2016-2017 Oklahoma Basketball Preview

(SoonerSports.com via Ty Russell)

(SoonerSports.com via Ty Russell)

Lon and the Boys are back this week as they host Northwestern State this upcoming Sunday. The Sooners are set to make another run at the NCAA Tournament with a revamped group that is full of youth. Three major questions loom: How will Oklahoma replace Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler? What is the Sooners’ ceiling? Is Oklahoma ready to be a regular contender in the Big 12 and in the NCAA?

THE ROSTER

SENIORS

CJ Cole (walk-on)
Daniel Harper (walk-on)
Jordan Woodard (2015-2016 Stats: 13.o PPG, 3.4 APG, 45.5{90cbdbedcebe3734fdfdeb1f9843068779d1ec8d5ef30619baff100fe391d921} from 3PT)

JUNIORS

Khadeem Lattin (2015-2016 Stats: 5.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.1 BPG)
Darrion Strong (JUCO Transfer)

SOPHOMORES

Dante Buford (2015-2016 Stats: 3.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 33{90cbdbedcebe3734fdfdeb1f9843068779d1ec8d5ef30619baff100fe391d921} from 3PT)
Christian James (2015-2016 Stats: 2.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 50{90cbdbedcebe3734fdfdeb1f9843068779d1ec8d5ef30619baff100fe391d921} from 3PT)
Jamuni McNeace (2015-2016 Stats: 1.2 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 7.7 minutes per game)
Rashard Odomes (22015-2016 Stats: 1.9 PPG and 0.8 RPG in 6.1 minutes per game)

FRESHMAN

Richard Anderson (walk-on)
Kristian Doolittle (#69 overall player according to ESPN)
Kameron McGusty (#33 player by Scout, #40 player by ESPN)
Grant Quinn (walk-on)
Jordan Shepard (2* player)

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

1: Jordan Woodard, Darrion Strong, Jordan Shepard
2: Rashard Odomes, Kameron McGusty
3: Christian James, Dante Buford
4: Kristian Doolittle, Matt Freeman
5: Khadeem Lattin, Jamuni McNeace

PLAYER BREAKDOWN

Oklahoma's Khadeem Lattin (12), Jordan Woodard (10) and Dante Buford (21) celebrate at the end of the first half during a semifinal of the West Regional in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship between the Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas A&M Aggies at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday, March 24, 2016. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin (12), Jordan Woodard (10) and Dante Buford (21) celebrate at the end of the first half during a semifinal of the West Regional in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship between the Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Texas A&M Aggies at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday, March 24, 2016. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Coming off one of the best seasons in Oklahoma basketball history, this year’s squad has a lot to live up to. They return two starters in Jordan Woodard and Khadeem Lattin. These two are looking to take on a bigger role on the offensive side of the ball in the absence of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler. Woodard has taken on this role before, but it was five years ago. At Edmond Memorial High School, Woodard was left with taking over a team when his brother, James, and a couple other college level players graduated. Woodard turned into the playmaker he was supposed to and led his teams to a 6A State Runner Up and a 6A State Championship in consecutive years. The senior leader is looking to do that again in 2015-2016 while at Oklahoma. With Lattin, you are looking at a dynamic post player who can block shots, run the floor, and spread the floor out with his jump shot. Last year, Lattin was just scratching the surface of his potential. The talented junior led the Big 12 in blocks and made the All-Defensive Team in the Big 12. These two are expected to lead the way on and off the court.

Jan 16, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Christian James (3) yells to the fans during action against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 16, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Christian James (3) yells to the fans during action against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The rest of the contributions is expected to come from a deep pool of sophomores. Christian James is the one who is looking to make that “Buddy Hield” jump in his 2nd year. It was reported that James scored 32 points in Oklahoma’s closed scrimmage against Oregon:

James is a bigger bodied guy at 6’4″ as he weighs near 220 pounds. He has the ability to spread the floor, attack the rim, and guard posts at his size. You saw some of this from him last year, and expect to see it again in a bigger role. Look for James to continue to progress and turn into an All-Big 12 type of player in 2015-2016.

Some other names who are expected to make a serious jump this year are Rashard Odomes, Dante Buford, and Jamuni McNeace. Let’s break each down:

(SoonerSports.com via Ty Russell)

(SoonerSports.com via Ty Russell)

Rashard OdomesThe long, athletic guard saw minimal time last year. Odomes has the ability to attack the rim and finish at will with his length. Most defenders struggle staying in front of Odomes as he has a quick first step and has those “lefty” ball skills that most left-handed basketball players have. If he can become a presence on the defensive side of the ball, Odomes will allow Oklahoma to have a nice guard tandem in the Big 12.

