Hours before Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 91-90 on Saturday to end the Sooner Mountaineers’ season, the NCAA tournament selection committee announced its confidence in the OU basketball team, placing the No. 3 program in the top 16 of the season.
For the Sooners, who also won over Texas and Alabama, Saturday’s result could catapult the program into a higher spot while making head coach Lon Kruger the National Coach of the Year.
That’s why Saturday’s victory looked like a national announcement: Oklahoma is for real, their coach is one of the best in the country, and a good spot on the NCAA tournament schedule seems possible.
Kruger is your favorite coach, a hard worker with a consistent career. He and Tubby Smith are the only coaches in the history of Division I basketball to have led five different NCAA tournament programs. However, his success in the 2020-21 season has shown some of his best work.
In recent years, Kruger has coached several stars, including Trae Young and Buddy Hield at Oklahoma. However, there are no top players in this group, which makes this performance even more impressive. Kruger does this with Austin Reeves, a transfer from Wichita State who leads the team in scoring with 15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He has De’Vion Harmon, a former four-star recruit who is now a more effective offensive player than the shaky recruit we saw a year ago. Brady Manek, who came along with Young’s class, made 38% of his attempts in 3-pointers.
The Sooners also have the lowest turnover rate in the Big 12, according to KenPom, holding opponents to 45.5% inside the arc in conference games.
Oklahoma finished sixth in the Big 12 race. The Sooners are now in second place with a 4-0 record against the three teams (Kansas, West Virginia, Texas) trailing them. They are also tied with Ohio State, where they have five wins against top 15 teams according to statistics from ESPN and research from the Associated Press.
Coach Lon Kruger and the Sooners have been playing since the ninth. The month of January suffered only one defeat. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Second place in the championship, dominated by the undefeated Baylor team, is an important position. The first time around, there were five teams from the Big 12 in the top 16, none of which were named Kansas.
The league focuses on the rise of Baylor and the fall of Kansas. Between these two stories, the reality is that the race for second place in the Big 12 is one of the most exciting events in America. The fact that Oklahoma has nestled comfortably at the top of this pile says a lot about the strength of the program.
In a year where the clear dominance of the undefeated teams of Baylor and Gonzaga has minimized our collective use of the term national title contender as a label for all teams outside of Spokane, Washington and Waco, Texas, Oklahoma has evolved into a program that is more than just a good story.
The Sooners continue to prove they are a threat to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis.
With only one loss since the 9th. January is sailing through Oklahoma – and the country is starting to take notice.