Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
Three years ago, the Blake Griffin-led Oklahoma Sooners were one of the hottest commodities in college basketball, coming within one game of reaching the Final Four. However, off the court issues and disappointing finishes on the court resulted in Jeff Capel getting fired this off-season. Former UNLV head coach Lon Kruger now tries to resurrect the program.
Last Season: T-9th, 4-12 in Big 12, 13-18 overall
Predicted Big 12 Finish: 8th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Andrew Fitzgerald (Jr)/Casey Arent (Jr)/Barry Honore (Sr)
F: Romero Osby (Jr)/C.J. Washington (Sr)
SF: Cameron Clark (So)/Tyler Neal (So)
SG: Steven Pledger (Jr)
PG: Carl Blair (Jr)/Sam Grooms (Jr)/Calvin Newell (So)/T.J. Franklin (Sr)
Gone: SG-Cade Davis,SG-T.J. Taylor (transfer-Marquette), C-Abdul Ahmed (transfer), PF-Kyle Hardrick (transfer), PF-Nick Thompson (transfer)
With only one senior on the roster and several newcomers, Oklahoma was one of the youngest and least experienced major conference teams last season. Even though the Sooners return four of their five starters, they are still likely in for a long year.
A lack of size and talent inside was part of the reason for OU’s struggles a year ago, but that group should be more of a threat this season as Mississippi State transfer Romero Osby becomes eligible after sitting out last season. The 6-8 Osby figures to start up-front with Andrew Fitzgerald who is the top returning scorer and rebounder. Fitzgerald is also 6-8 though meaning it will be an undersized frontcourt that does not offer much in terms of protecting the rim on the defensive end.
Kruger will need 6-10 JUCO transfer Casey Arent to help provide some size in the middle. Arent is not the prototypical big man though as he has range out to the three-point line. Reserves C.J. Washington, Tyler Neal, and Barry Honore should re-assume their roles off the bench. Kruger also picked up a transfer in Wyoming power forward Amath M’Baye who should add some competition in practice while he sits out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Perhaps the team’s most talented all-around player, Cameron Clark hopes to build off a solid but unspectacular freshman season. Clark’s athleticism and explosiveness around the rim are a nice compliment to starting shooting guard and fellow sophomore Steven Pledger. Pledger is a long distance gunner who attempted 177 triples as a freshman and that number should increase this year with Cade Davis now playing professionally overseas.
The point guard battle is one to watch this season in Norman. Carl Blair is the returning starter but will be pushed for playing time by Calvin Newell and Sam Grooms who was one of the top junior college players in the country this past season. Grooms is a reliable outside shooter who could easily see a decent amount of minutes at the two as well.
With further NCAA punishment on the horizon and a possible loss of future scholarships, Kruger may regret leaving UNLV for a program that seems to have gotten itself in hot water for the second time in less than five years. He certainly has his hands full in trying to re-build the Oklahoma program. While the roster is one year older and more experienced, it just lacks the true natural talent to compete in the Big 12 this season.
Player to Watch: James Fraschilla, G
Even though he will probably never see a significant minute all season, James Fraschilla might be the most popular player on the team simply because of his lineage. The freshman walk-on is the son of ESPN analyst and former coach, Fran Fraschilla. James weighs a whopping 140 pounds, looks like he is 12-years old, but will quickly become a crowd favorite in Norman.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/24 vs. Washington State (76 Classic)
11/25 vs. New Mexico/Santa Clara (76 Classic)
11/27 vs. Villanova/UC Riverside/Boston College/St. Louis (76 Classic)
12/10 vs. Arkansas
12/29 at Cincinnati
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#92 Oregon State Beavers
#93 Washington State Cougars
#94 Iowa Hawkeyes
#95 Ole Miss Rebels
#96 Nebraka Cornhuskers
#97 Oklahoma Sooners
#98 South Florida Bulls
#99 LSU Tigers
#100 Colorado Buffaloes
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
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 on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.