Sooners lead the big 12 in scoring (88.8 points per game) and are third in Field-goal percentage (47.8), but in five of their six conference losses they have shot worse than that.

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball
Oklahoma Sooners Basketball /

Oklahoma Sooners Basketball

If you can’t outscore everybody, you better be able to play some defense, which is something Oklahoma has not shown much interest or ability to do, and this has been the single biggest reason for their recent free fall.

The Sooners are dead last in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing 24 opponents this season to average 82 points per game, and are next to last in field goal percentage defense (43.7) and third from last in the league in three-point field-goal percentage defense (35.9).

Last, and far from least, during its recent struggles, Oklahoma has suffered from offensive inconsistency and inefficiency early and allowed opponents to build up large first-half leads that proved to be too much too overcome.

This was the case in three of OU’s last four losses. At Iowa State on Saturday, the Sooners fell behind by 17 points late in the opening half. They took a 10-point deficit to halftime the game before that at home against West Virginia, and in the Big 12/SEC Challenge at Alabama, Oklahoma was down by 13 points a little more than midway through the first half.

Oklahoma mounted comebacks that brought the Sooners all the way back in all three losses, but by the time they exerted all the energy to get back into the game, they didn’t have enough gas in the tank to get over the top and take control of the game.

The Sooner football team this season suffered from the problem of jumping out to double digit advantages in the first half of games, only to take their foot off the gas in the second half and allow teams to get back into games. The OU basketball team is guilty of the exact opposite effect.

There are six games remaining in the regular season, three at home and three away from home. The road games are at Texas Tech on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Kansas and then Baylor. The home games are with Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State, all three of which beat the Sooners in the first meeting between the teams.

The way things are going, Oklahoma will likely loose its three remaining road games, and the Sooners will not have an easy go of things in their remaining home games, either.

Lon Kruger’s guys will be fortunate to earn an even split of the six remaining games. That would leave them with a 19-11 overall mark and 9-9 in Big 12 play and likely missing out on a bye in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament. That may be the good news.

If the Sooners don’t get their act together and fast, it is not out of the question that they could play themselves right out of the NCAA Tournament and into the NIT, otherwise known as the Not Invited Tournament. Those wins over Wichita State and Kansas may not mean that much by season’s end.

It’s time to buckle up, Sooner fans, and prepare yourselves for a roller coaster of emotion over the next several weeks.