Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2014-15 season.
When: 1 p.m. CST
TV/Radio: ESPNU/107.7 FM(OKC); 1430 AM (Tulsa); XM 200; Sirius 113
Series: Oklahoma, 15-2
It’s well documented at this point in the season that Oklahoma controls is own destiny when it comes to winning the Big 12 regular season title. The formula is simple: Win the last three games and the Sooners claim a share of the championship at the very least.
It’s not that Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger isn’t buying it. He just knows that there are a few other teams “control” their own destiny as well.
“Kansas also controls their destiny. West Virginia controls their destiny,” Kruger said. “If we were the only ones, we’d feel a little better. That doesn’t mean too much. That just means if you win them all, you win.
“. . . It doesn’t change anything. We’ve got to play better in the last eight days here.”
Iowa State is the only team still in the top four that doesn’t control its own destiny. Win out and the Cyclones are guaranteed second.
There has been a little standings-watching by Oklahoma, and Kruger said that if he told the team not to look that they’d probably look even more. Oklahoma knows where it stands, but it also understands how to get where it wants to be.
“It doesn’t change anything we have to do,” Kruger said. “We’re going to try and get ready for the one on Saturday. The guys understand that it’s nice to be in a position where you’d rather be one game back than three back. That doesn’t change what we have to do Saturday.”
TCU has won three of its past four games.
Back to the glass
From the rarest of places, Oklahoma’s biggest struggle last time against TCU was pointed in the most basic of terms.
“They got a lot of offensive rebounds when we were down there,” said guard Frank Booker, who hasn’t had more than four rebounds in any game. “We didn’t box out at all. We didn’t set screens. We didn’t play like we always play. We realize that if we play like we should play – setting screens and boxing out – we’ll play a lot better and get a lot more movement going.”
TCU still plays stout defense – ranked 23rd in the nation in field goal percentage allowed. The Horned Frogs, who were ranked this season after a 13-0 start, pulled down 21 offensive rebounds against Oklahoma the first time around. They were still in the game despite missing their first 12 shots.
Oklahoma won that game by eight but had some glaring holes. Most were created by the TCU hustle. “They work hard,” Kruger said. “They’re very sound defensively. They don’t give up points easily. They are patient offensively, yet they score in transition. Trent does a terrific job with them. They compete really hard and our guys respect that a lot.”
Hield’s late push
Hield non-conference play didn’t do much to keep him in the Big 12 Player of the Year discussion, after being named to the league’s first team in the preseason.
Now in conference play, Hield has found another gear all over the court.
He leads the conference in points scored with 16.9 per game but hasn’t scored more than 15 in each of the last three games. Hield is doing everything else though.
“He’s improved across the board,” Kruger said. “His defense has improved. His shooting has even gotten better. His awareness is better offensively. I just think across the board, he’s gotten better. Of course, he’s always going to play hard and play with enthusiasm. It’s great to see. We need every bit of it.”
It comes down to the last week of the season to player of the year – just like regular season champ. Hield, Iowa State’s Georges Niang, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten and maybe even Kansas’ Frank Mason are in the running.
All that really matters is what they do from here on out.
“Typically, that’s how it works,” Kruger said. “If you have two, three or four guys in the running into the last week or two, typically the team that does better is often times what makes the difference or people that have the best stretch late often times.”