Yesterday's 61-53 loss to Oklahoma was disappointing, though not completely unexpected. Even given its potential flaws, OU is considered the No. 6 team in the country for a reason. A win in this game may not have been the longest of long shots because I think playing at Bramlage is going to be a nightmare for a lot of teams this season, but the team in purple is not a top-10 team.
Given that I was in attendance, I didn't have the benefit of replays or the rewind function on live TV. Feel free to disagree with any of my assessments, as you likely had a better angle, and more opportunities to view the play, than I did.
What I liked...
...our man-to-man offense. When OU played man defense, we managed to do a pretty good job of finding good looks and, in the first half, knocking them down. If that's an indication of our abilities against man defense, I like our prospects against some teams with coaches who are too stubborn to play zone.
...Fred Brown providing a spark off the bench. Brown came into the game and knocked down a couple big threes in the first half, giving the team and the crowd a spark that eventually led to a seven-point lead with about five minutes remaining in the first half.
...our man-to-man defense, with the exception of our posts on Blake Griffin (discussed below). It looked like our defensive philosophy was to accept that Blake Griffin was going to get his points and lock down OU's other offensive threats. If you had told me that Willie Warren would only score 10 points and would be the Sooners' second leading scorer, I would have taken my chances. Denis Clemente and Dominique Sutton are turning into fantastic on-ball defenders.
What I didn't like...
...our posts' defense on Blake Griffin. I have no idea why we considered it a sound defensive philosophy to let B. Griffin catch the ball outside the block area, and then let him back down to the block without even making contact. At some point, you have to just stand your ground, accept the contact, and put the play in the official's hands. Griffin is a rough enough player that he's going to be called for his share of offensive fouls if your posts stand their ground.
I don't disagree with the philosophy not to double Griffin. He's a very good player, but he's not really a great creator except when he can walk down to the block and shoot a layup over Luis Colon/Ron Anderson/Darren Kent. He gets a lot of garbage points off rebounds. So I'm OK with accepting that he'll get his and trying to make sure the rest of OU's players don't burn you up. It's just that I've never seen post defense like that, and it was disappointing.
...frackin' turnovers. You can play "what-if" all day long, but you gotta wonder what the game might have been like had we not turned the ball over about 10 times in the last five minutes of the first half. I generally liked what our players were doing; they were penetrating into the lane, which is a big part of our offense. But once you get there, it doesn't do much good if you fumble the ball away or throw it to Jeff Capel on the OU bench (I'm looking at you, Jacob Pullen). Late first-half turnovers led to a 10-0 OU run and a three-point deficit at halftime. Not ballgame, but a big blow.
...our zone offense. Yikes. As Panjandrum said to me at the game yesterday, OU provided the blueprint for every other conference team. A 1-3-1 zone is apparently our team's kryptonite.
...Jake Pullen. I don't mean to call out a player individually, and I'm sure Jake feels worse about it than I do, but he played very poorly yesterday. We aren't going to win many games when Pullen goes 3-14 from the field, has four turnovers -- I'm shocked he didn't have more -- and only scores eight points.
...the cold streak in the second half. I don't have the exact numbers, but from the five-minute mark of the first half until about the five-minute mark of the second half, we scored 15 points and had 13 turnovers. Credit to OU for some of that, as their 1-3-1 was murder on us, but we still found some open looks and just flat missed them. Guys like Brown, Pullen and Clemente need to knock down some of those wide-open looks, and yesterday they didn't.
...the Big 12's decision to assign two brand-new officials to this game. I understand that referees must have their first conference game sometime, but you'd think they could give them a little lower-pressure environment on their first game, rather than a sold-out Bramlage Coliseum and a game featuring the No. 6 team in the country.
What it means and where we're going...
Don't freak out, folks. Yes, we're 0-1. Yes, we play at KU on Tuesday. Yes, we get the joy of traveling to Lincoln next Saturday. Seriously. Don't panic. I would love to have won this game, and when we were up 26-19 in the first half, I thought we just might. We have a young, talented team. They're going to have some ups-and-downs. But stick with them. As EMAW said during the game thread yesterday, we finally have enough talented players to legitimately compete with good teams. I had the exact same thought while in Manhattan yesterday. Hang in there.
And the best news? We won't face another player as good as Blake Griffin all year. Also, though I should note that I don't like Blake Griffin on the floor because he's one of the roughest players I've watched in a while, his dad is one helluva nice guy. Panjandrum sat near his dad for a while and noted that to me, and I ran into him after the game and complimented him on Blake and Taylor's play. He was very gracious.
Around the Big 12...
Didn't see a second of any of these games, so I'll only speculate as to what they mean. Some surprising results from yesterday.
Oklahoma State 72, Texas A&M 61: Probably the most surprising result from yesterday, at least to me. While I'm far from convinced that the Aggies are going to be any good at all the next 15 games, I had left Okie State for dead. They served notice yesterday that they will not be an easy out in Stillwater.
Texas 75, Iowa State 67: Very surprised at the narrow margin of victory. Probably yet another sign of Texas playing down to the level of its competition.
Nebraska 56, Missouri 51: This one ranks up there with OSU/TAMU as the surprise of yesterday for me. It's looking more and more like Mizzou's hot start was a fraud. Our trip to Lincoln next week will be a very big game.
Baylor 73, Texas Tech 61: Not much of a surprise there. I don't expect much out of the Red Raiders this season.
Michigan State 75, KU 62: Enjoyed the result, although it likely means one pissed-off bunch of chickens to deal with down the river on Tuesday. Also, John Higgins is officiating the game on Tuesday. Steve Wellmer was supposed to, but he broke his foot this weekend. Too bad they didn't break each other's feet.
We'll eschew the standings for now, until each team gets at least one conference game under its belt.