#9 Oklahoma Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Oklahoma Sooners

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #9
Conference Rank: #3 Big 12

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Oklahoma returns four starters to a team that reached the Sweet Sixteen and gave Kansas a serious battle for the top spot in the Big 12. Even that Sweet Sixteen trip was a bit disappointing considering the Sooners were a three seed and fell to seventh seeded Michigan State. But thanks to the return of reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, OU will get another crack at Kansas and the Final Four. Hield led the Sooners with 17.4 points per game and the 6-4 senior added 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals. He is a very good three-point shooter, but can also use his size to attack the basket effectively. Hield is a clutch player and OU should be very thankful that he is not playing in the NBA right now.

2014-15 Record: 24-11, 12-6
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Lon Kruger
Coach Record: 82-49 at Oklahoma, 561-353 overall

Who’s Out:
TaShawn Thomas is the only starter lost. The 6-8 forward averaged 11.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game so he is a very significant loss for the OU frontcourt. He only spent one season with the Sooners after transferring in from Houston, but he made the most of that opportunity. D.J. Bennett was down the bench a ways last season, but he provided some frontcourt depth when there was foul trouble. In just 7.8 minutes per game, he averaged 1.9 points and 1.7 rebounds. The backcourt loses their sixth man in Frank Booker. Coach Lon Kruger relied heavily on his five starters, so Booker only averaged 14.3 minutes per game, but he could come in and spark the offense by knocking down a three-pointer or two.

Who’s In:
The holes in the frontcourt should be filled by newcomers Akolda Manyang, Dante Buford and Jamuni McNeace. Manyang is one of the top junior college prospects this season and the seven-footer gained some valuable experience playing the last two seasons at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. He is not a great scorer and probably never will be, but he is a great shot blocker and a solid rebounder. Buford sat out last season for academic reasons and the former top 100 recruit is ready to suit up for the Sooners and make an impact. He is a versatile 6-7 forward who can step outside and knock down shots and battle in the paint. The backcourt adds redshirt freshman Bola Alade and incoming freshmen Christian James and Rashard Odomes. James missed much of his senior season of high school, but he is a very talented player now that he’s healthy. Odomes is a big time scorer and a big 6-6 wing. Once Hield is gone, Odomes should be a double-digit scorer. For now, he will be a great piece off of the bench.

Who to Watch:
Like Hield, Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler are back after starting all 35 games in 2014-2015. Woodard is the gritty point guard who makes the team tick. He is a superb playmaker, but the junior still needs to work on his scoring. He did average 9.3 points per game to go along with his 3.8 assists, but he shot just 25.4 percent from beyond the arc and 36.1 percent from the floor. Right now Oklahoma does not need him to score a ton, but offensive efficiency is important. Cousins could stand to be more consistent from game to game as well. He can score 20 points one night and basically disappear the next. But when he is on, Cousins is tough to stop. He can attack the basket, but he also knocked down an impressive 45.0 percent of his 140 three-point attempts. Spangler averaged 9.7 points per game last year, but did make room for Thomas to come in and do some scoring too. This time around, Spangler should be a consistent double digit scorer in the paint, assuming his new frontcourt mate is not as polished in that department as Thomas was in 2014-2015. Spangler is a bruiser and one of the best rebounders in the country too. Two years ago, again without Thomas on the team, he averaged 9.3 rebounds per game. Last year that number dipped to 8.2.

Final Projection:
Coach Kruger has a very talented and experienced foursome to work with, but depth and the new look frontcourt will need to keep up. Dinjiyl Walker and Khadeem Lattin are the only returning players who averaged double digit minutes last season. Walker will add depth to the backcourt, while Lattin is a promising sophomore who can hit the glass effectively and play some defense in the paint. Manyang will likely start at the five spot, but Lattin and the newcomers will have to play major minutes. If they are ready, this is a group that has the potential to help prevent Kansas from winning or sharing their 12th straight conference title.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Jordan Woodard, Junior, Guard, 9.3 points per game
Isaiah Cousins, Senior, Guard, 11.7 points per game
Buddy Hield, Senior, Guard, 17.4 points per game
Ryan Spangler, Senior, Forward, 9.7 points per game
Akolda Manyang, Junior, Center, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.5 (70th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 62.7 (71, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.5 (168, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.6 (11, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (122, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.3 (172, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.1 (29, 1)
Rebound Margin: 1.6 (122, 6)
Assists Per Game: 12.3 (197, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.0 (121, 3)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#33 Buddy Hield


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