Bob Przybylo/Scout

OU basketball begins Big 12 play searching for a spark

Big 12 offers a fresh start for Sooners, but Lon Kruger's group searching for answers as well.

Everybody knew there would be a dropoff for Oklahoma basketball after the departures of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler.

That trio was so good and left such an indelible mark on the program. You knew a Final Four wasn’t realistic. But you know coach Lon Kruger didn’t see 6-5 happening, either.

The Sooners begin Big 12 conference play Friday evening welcoming Baylor (No. 4, 12-0) to Lloyd Noble Center and OU having lost three in a row and four of its last five.

The “preseason” is over. Now it’s time for the real games to begin. Here’s what we know and need to know about OU moving forward.

Leading scorer: Jordan Woodard, 17.6 ppg

Leading rebounder: Khadeem Lattin, 5.9 rpg

Leading assists: Jordan Woodard, 3.6

Scoring/toughness in the post?

Spangler didn’t set the world on fire with his offensive repertoire, but you knew he was going to give 100 percent every single time he took the floor.

OU is still looking for that right now from its post players. Kruger hasn’t been afraid to play with the starting lineup as Kristian Doolittle, Dante Buford and Matt Freeman have all had the opportunity to start.

Nothing has clicked just yet. The offensive explosion from Lattin hasn’t come yet at 9.1 points per game, and OU still doesn’t have a go-to post performer.

James/Odomes maturation?

Think some thought Christian James and Rashard Odomes were just going to become the next versions of Hield and Cousins, but it doesn’t work that way.

It’s a process. And what we’ve found out in the first two months is maybe this group is a year away from making some real noise.

Both Odomes and James have had their moments, but it hasn’t been sustained nor consistent. James is second on the team at 12.6 points per game, followed by Odomes at 10.1.

But James also has an 18-25 assist-to-turnover ratio has fouled out three times and Odomes can go periods of time where you don’t factor him in as an offensive threat.

Who’s the point guard?

Kruger wanted to move Jordan Woodard back to point guard, but it’s not happening. If Woodard is the point, then he can’t be the scorer and crunch-time scorer the team has needed him to be during the first part of the season.

It does feel in the last three games or so that OU has accepted that. So will it be freshman Jordan Shepherd leading the charge? Or Darrion Strong-Moore?

Woodard has the knack to make huge shots so he’s not afraid of the moment. But he can’t be worn down bringing the ball up that he has no gas left in the tank down the stretch.

Growing pains lead to success?

Learn to crawl before walk. Walk before run. Is that what this team is doing right now? You could make the argument the Sooners could or even should be 10-1 right now, but they’re not.

Two overtime losses (Northern Iowa, Memphis). Two losses by less than five points (Wichita State, Auburn) have OU without a tournament resume.

That’s OK if it means the Sooners can turn the corner in conference action. It’s a tough pill to swallow as OU has squandered some major leads this year, but it could provide the mental toughness.

Freshman emergence?

One of them is bound to become a significant player, right? Between Doolittle, Freeman, Shepherd and Kameron McGusty, more production is needed.

Freeman and McGusty were thought to be the key cogs to this class with Doolittle and Shepherd being solid supportive players.

Right now they’re all playing support as they continue to maneuver their way and get more acclimated to college basketball and now the Big 12.

You can grow up quickly and maybe a nine-day layoff for the Sooners is exactly what the younger guys needed to get ready for the Bears and the Big 12 grind.

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