Oklahoma basketball: Seven telling games that will stamp Sooners' season


It's been eight years since the men's Oklahoma basketball program has achieved 18 wins at this point in the season. Even more notable considering only two starters returned from a year ago along with the need to blend in six newcomers from the transfer portal.

That story isn't a new one for third-year head coach Porter Moser, who has had to replenish the majority of his roster every season he had been in Norman. The problem, of course, with bringing in so many new players every season is finding the right fits for both the culture and the chemistry on the court.

So far, through 24 regular-season games (11 in ultra difficult Big 12), it appears that Moser has found the right fits to engineer a successful season and a substantial improvement over the previous two campaigns in which the Sooners failed to make it into the NCAA Tournament.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are still games to be played, and for Oklahoma, the remaining regular-season schedule is one of the most difficult in NCAA Division I basketball. The Sooners' next seven games, starting with a showdown at No. 12 Baylor on Tuesday, include four top-15 teams and four games on the road.

The combined record of OU's next seven opponents is 116-41 and 35-29 in the Big 12. If you discount cellar-dwelling Oklahoma State, however, who the Sooners' struggled against at home this past weekend and play in a rematch in Stillwater a week from this Saturday, the Big 12 record of the other six teams on OU's remaining schedule is a collective 33-20.

Oklahoma probably needs to win at least three of those remaining seven games to ensure its chances to return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. That would give the Sooners a 9-9 record in the best basketball conference in America and a highly respectable 21-10 overall mark. They would probably also go Dancing with an 8-10 conference record, but why take that chance if you can avoid it.

The bigger question for Oklahoma fans is where those two or three wins are going to come from. You've got No. 3 Houston and No. 6 Kansas at home, but OU has already lost to Kansas by double digits this season, and the Cougars, coached by former Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson, are the best team in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country.

The Sooners have an earlier road win over Cincinnati and they get the Bearcats at home on March 5. They defeated Iowa State in Norman to open the Big 12 schedule but have to go to 10th-ranked Iowa State on Feb. 28, where OU, like most Big 12 teams, has not done particularly well in recent seasons.

The Sooners also must play at Texas on the final weekend of the season. The Longhorns are not currently ranked but are a very dangerous team capable of beating any team in the country. They already own a win over Oklahoma, defeating the Sooner 75-60 in Norman on Jan. 23.

Needless to say, Oklahoma is heading down a perilous path over the next month. Every game is an important one for the Sooner's postseason prospects.

"Our goals are still very high with seven league games left," Moser said after Saturday's close decision over Oklahoma State. "Our goals are still very high with seven games left. You've got to stack wins. You've got to go on one-game win streaks."