#17 Oklahoma Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Oklahoma Sooners

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #3 Big 12

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Oklahoma returns four starters to a team that finished second in the Big 12 and earned a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners failed to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, falling to North Dakota State in the Round of 64, but they will get another shot at it this time around and OU fans are itching for a tournament win under Coach Lon Kruger. Buddy Hield will again lead the way. He averaged 16.5 points per game and knocked down an impressive 90 three-pointers as a sophomore. The 6-4, 212 pound junior is more than just a shooter though. He can attack the basket, hit the glass and will play tough defense.

2013-14 Record: 23-10, 12-6
2013-14 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Lon Kruger
Coach Record: 58-38 at Oklahoma, 514-332 overall

Who’s Out:
Cameron Clark is the lone starter lost. The big 6-7 guard will be tough to replace though. He was second on the team in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.6 and 5.5, respectively. Clark would mostly attack the basket, yet he was amazingly consistent with his outside shot. For a team that was not all that great on the glass, perhaps losing his rebounding talent will hurt even more. OU put out the same starting five for every game, but their bench takes a big hit with the loss of Tyler Neal and Je’lon Hornbeak. Neal was the main forward off of the bench and was a nice stretch four option for Coach Kruger and Hornbeak, a 6-4 guard, ranked sixth on the team in minutes.

Who’s In:
There are five incoming recruits, consisting of four freshmen and one junior college transfer, but the key to the group of newcomers is the eligibility of TaShawn Thomas. The 6-8 senior forward spent the last three seasons at Houston and averaged an impressive 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds during his Cougar career. The Sooners are still awaiting word from the NCAA regarding his eligibility this season. If he is able to play, the 6-8, 242 pounder will step right into a starting role. If Thomas is not cleared to play, Oklahoma will need to get some minutes out of freshmen Dante Buford, Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace in the frontcourt. The backcourt adds Bola Alade and junior college transfer Dinjiyl Walker. Alade is a walk-on, but he can score and Walker is expected to step into the backup point guard role.

Who to Watch:
Hield may be the team’s top scorer, but Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Woodard and Ryan Spangler are also talented and experienced returning starters. Cousins looked like a different player during his sophomore season and emerged as a very consistent and potent outside shooter. He averaged 11.0 points per game and that number could balloon up to something closer to 15. Woodard had a superb freshman campaign, averaging 10.3 points and 4.6 assists per game. He proved to be a reliable floor leader and a pretty good scorer too. Even when his shot is not falling, Woodard will at least get to the free-throw line. Spangler will have to anchor the frontcourt for now, pending Thomas’ eligibility. The 6-8 forward is a great rebounder and a very efficient scorer. Whether Thomas is on the floor or not, Spangler will be the traditional interior forward who can do it all in the paint.

Final Projection:
Frank Booker and D.J. Bennett will have to play a major role for this team. Booker, a 6-4 sophomore, will battle it out with the newcomers for minutes off of the bench, but he figures to be the main sub on the wing. Booker averaged just 14.1 minutes per game as a freshman, yet shot 114 three-pointers. He wasted little time attempting to spark the offense off of the bench. The story should be the same this time around. And if Booker keeps shooting like he did towards the end of last season, he could see a lot more minutes. Bennett is the wildcard. If Thomas is not eligible, he will have to step into the starting lineup after averaging just 9.1 minutes per game in 2013-2014. Bennett, the lone scholarship senior on the roster, is efficient when he looks to score and is the most talented shot blocker on the roster.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Jordan Woodard, Sophomore, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Isiah Cousins, Junior, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Buddy Hield, Junior, Guard, 16.5 points per game
D.J. Bennett, Senior, Forward, 2.8 points per game
Ryan Spangler, Junior, Forward, 9.6 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 81.9 (7th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 76.0 (302, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.7 (147, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.7 (179, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.6 (15, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.9 (47, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.9 (19, 1)
Rebound Margin: 1.3 (146, 6)
Assists Per Game: 14.6 (53, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.4 (81, 4)

Madness 2014 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#78 Dante Buford


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