Oklahoma basketball: Seen and heard and other odds ‘n’ ends

NORMAN, OK - MARCH 2: Oklahoma Sooners guard Trae Young
NORMAN, OK - MARCH 2: Oklahoma Sooners guard Trae Young /

The Oklahoma basketball victory over Mississippi State in the 2020 Big12/SEC Challenge was the Sooners fifth in the seven-year history of the inter-conference series.

Related Story. Sooners hold on at end to edge Mississippi State. light

The Sooners (13-6) trailed for only 23 seconds in the game, but it was a missed 15-foot shot by Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard II that preserved a 63-62 Oklahoma win, it first over the Bulldogs in three previous tries.

“Bracketology” bubble trouble for Sooners

Before the Mississippi State game, Joe Lunardi of ESPN “Bracketology” fame projected Oklahoma as an 11 seed in this season’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and having to survive a play-in game to make the official 64-team tournament field.

The nonconference win over a team from one of the other major conferences should be enough to elevate the Sooners off of the precarious last-four-in category, but they may still have to go 6-6 in its 12 remaining Big 12 games to ensure an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.

Oklahoma has gravitated between a nine seed and an 11 seed in most of Lunardi’s 2020 Bracketology projections, and before the new season tipped off, some analysts and preview magazines had the Sooners going to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in the postseason this year and not making Big Dance for the first time in three seasons.

OU was 7-11 and 8-10 in the Big 12 in 2019 and 2018, respectively, and made the NCAA Tournament both seasons — as a nine seed in 2019 and a 10 seed in 2018.

The Sooners have made it to the Big Dance in six of head coach Lon Kruger’s eight seasons in Norman. Oklahoma in 7-6 under Kruger in the NCAA Tournament, including a Final Four appearance in 2016.

Alondes Williams a spark plug off the bench in OU’s win over Mississippi State

Junior college transfer Alondes Williams doubled his scoring average with a 13-point performance for the Sooners in the win over Mississippi State. Williams was averaging 6.1 point a game, mostly coming off the bench for the Sooners this season.

In a span of 20 seconds five minutes into the second half, Williams hit a three-point shot and stole the ball in the ensuing Mississippi State possession for a breakaway slam dunk at the other end. Those five points spearheaded a 7-0 Oklahoma run that broke a 38-all score and put the Sooners back out in front by seven points with 13 and a half minutes to go in the game.

Williams connected on five of nine field-goal tries, including three of four from long range, and was one of just two OU players to reach double figures in the game (Brady Manek led OU with a game-high 18 points).

Williams was a 39-percent three-point shooter at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois. He has made 12 of 39 three-point attempts in 2019-20, but more importantly for Oklahoma men’s basketball going forward, he is five of six three-balls in his last two games.

Trae Young named an NBA All-Star in his second pro season

Former Sooner Trae Young will be one of the two starting guards for the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 16 in Chicago.

In only his second NBA season, the Atlantic Hawks’ point guard is averaging 29.5 points and 8.9 assists per game. His scoring average is the third best nearing the halfway mark of the 2019-20 NBA season. His NBA stats this season are curiously close to his one college season playing for the Sooners in 2017-18, when he led the nation in both scoring (27.4 per game) and assists (8.7).

Young has scored 40 or more points in a game eight times this season, most recently on Sunday, when he dropped in 45 in a 152-133 win over the Washington Wizards.

The former consensus All-American was in Oklahoma City for a game between the Hawks and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena and was in attendance at OU’s game on Saturday with Mississippi State in OKC.