Oklahoma basketball: Sooners face tallest of tasks against No. 1 Baylor

How good is the 2021-22 edition of men’s Oklahoma basketball? We’re about to find out.

That probably isn’t a fair question to ask. You certainly can be a good team and come out of a three-game gauntlet like the Sooners are headed into over the next eight days appearing that you’re not.

The Sooners are 11-2 as they begin a three-game stretch that includes a road game Tuesday at top-ranked Baylor, back home on Saturday to entertain No. 11 Iowa State at Lloyd Noble Center, and then back out on the road across the Red River to play at No. 14 Texas next Tuesday.

The combined record of Oklahoma’s next three opponents is 36-4 through games of this past weekend.

Baylor is a perfect 13-0 this season, including wins over MIchigan State, Villanova, Oregon and this past Saturday over Iowa State. The Bears are averaging 83.2 points a game and a victory margin of 25 points a game. They have four starters averaging double figures in scoring and three more players coming off the bench who average nine points per contest. n

Sophomore LJ Cryer leads the team averaging 13.5 points a game. Arizona transfer James Akinjo averages 13.0, Kendall Brown 12.3 and Adam Flagler 10.7.

Baylor does many things extremely well, which is clearly reflected in the Bears’ unbeaten status and high national ranking. They are a good shooting team and a strong rebounding outfit, something Oklahoma is deficient at mostly because of a height disadvantage.

Even with practically an all-new starting lineup, Baylor is probably the most complete team in the country. The Bears rank fifth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (117.6) and fourth in the five adjusted defensive efficiency (87.4). There is no other Division I team that ranks in the top five in both categories.

Baylor also is one of the best teams in the Big 12, if not the country, in creating turnovers and creating offense out of defense. This should be a red flag for the Sooners, who are the worst teams in the Big 12 in turnover margin (0.54). The Bears rank second in the league in that category (6.23).

Oklahoma has been able to post 11 wins, including two wins over a pair of top-15 teams (Florida and Arkansas were both ranked in the top 15 nationally at the time the games were played), largely because of good shot selection, a high shooting percentage (second best in the Big 12) and solid defense, a hallmark of a Porter Moser team.

The Sooners hope to have back Tanner Groves, their leading scorer at 14.3 points a game. He, his brother, Jacob, and freshman Bijan Cortes did not play in OU’s win over Kansas State because of health and safety protocols.  Head coach Porter Moser said on Monday that all three have cleared the five-day quarantine requirement, but their availability will be a game-time decision.

Oklahoma has a 43-19 record in the all-time series with Baylor, but the Bears have won the last six games.