With Oklahoma's basketball season in the books, Sooners Illustrated takes one last look at the season and what OU fans have to look forward to next season. The Sooners finished 23-10 and were second place in a very deep Big 12 conference.
No. 1: OU's glaring flaws caught up to it at wrong time
If you watched more than one OU game this season, it was clear the two big things that could hurt the Sooners in the long run was their reliance on outside shooting and their lack of defensive execution. It's wrong to say OU didn't show effort on the defensive end of the floor, but the Sooners were repeatedly out of position in the loss to North Dakota State. And in the upset loss, OU had another game of at least 30 three-point attempts. Going 12 of 30 is actually pretty good at 40 percent, but the Sooners have to develop an inside game and some semblance of balance in 2014-15.
No. 2: As Hield went so did the Sooners
OU could find a way to win games when senior Cameron Clark wasn't on fire. The Sooners could live with off nights from Jordan Woodard or Isaiah Cousins. But the one thing OU simply couldn't overcome was when sophomore guard Buddy Hield didn't have his best game. Against North Dakota State was another one of those times. He scored nine points on 4 of 14 shooting, including an atrocious 1 of 9 on his 3-point field goal attempts. Hield was second team all-Big 12 this season and no reason to think he can't be a first team guy next season. His energy fueled the team this season. When he was off, Sooners couldn't answer.
No. 3: Clark, Neal leave solid legacy
The seniors saw it all during their tenure in Norman. Clark stepped up during his senior season, while Tyler Neal found his niche coming off the bench and was named co-sixth man of the year in the conference. Following the departure of Jeff Capel, neither guy had any idea how they were going to be used when the new coach came in. It was clear in the postgame comments Thursday how much Lon Kruger has meant to Clark in his development as a player and person on and off the court. Clark tried to rally the troops Thursday. But much like Romero Osby last season, he'll have accept being one-and-done in the tournament.
No. 4: Future is very bright for Sooners
No other way to say it than that. Being at the OU team banquet was such a moment of realization when Kruger announced the team by class. Cousins, Hield, Je'lon Hornbeak and Ryan Spangler are all going to be juniors. Woodard and Frank Booker will be sophomores. OU is bringing in a top-tier talent in power forward Khadeem Lattin to help Spangler and D.J. Bennett in the post. Almost every opposing coach gave praise to Lon Kruger for the work he did this season, and OU, on paper, should look to be even better than a No. 5 seed next season.
No. 5: It's baby steps to winning
This is being discovered the hard way. It's not the norm for a team to come out of nowhere and make a big tournament run. Now the Sooners have had two seasons of at least 20 wins, two appearances in the tournament, the foundation has been set. If OU still cannot manage a win in either the Big 12 or potentially the NCAA tournament next season, then some questions might have to be asked. But right now, all is well in Norman. Being a top-tier program is a process, and you have to build on it and keep that consistency. We'll see how the Sooners do in year No. 4 under Kruger.