Texas-Oklahoma Preview

Oklahoma entered the 2012-2013 season as one of the league's most experienced teams. But it's an influx of new talent that has the Sooners among the Big 12's best.

Last Time Out

Oklahoma traveled to Manhattan (Kan.) to take on Kansas State in a matchup of two teams that were undefeated in Big 12 play. And the Sooners did some great things for a tough road contest, out-rebounding the Wildcats by a huge margin, 39-25, and shooting 47.2 percent from the field.

Yet the Sooners (12-4, 3-1 Big 12, KenPom No. 50) fell to the Wildcats 69-60 in large part because they turned the ball over in situations where the Wildcats could take advantage of them. Kansas State forced 16 turnovers, not an altogether huge number until one realizes that the Wildcats used those turnovers to hold a whopping 26-6 advantage in points off miscues.

The Wildcats also were able to exploit what had been a really solid perimeter defense, hitting 10 three-pointers and shooting 41.7 percent from behind the arc. By comparison, the Sooners made just 3-of-11 (27.3) three-point shots.

Sooners at a glance

Oklahoma is a solid all-round basketball team, meaning the Sooners are solid in a lot of areas but not truly outstanding in many.

Oklahoma ranks 60th nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, an impressive ranking given that the Sooners aren't a great shooting team, particularly from long range. The Sooners rank 226th nationally in three-point shooting percentage, making just 32.2 percent of their deep looks.

But Oklahoma doesn't turn the ball over a ton, ranking 96th in turnover percentage. And the Sooners are pretty good on the offensive glass, ranking 63rd in offensive rebounding percentage by gobbling up 35.8 percent of the available offensive boards.

If there's one area offensively that Oklahoma doesn't do well (besides three-point shooting), it's getting to the free throw line. The Sooners rank 225th in free throw rate, though they balance that out somewhat by shooting 74.4 percent from the free throw line.

The lone stat that the Sooners excel at offensively is a bit of a strange one. Only 5.8 percent of the Sooners' shots get blocked, good for fifth in the country.

Oklahoma is slightly more efficient on the defensive end, where the Sooners rank 50th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Here, like on offense, Oklahoma is solid in a bunch of areas but spectacular in few. Oklahoma ranks 78th in effective field goal percentage defense and 120th in two-point field goal percentage defense. The best area might be that the Sooners guard the three-point line well, with opponents shooting just 30.4 percent from the arc (49th nationally). The Sooners are good at not fouling, ranking 67th in defensive free throw rate, and they're a top-third team nationally at forcing turnovers.

The one area where Oklahoma isn't a top-half team defensively is the exact opposite of what they're best at offensively. Oklahoma only blocks 8.6 percent of the shots taken against the Sooners, the 201st best rate nationally.

Looking at the Sooner individuals

Some people (myself included) though that Oklahoma would be better this season because the Sooners returned just about everybody from a year ago. But what I, and the others, didn't know was that the newcomers would play such a major role, and that they would largely push many of those returnees into less playing time.

Oklahoma brought back all five starters and six of their top seven in minutes played. But the 2012-2013 starting lineup consists of just two of those starters, while the top returning bench player has been relegated to fewer than 10 minutes per game.

The returnees who kept their jobs were power forward Romero Osby (6-8 232) and scoring wing Steven Pledger (6-4 219), both seniors who also happen to be the Sooners' leading scorers.

Osby is one of the Big 12's top all-round players, an efficient scorer who averages 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, both tops on the Sooner team. Osby shoots 52.6 percent from the field and draws 6.6 fouls per 40 minutes, the 28th highest mark in the country. Once he gets there, it's usually points, as Osby shoots 80.9 percent from the free throw line.

Pledger was a more efficient scorer a year ago, but his shooting percentages have dropped off a bit, especially from deep. Pledger made better than 41 percent of his threes last year, but is just under 37 percent this year. This season he has been a bomber — according to Hoop-Math, just four percent of his shots happen at the rim. That means 96 percent of his attempts are jump shots. Sixty-four percent of his shot attempts come from beyond the three-point line.

Amath M'Baye (6-9 208), a Wyoming transfer who played on the 2009 U-20 French national team, has been a key addition in the low post. M'Baye can fade in and out offensively, but he's an energy guy who can bother people with his length and who excels as a rebounder, grabbing 10.1 percent of the available offensive boards. M'Baye averages just shy of 10 points per game, while his 5.6 rebounds per game are second to Osby.

The other two starters are a pair of true freshmen. Buddy Hield (6-3 199) may be the best of a trio of Sooner guards who should help transform the Oklahoma program on a long-term basis. He's scoring 9.3 points per game while using his athleticism to grab almost five boards per game, a great rate for somebody only 6-3. About 36 percent of his shots come at the rim, a nice percentage for a guard, while he's shooting 33.3 percent from deep. Je'lon Hornbeak (6-3 180) is kind of a do-it-all type who plays the point. The goal is to push Hornbeak into two-point jumpers. He gets 22 percent of his shots at the rim, and shoots 71 percent there. And 51 percent of his shots are behind the three-point line, where he makes a strong 39 percent. But forcing him into two-point jumpers (where he takes 28 percent of his shots) makes him take a shot that he's only hitting 22 percent of.

Sam Grooms (6-1 203) was the starting point guard a year ago, and he's lone "true point" on the roster. Grooms isn't a great scorer (to be fair, he's been banged up this year), but he has dished out 2.7 assists per game, boasting by-far the best assist rate on the team. Isaiah Cousins (6-3 182), the third of the three freshmen guards, has struggled to shoot, but provides more cover at the point.

The other two primary backups were both starters last year. Cameron Clark (6-6 208) is an outstanding athlete who is almost exclusively a slasher. Andrew Fitzgerald (6-8 238) is a strong offensive rebounder but a poor defensive one. He can score on the inside. Tyler Neal (6-7 229) was one of the top seven a year ago, but he plays less than 10 minutes per contest this year.

Matching up with Texas

This is a tough matchup to call because 1) Oklahoma already beat a superior version of the Longhorns by bouncing Oklahoma State, and 2) it's impossible to know how each team will react to tough losses just two days ago.

I call Oklahoma State a superior version of Texas because both teams have elite defenses, with the Cowboys having a slightly better Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and the Longhorns being slightly better at slowing down opposing shooters. And the Cowboys are significantly better offensively.

The Sooners came out hot in that contest and rode foul trouble by Marcus Smart into building a sizable lead that the Cowboys never completely recovered from. At the same time, if the Texas team that showed up last Saturday comes into Norman, the Longhorns have an outstanding chance to win.

Texas has the defense to severely limit an Oklahoma team that doesn't shoot that well as a whole. Looking for an X-factor? Keep an eye on the fouls. Texas lost the free throw battle in big ways against Baylor and Kansas and lost each game accordingly. Oklahoma can make free throws, so if the Sooners can get to the line, they'll take it.

Offensively, Texas has to shoot the way it did against Kansas on the road. That's not easy to do, but if the Longhorns can make that more of a regular effort, they'll have a shot against anybody.

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