Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma basketball team began this season as a squad not likely to make it into the NCAA Tournament field in 2020, according to the projection of many in the know in college basketball, including ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
The Sooners have made NCAA Tournament appearances in six of the last seven seasons and have made 32 NCAA postseason appearances overall.
Oklahoma was no where to be found in Lunardi’s pre- and early season “Bracketology” projections forecasting what the NCAA Tournament field and seeding would look like at the end of the season. After three wins to begin the season, however, two of which were on the road against teams from Power Five conferences, Lunardi had the Sooners as a No. 9 seed.
By early December, after a 19-point loss to Stanford, Lunardi dropped Oklahoma to a 10 seed, and back-to-back mid-December losses to Wichita State and Creighton, both on the road, cost the Sooners to fall one more spot, to No. 11, in the rolling “Bracketology” projection.
And as the new year began, Lunardi’s faith in Oklahoma making it into the NCAA Tournament field continues to go down. The latest “Bracketology” seedings have the Sooners on the 12 line and one of the last four teams in the field and having to play their way in in one of the early games that precede the opening-round games.
Right now, Lunardi projects seven teams out of the Big 12 making the Big Dance, with OU being the last of the seven.
The Sooners (10-3) have some work to do to ensure a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The good news, though, is playing in the highly competitive Big 12, Oklahoma will have plenty of opportunities to pick up some quality wins before the end of the season. The Big 12 is ranked No. 2 in conference RPI. The Big 12 currently has four teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (No. 2 Kansas, No. 4 Baylor, No. 17 West Virginia and No. 22 Texas Tech).
With the departure of eight seniors and graduate transfers from the 2018-19 Sooner squad that finished the year at 20-14 and won its opening round NCAA Tournament game over Mississippi and accounted for almost 60 percent of the team’s offensive production, this season was expected to have some growing pains.
Although Oklahoma returned three starters — Kristian Doolittle, Brady Manek and Jamal Bieniemy, Kruger also welcomed nine new faces, five of whom were freshmen.
The Sooners played only five games at home during the 12-game nonconference schedule. They picked up their sixth home win of the season on Saturday, defeating Kansas State to open the Big 12 schedule.