Oklahoma basketball: Seriously undermanned Sooners one-and-done in Big 12 Tournament

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma basketball men might have been just as well off not to show up and forfeit their second-round matchup with TCU in the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City, Missouri. The result would have been the same, but without the added pain and anxiety.

The No. 9 seeded Sooners went up against No. 8 TCU on Wednesday missing three key players, including leading scorer Javian McCollum. As a natural consequence, the results weren't as ugly as they could have been, but still fairly predictable. The Horned Frogs took control of the game in the early going and led by double digits most of the game before the Sooners mustered a late rally to make the final score a respectable 77-70.

Sooner head coach Porter Moser may have been channeling Kansas head coach Bill Self in holding out three major contributors battling injuries, conceivably so they'll be ready to play next week when the NCAA Tournament gets under way. Self announced prior to the Big 12 postseason tournament that the Jayhawks two best players (seniors Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar) would not play in the Big 12 games in Kansas City.

The one flaw in that strategy is: For Oklahoma, there may not be a next week. Although the Sooners are expected to make the cut for one of the 68 available berths in this year's NCAA Tournament, that is far from a guarantee. And the fact that OU ended the regular-season losing five of its last seven games -- and followed that with a noticeably overmatched one-and-done loss in the Big 12 Championship -- doesn't look particularly good on a March Madness resume.

OU big man, 6-foot, 10-inch John Hugely IV, has missed several weeks after having meniscus surgery. McCollum, who averages close to 14 points per game, injured his shoulder during practice after the Houston game and Rivaldo Soares , arguably Oklahoma's best player over the past five or six games, injured his ankle in the regular-season finale against Texas. All three missed the Big 12 Tournament game with TCU.

The Sooners are a good but far from great college basketball team. In order to win, however, they need all of their weapons and they need to play well on top of it. Neither was available on Wednesday in Kansas City, and an experienced and well-coached TCU team smelled blood in the water and took full advantage.

It was painfully obvious those weapons were absent against TCU in the second-round Big 12 Tournament game. The Horned Frogs had beaten a completely healthy OU team 80-71 in early January. Nevertheless, the Sooners fought hard despite the limiting factors and never gave up.

TCU led 45-31 after the first 20 minutes. The Sooners scored the first point in the game on a free throw by Jalon Moore, and that was the only time they would lead in the game. With 8:26 to go in the game, TCU led 67-48. Over the next seven minutes, Oklahoma outscored the Horned Frogs 20-8 to cut the margin to seven points at 75-68, but that was as close as the Sooners would get with just 72 seconds remaining in the game.

Nine players saw action for Porter Moser's squad, with Jalon Moore and Otega Oweh leading the offensive charge, each with 16 points. Milos Uzan added 15 and Le'Tre Darthard contributed a dozen points. Fifth-year senior Emanuel Miller was high man for TCU and the game with 26 points.

TCU advances to the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Championship, where the Horned Frogs' reward for beating the Sooners is a matchup against the top-seeded Houston Cougars.

For Oklahoma, it's regroup and rest and wait to see what happens on Selection Sunday, when the brackets and field are announced for the 2024 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. The good news from today is that the Sooners who took the floor against TCU gave the Oklahoma players and fans a reason to still feel good about OU's return to the Big Dance after a three-year absence.