Sooners Illustrated will present three things to watch before every men’s basketball game during the 2015-16 season.
No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (23-6, 11-6) at TCU Horned Frogs (11-19, 2-15)
TV/Radio: ESPNEWS/107.7 FM
Series: Oklahoma, 17-2
Playing for something
Oklahoma can’t win the Big 12 Conference regular season title on the final day of the regular season nor does it have the chance to knock off a potential postseason-level team, having just the 11-win Horned Frogs to contend with Saturday.
But Sooners’ coach Lon Kruger doesn’t have to mention the one thing still within their grasp. The players read about it. They hear about it. As fans of basketball, Oklahoma knows that it is still contending for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even with a bid to Oklahoma City for the ‘Big Dance’ basically wrapped up, the Sooners still have reason to play.
“There’s obviously a lot left to be determined,” Kruger said. “Whoever wins three or four games from this point on has a much better chance of being a better seed, regardless if it’s the one or three or five line. How you play from here on can make a different, good or bad. It doesn’t change what we do in terms of trying to prepare and go win the next one.”
After reviewing film of the victory against Baylor on Tuesday night, Kruger said that his team lost focus late in the second half and played to just run the clock out. The Sooners “re-engaged” just in the nick of time.
The final game of the regular season is similar. There’s still a chance of losing focus. But Kruger hoped the veterans on the team will help Oklahoma stay motivated.
“It’s a chance to do a lot of the things you want to do,” Kruger said. “Hopefully, the older guys understand the value in terms of leading the other guys to don’t lose focus. This group has been pretty focused in terms of preparing for games and doing things they need to do. I think they’ll be ready to play.”
Fatigue taking hold
This time last year, Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler said he felt good. Then after the season, he said that was a bit of a lie and that banging in the post did take a toll on him.
This season, he feels good again – and he guaranteed that it wasn’t a fib this time around.
“Last year, I was down in the paint all year long, kind of banging,” Spangler said. “This year, I’ve been more on the perimeter and not body-to-body the whole game.”
There’s no real chance for Oklahoma’s starters to get a rest, and Kruger has said repeatedly that his players don’t need a break. Instead, it’s about fighting through the fatigue or maybe fighting through the stigma of fatigue.
“If you don’t get the results you want, then well, it’s fatigue,” Kruger said. “If you get the results you want then no one talks about it.”
Without smite or frustration, but more an understanding of the bigger picture, Kruger asked the gathered media Thursday, “This group has won what? Three of the last four.”
He’s right about that, but there’s something about the way Oklahoma is winning that has disguised the fact that Oklahoma has beaten two ranked teams in the last four games, including a massive road win against West Virginia.
The Sooners’ greatest successes of the regular season have come coupled with their greatest failures.
“We haven’t played great the whole time but it’s not like the ship is burning,” Kruger said. “We’ve had a lot of good stretches of play. We’ve had our best stretches of play during those last four games over the last month. We’ve also had two really bad stretches of play. We have to kind of focus on both and learn from one and try to do the other better.”