Lingering questions for OU

On the eve of Big 12 Conference play, Sooners still have answers to find

Looking back on Oklahoma’s non-conference schedule, the start of the year couldn’t have gone much better.

Transfer forward TaShawn Thomas was eligible all season. Oklahoma reached the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Even freshman Dante Buford can now practice, and he’s already made an impact for the scout team.

About the only thing that went wrong through the first dozen games of the season was a loss to Creighton, but that was still the Sooners’ toughest road game.

Still, there are questions that need to be addressed before Big 12 play begins. Here’s just a few:

Did the real Oklahoma play in the first half or the second half against Washington?

The Sooners have gone cold at times this season in big games. Against the Huskies, they were down 20 in the first half. Oklahoma went cold against Wisconsin, and the second-half meltdown against Creighton can’t be forgotten.

Within those games, the Sooners’ other side showed. They took a big lead against Creighton, stuck with Wisconsin and almost completed the comeback against Washington.

So, which Oklahoma is the real Oklahoma?

Probably a little bit of both. All teams go through lulls offensively, but the one thing for sure is that Oklahoma is a different defense this year than last.

Thomas’ injection into the starting lineup and subsequent play, Ryan Spangler’s development on the offensive end and Isaiah Cousins’ explosion of consistency isn’t a fluke.

There’s more to this team than ever before and that’s all before mentioning top scorer Buddy Hield and potential All-Big 12 point guard Jordan Woodard.

Oklahoma has proved that the preseason hype isn’t smoke and mirrors.

The Sooners aren’t invincible and have their flaws – streaky shooting among its biggest concerns. There’s still reason to think that Oklahoma’s goal of the Big 12 Championship isn’t within reach.

How will the Sooners fare in their Big 12 road games?

Oklahoma was at its best at home, where they outscored their opponents by an average of more than 25 points.

Away from Norman, there have been major questions. Oklahoma’s worst game came away from home – at Creighton, in Las Vegas and in the Bahamas. There was plenty of inconsistency and sometimes a lack of focus.

Oklahoma won in the Bahamas but not because it was playing well. They played well enough but there were still some major glaring holes.

The Sooners shot their worst away from home, and they’ll have nine more trips away from Lloyd Noble Center in Big 12 play.

So the question begs to be asked. Oklahoma travels to Austin, Texas to play the second-highest ranked team in the Big 12. Test No. 1 comes early.

Can the offense stay this balanced?

There are two factors to consider here: Are there too many mouths to feed in the Sooners’ balanced attack and is everyone happy with finding the best option, even if it’s not themselves?

Oklahoma has had six different leading scorers in the past seven games, and the Sooners’ ever-evolving offense is now miles different from last year’s shoot-it-a-bunch style.

From up-tempo to almost half-court in less than 15 games, it’s a pretty wild ride. The question around Oklahoma this season is whether it reverts to its old form in times of trouble.

Last year, Oklahoma scored more than 85 points seven separate times in 12 non-conference games, and the Sooners scored more than 85 points 14 different times in 33 regular season games.

Through 12 non-conference games, Oklahoma has surpassed the 85-point mark just twice.

That’s not by chance. It’s a different mindset and one that Oklahoma has seemed to embrace.

Who is the most valuable player for the Sooners so far?

That kind of depends on the position, thus far.

Thomas has definitely been an invigorating and flashy addition. He changes things on the inside for the Sooners and opens things up for Oklahoma’s guards, so it’s easy to say that he’s the most valuable.

The biggest surprise is probably Cousins, who has developed into a talented all-around player and the teeth of the Oklahoma defense. Cousins has even begun playing point guard when Jordan Woodard is out.

He’s been running the point in practice a little alongside Dinjiyl Walker – sort of sharing the load.

It’s Thomas though who has quickly risen to the most dangerous player in the Sooners’ lineup. His ability to handle the ball as a big man and even run the fast break makes him a liability for any team the Sooners face in Big 12 play.

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