Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series. Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.
We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The Lon Kruger era as the Oklahoma Sooners’ head coach got off to a solid start as OU started last season 10-2 in non-conference action. Reality quickly set in as the Sooners struggled in Big 12 play and finished with a losing record. All five starters are back this season as Oklahoma could be a sleeper team in the new-look Big 12.
Last Season: 8th, 5-13 in Big 12, 15-16 overall
Predicted Big 12 Finish: 8th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Andrew Fitzgerald (Sr)/Casey Arent (Sr)
F: Romero Osby (Sr)/Amath M’Baye (Jr)/D.J. Bennett (Jr)
SF: Cameron Clark (Jr)/Tyler Neal (Jr)
SG: Steven Pledger (Sr)/Buddy Hield (Fr)/Isaiah Cousins (Fr)
PG: Sam Grooms (Sr)/Je’lon Hornbeak (Fr)
Gone: F-C.J. Washington, G-Calvin Newell (transfer-UCF), PG-Carl Blair (transfer-Prairie View A&M), F/C-Barry Honore, PG-T.J. Franklin
Steven Pledger made great strides last year becoming the team’s leading scorer, shooting a blistering 42% from downtown. He will once again serve as OU’s go-to offensive threat though he certainly won’t have to do it all by himself. Junior Cameron Clark has underachieved since arriving in Norman. He was a top 40 recruit coming out of high school but has failed to live up to expectations. If he can take a step in the right direction this season, it will do wonders for the Sooners.
Back to set the table for OU is senior point guard Sam Grooms. He transferred in from a junior college last season and finished second in the Big 12 in assists but never really established himself a true scoring threat. A trio of freshmen will compete for minutes on the wing with returning role player Tyler Neal. Buddy Hield, Je’lon Hornbreak, and Isaiah Cousins are all naturally suited to play the off guard and will compete for minutes behind Pledger. However, with no true backup point guard on the roster, one of them must emerge as a floor general to blow Grooms.
Oklahoma has a solid 1-2 punch in the frontcourt with Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby. They combined to average 25 points and more than 12 rebounds per night. Each player only stands 6-8 so they are an undersized duo that can be exposed by bigger post players but are both physical with Osby bringing more versatility on the offensive end.
A pair of transfers will battle for playing time with seldom-used big man Casey Arent for minutes behind Fitzgerald and Osby. Amath M’Baye averaged 12 points and 5.7 boards per night as a sophomore at Wyoming and should make a solid impact off the bench. JUCO transfer D.J. Bennett is a tremendous athlete with a freakish 7-4 wingspan who will bring some rebounding and shot blocking to the floor.
Kruger also picked up a key transfer in Oklahoma native Ryan Spangler who spent his freshman campaign at Gonzaga last season. The state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, Spangler must sit out this season but is a stretch four who will add some versatility to the frontcourt when he becomes eligible next season.
While the Sooners return a lot of experience, I just don’t think they have the talent to compete with the big dogs in the conference (Kansas, Baylor, Texas) and are a step below teams like Kansas State and West Virginia. That leaves Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and OU in the next tier fighting for a possible but unlikely sixth NCAA Tournament bid for the Big 12.
Player to Watch: Cameron Clark
OU was 9-5 last year when Clark scored in double figures meaning they finished 6-10 when he was held to single digits. It is pretty simple; if Clark can consistently produce alongside Pledger, OU has a realistic chance of making the tournament. If Clark is unable to take that next step, the Sooners play in one of those other post-season tourneys that nobody cares about.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/22 vs. UTEP (Old Spice Classic)
11/23 vs. Gonzaga/Clemson (Old Spice Classic)
11/25 vs. Vanderbilt/West Virginia/Davidson/Marist (Old Spice Classic)
11/28 at Oral Roberts
12/4 at Arkansas
12/15 vs. Texas A&M
12/29 vs. Ohio
OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#86 Lehigh Mountain Hawks
#87 Washington State Cougars
#88 Long Beach State 49ers
#89 Belmont Bruins
#90 Vanderbilt Commodores
#91 Dayton Flyers
#92 Houston Cougars
#93 UCF Knights
#94 Old Dominion Monarchs
#95 Oregon Ducks
#96 LSU Tigers
#97 South Carolina Gamecocks
#98 Seton Hall Pirates
#99 Georgia Bulldogs
#100 DePaul Blue Demons
#101 Boston College Eagles
#102 Penn State Nittany Lions
#103 Arizona State Sun Devils
#104 Virginia Tech Hokies
#105 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#108 TCU Horned Frogs
#109 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#110 Utah Utes
#111 Nebraska Cornhuskers
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks