OOOOOHHHHklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain...sorry, had to do that. I want to extend a thank you to Rich DeCray of the SBNation community Crimson and Cream Machine, for joining in on the Q&A session. I think you will enjoy the info, but depressingly, we both came to about the same prediction for the game outcome. You can find their questions (and my answers) here.
BOTC: Oklahoma has steadily improved over the past two years, and are only three years removed from an awful 5-13 Big 12 season. Their finding themselves in the realm of the elite this year, and one of the favorites for a conference championship. They've really impressed me so far this year. What's the major cause of the improvement, and what is this team's legitimate ceiling?
C&CM: One thing the Oklahoma Sooners have lacked over Kruger's tenure has been consistent inside scoring and experience. After recruiting a crop of guards to build around (which are now juniors), Ryan Spangler transferred in from Gonzaga to provide a boost inside. Working on his range, Spangler now possesses to hit the 3-ball spreading the floor allowing the guards to penetrate the defense. However, the biggest boost inside this year has been the clearance of TaShawn Thomas to play immediately.
Due to the resurgence in post play, Oklahoma can now play inside out providing balanced scoring. The style of play makes the lot a tough group to defend on any given night. But, it's the defensive improvements that have this program on the up swing. Instead of relying on outscoring an opponent like last year, the Sooners can force a few stops and get out in transition.
BOTC: Based on Kenpom's stats, the Sooners are an exceptional defensive team, but just passable to slightly above average on offense. How do you think Oklahoma could be exploited on either end of the floor to lead to an upset?
C&CM:Defensively, Lon Kruger preaches switching on every screen. However, teams fail to create mismatches which takes away any potential advantage. Getting favorable match-ups could lead to easy points for opposing teams.
Offensively, Buddy Hield and the rest of the group like to shoot the three ball when given the opportunity. What makes the guards tough to defend has been their ability to drive the lane as well. If an opponent can keep Oklahoma out of the paint, they have a real shot at scoring an upset.
BOTC: Buddy Hield is a name that every college basketball fan knows (or should know, at least). How much do TaShawn Thomas and Ryan Spangler help him with his success? Does Oklahoma scheme around Hield, or is he just a great player in a system concept?
C&CM: The high energy Hield provides the much needed leadership not only scoring wise but also vocally on this squad. There's no doubt that the ball must pass through his hands on each possession. In order to answer the question we must look back as the past two years. Buddy had great success without Thomas last year and without Spangler the year before. Needless to say, Hield is a great player and HE IS the system.
BOTC: K-State has a 6% chance of winning this game according to Kenpom.com - the worst likelihood of any game this season for us. Why should we have any enthusiasm or optimism for this game? Any chance the Sooners are looking at their road trip to Morgantown on Tuesday?
C&CM: Each and every year, the Sooners are good for one shocker by dropping a game in which they were highly favored. The unfortunate portion of that statement is that game may have already taken place. Earlier this season against Creighton, fans witnessed OU build an 18 point lead only to lose the game.
It may have been the wake up this group needed though. After the Battle 4 Atlantis, a shift happened on the court. The result has produced wins over top ranked programs and a 21 point win over a top ten program on the road.
BOTC: What's your prediction of outcome for the game?
C&CM: At home, Oklahoma has appeared unstoppable. That trend continues on Saturday as Lon Kruger secures yet another win and third consecutive conference win by 13 points.
BOTC: BONUS QUESTION! Hoodies are still OK in OK, right?
C&CM: Of course hoodies are still okay in Oklahoma! You can bet I'll be wearing mine while eating a hamburger and walking backwards downtown (yes this is an illegal thing to do in OKC).