Oklahoma basketball: Sooners may be best last-place team in college basketball

Oklahoma's Tanner Groves (35) dunks the ball during a men's college basketball game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and St. Bonaventure at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Sunday, March 20, 2022.Ou Nit
Oklahoma's Tanner Groves (35) dunks the ball during a men's college basketball game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and St. Bonaventure at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., Sunday, March 20, 2022.Ou Nit /

This was not the kind of season Porter Moser and the men’s Oklahoma basketball team were hoping for, but they did end the regular season on a definitive winning note.

The Sooners led wire to wire in handing No. 22 TCU a 14-point, 74-60 loss in the season home finale and Senior Day at the Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday.

The game actually wasn’t as close as the final 14-point margin indicated, as OU took control early and kept the pedal down for the entire 60 minutes, something this group has struggled with throughout the 2022-23 season.

It was as if the game had been scripted for Sooner super senior Tanner Groves, who was playing his last game at the LNC, and the 6-foot, 9-inch Eastern Washington transfer made the most of it. Groves led all scorers with a season-most 23 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes of action.

The Sooners looked good in this game, but the win was just their fifth in 18 games in a conference that featured as many as six ranked teams during the course of the season and undeniably is the best in college basketball this season.


Oklahoma has six Quad 1 wins this season, all against teams ranked in the top 25. and four of those victories were by double digits. But because they have the bad fortune of playing in a conference in which seven, possibly even eight, teams will be playing in the NCAA Tournament and nine of the 10 teams ended the regular season with a winning overall record, the Sooners find themselves sharing the bottom spot in the standings and seeded 10th in the upcoming conference tournament for just the second time in the 27-year history of the Big 12.

As we’ve noted all season, this Sooner squad is a good but far from great team, and in a conference like the Big 12 that is loaded with teams that are more talented, more athletic and older in terms of senior leadership, it requires a near perfect game, especially on the road, to come away with a win. The Sooners shoot fairly well, but they generally don’t rebound well and they have been turnover prone all season.

Oklahoma is 10-1 when it shoots 50 percent or better this season, which it did in the win Saturday over TCU. The Sooners also outrebounded the Horned Frogs, and decisively, 40-26, on Saturday.

Five of the Sooners’ 13 Big 12 losses were five four or fewer points. The Big 12 alone gives Oklahoma one of the more difficult schedules in college basketball this season. The Sooners probably wouldn’t have done much better than .500 in the other major conferences, but according to the ESPN College Basketball Power Index, they likely would have won more games and not finished at the bottom of the league standings.

The BPI factors not only a team’s wins and losses, but also the schedule strength of a team’s opponents and the strength of schedule of their opponents. OU ranks 56th in the current BPI. That ranks ahead of No. 57 Michigan, 11-8 and tied for second in the Big Ten, No. 58 Virginia Tech 8-12 and tied for 11th in the 14-team ACC, No. 64 Missouri,11-7 and tied for fourth in the SEC, and No. 73 Utah, 10-10, which was good enough for seventh in the Pac-12.

Oklahoma is the lowest seeded team heading to championship week and the Big 12 Men’s Tournament. The Sooners have been a nine seed three different times in the Big 12 era, but only one other time (2010) have they been as low as a 10 seed. OU will need to win four games and the tournament championship in order to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Sooners’ opponent in the opening round is seventh-seeded Oklahoma State, which beat OU twice in the regular season, both times by double digits. Regardless of the outcome of that game, it’s been a frustrating season for Moser, in his second season, and the Sooner men’s team.

Had the ball bounced a little differently in a few games and gone in the basket a few more times when it didn’t, we could be looking at a much different season result.

Despite the disappointing record, however, Oklahoma showed that on any given day, the Sooners were capable of beating anybody in the Big 12 and the country. And that’s a strong foundation to build on.