Dante Buford: The highly touted prospect out of high school had to sit in 2014-2015 due to an academic issue, but we saw flashes of why he was so highly ranked last year. Buford’s not the shifty small forward that will create off the dribble, but he will bully players at the glass and then stretch the floor at the three-point line. His game is a bit different as he is truly a small forward. If Buford can understand his role off the bench, he will allow Oklahoma to go deep into their bench and give their starters a break.

Jamuni McNeace: It is simple, if McNeace can understand his role and not try to do to much, you will see him inserted into the starting lineup or see him get a lot of minutes with Khadeem Lattin inside. The uber-athletic center has a unique ability to jump. Yeah, jump. At 6’10”, McNeace gets his head above the rim better than most players Oklahoma will play this season. If McNeace can harness that energy, you will see the Javale McGee type of player develop in front of our eyes.

Finishing up, Oklahoma does have a couple newcomers who are looking to make a serious impact. Kristian Doolittle has already inserted himself into the starting lineup. The 6’7″ forward showed the ability to play point-forward in high school, as well as defend any position on the floor. Doolittle is a physical specimen at his age. Already at 235 pounds, look for Doolittle to only grow into his body more as this season goes on. Kameron McGusty is the highest rated recruit Lon Kruger has landed during his time at Oklahoma. McGusty is stuck behind two talented guards in Christian James and Rashard Odomes, therefore we will see him mostly off the bench in 2015-2016. McGusty has the knack to put the ball in the basket. He has the range to stretch the floor and ability to create off the dribble. The major key for McGusty this season will be to come into his own and continue to develop. He is not the kind of player that is looking towards the NBA, and understands his need to trust the process. The last three players who will get meaningful minutes are Darrion StrongJordan Shepard, and Matt Freeman. Strong and Freeman will be called on to score, as Shepard is the change-of-pace point guard who knows how to run an offense. These three are the kind of bench players who will not be the focus of another team’s scouting report, but could come in and surprise people if their name is called.


A question I asked above is how Oklahoma will be able to replace Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler. As you can see, this team is much deeper than those in the past. Oklahoma should not try and create a scoring tandem, but should try and spread it out. The scoring will be lead by Jordan Woodard and Christian James, but if Oklahoma tries to rely on those two like they did with Hield and Cousins like years’ past, this will be a disappointing year. Lattin should be an upgrade to Spangler if he can stay out of foul trouble. Oklahoma’s ability to score is so deep that the burden should not be on two players, but should be spread amongst four to five players depending on the night. This group is more athletic, more versatile, and deeper than year’s past, which is why looking for a single guy, or two, to rely on should not be a recipe for success.


SCHEDULE

Not listed is the exhibition game against Washburn on Tuesday, November 8th. Tulane is also the beginning of the Tire Pros Invitational, where Oklahoma joins Arizona State, Xavier, Northern Iowa, Clemson, Missouri, and Davidson.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-8-50-41-am

This is a pretty tough schedule for an inexperienced team. Not a lot of marquee matchups, but more games against middle-of-the-pack or “bubble” teams. Oklahoma’s Big 12 schedule is favorable as they do not go on many stretches of playing the top five teams of the conference consecutively like last year.


Oklahoma's Buddy Hield (24), middle, raises the West Regional trophy with his teammates after the Sooners won their regional final in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship against the Oregon Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, March 26, 2016. OU won 80-68. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (24), middle, raises the West Regional trophy with his teammates after the Sooners won their regional final in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship against the Oregon Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, March 26, 2016. OU won 80-68. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

The second question I asked above is what the ceiling of this year’s team will be. A Sweet 16 is the highest I see it being, with a chance at the Final Four a year from now. Last year, Oklahoma was able to get to 29 wins with an incredibly tough schedule. 22-24 wins seems favorable for this season. I see the Sooners finishing 4th in the conference behind Kansas, West Virginia, and Texas. With that, I see Oklahoma being a five or six seed in the NCAA Tournament. A minor setback from a year ago, but a definite chance to continue building instead of rebuilding.


The last question I asked is if Oklahoma was ready to be a contender year in and year out in the Big 12 and in the country. Are they? Seems that way. Lon Kruger is building a program that looks ready to be considered a Top 20 team every year. This year, they will have to make some noise to get into the Top 20, but the outlook for the next two years looks somewhat to be elite. The fans are just now starting to see it, but Lon and the Boys are making basketball fun again (had to do it) in the Lloyd Noble Center as they have only lost two games inside that arena the last two years. Their motto is “TAKE NOTICE” and the Sooners have done that nationally. So is Oklahoma ready to be consistent contender? They are close. This year will only be a huge stepping stone in that direction.

 

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