Oklahoma is 11-0 for the first time since 2008 and entering conference play with a flawless record for the first time since the 1989-90 season, when the Sooners finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the country.
There were few doubts that this Oklahoma team would play at an elite level after being ranked in the top-10 to start the season but being one of only five unbeaten teams left in the nation is a bit of a surprise.
There’s a pretty good chance we’ll learn more about No. 3 Oklahoma at that point than in any non-conference game, but here’s what we learned about Oklahoma thus far:
The Sooners have the best three-man backcourt in the country.
Before the season started, Oklahoma had the experience and a chance of being one of the best backcourts in the nation. That was without the move of Isaiah Cousins to the point and the corresponding placement of Jordan Woodard on the wing – more specifically in the corner 3 position. Both have been great. With Buddy Hield – more on him shortly, the trio is approaching its 100th game starting together. Barring injury, that should come during the Big 12 Tournament.
Buddy Hield has taken his game to another level.
It’s not hard to see Hield’s improvement. In fact, it’s hard to miss it. He’s attacking the rim and handling the ball better. His one-on-one defense is better, too. Hield is fifth in the nation in scoring (24.9), which is a significant increase from last year’s 17.4-per game average. He’s making more than 50 percent of his shots.
Ryan Spangler has diversified his offensive game.
After attempting just 44 3-pointers in his career before this season, Ryan Spangler has already shot 23 this season. Just two more makes and he’ll equal his three-year career total in likely around a dozen games this season. He’s scoring inside better than ever too – averaging a double-double for the first time in his career (and rebounds were never the problem). Many wondered were the Sooners’ interior offense would come from this season. It’s not from back-to-the-basket offense but from Spangler’s all-around game.
There’s more depth than last year, but not as much as originally expected.
It would have been generous to say that Oklahoma was eight-deep last year. This non-conference season, Lon Kruger has confidently gone with up to four freshmen on the court at the same time. Jamuni McNeace, Rashard Odomes and Christian James all saw a drop in minutes during the trip to Hawaii, but it’s there if Kruger needs it. Oklahoma is probably closer to a confident nine-deep this year.
Interior defense could still be an issue.
There’s more length inside this year, and 7-footer Akolda Manyang has proven to be everything that was expected – although maybe still not 100 percent. Khadeem Lattin has turned into a better rim protector too, but that isn’t the problem. One-on-one post defense is probably the only weakness that the Sooners have shown this year. And ultimately, it hasn’t been that big of an issue yet.
Oklahoma has a chance to win the outright Big 12 title and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
This was a possibility before the season, but it seems like far more of one after a relatively dominant non-conference unbeaten performance.