A month ago Trae Young was the front runner to win the Wooden Award. Oklahoma was the number four team in the nation and leading the Big 12. A lot has changed since the calendar month changed to February and we can only expect a lot more when it changes to March.
Wheels falling off:
Well, Oklahoma is now essentially in a free fall. They just lost their second game to Texas, are 6-8 in conference play and have lost eight of their last ten. Trae Young has struggled lately, and so have the Sooners.
They have lost seven straight road games and have struggled to get wins that would increase their stock come March. The Sooners defensively haven’t held a team to under 65 points.
The best two wins they have are on the road against Wichita State and at home against Kansas, but the NCAA tournament cares about strength of wins, consistency of the team and the trend they are heading in. Oklahoma is heading in the wrong direction when they should be improving their resume.
Young is shooting just four for his last 27 threes in his last three games. The tough shots that he was making early in the season just aren’t consistently falling right now. Young is turning it over 5.3 times a game and is shooting just 37 percent from three.
Where they struggle:
Oklahoma is the number two offense in the country. They can put points up in a hurry and play at one of the fastest paces in basketball. Unfortunately they are the 337th ranked team in points defended against. They are +5.5 in point differential but give up 82 points per game.
The Sooners have lost to 5 teams with an RPI of 51+. To put it into perspective, that’s the same amount as Washington. They allow average teams to hang around due to their defensive inefficiencies. It’s not hard for an above average offensive team to hang around when playing Oklahoma.
A team that once was a sure thing for the NCAA tournament in slowly sliding toward the bubble.
It’s unfair to blame Trae Young for this sudden slide. Many of the Sooners lack the ability to create space, in which Trae Young specializes in. Despite 5.3 turnovers a game, Oklahoma would struggle tons without his offensive play-making skills.
This is virtually the same team that that lost 18 games last season. People can’t assume that just because a young freshman guard comes in they will be the top of the Big 12. It takes both time and multiple play-makers to make this team go.
What they need to do:
As of right now it will be tough for Oklahoma to improve their resume with four games left in the season. With that being said, it would be rather easy for them to hurt their resume. A loss at home to either Iowa State or Kansas State would be extremely detrimental to the Sooners chances to get a higher seed.
Oklahoma needs to go 2-2 in their next four games. I don’t see them going to Kansas or Baylor and coming out victorious. They are both 12-4 and 12-3 respectively at home and the Sooners have just two true road wins.
On the other side Iowa State is 0-8 on the road and Kansas State is 6-3 on the road. Although Kansas State is 6-3 on the road, they have yet to beat a ranked team on the road. Oklahoma is 11-2 at home and seem like a completely different team when they are in Norman.
Oklahoma will have to do some damage in the Big 12 tournament. They are 7th in the conference right now and would have to win at least one game in the Big 12 tournament to stop the free falling of their stock.
Ultimately I think that Oklahoma will be an 8 or a 9 seed come selection sunday. They have done enough early in the season to solidify themselves in the tournament barring a 0-5 finish. Despite lacking a ton of late quality wins, the Sooners will limp into the NCAA tournament and be a very dangerous higher seed.
Featured image from Sooner Sports.
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