Oklahoma basketball: A team no one expected

oklahoma basketball

At the beginning of the season it was predicted by most, including myself, the Oklahoma basketball team would make the Big 12 tournament and get a chance to dance in March, though the Sooners would struggle throughout the season. Now, they have beaten four top-10 teams in the past month and three in the past week.

After defeating No. 9 Alabama on Saturday in Norman, the Sooners have now beaten No. 5 ranked Texas, No. 9 Kansas and No. 11 West Virginia as well. On Saturday, the Sooners did it without a very valuable Austin Reaves and Alondes Williams, proving how deep the Oklahoma bench is. This is a complete team that plays together and tough on both ends of the floor. Oklahoma is now the third team since the AP Poll was created in 1948, to have won four regular season games over top-10 opponents in the same month. Oklahoma has gone from unranked to possibly a top 15, maybe even a top 10 team. They have top-15 Texas Tech on the road next week then Iowa State.

It has been awhile since Lon Kruger has gotten a team to play this well together without a significant playmaker to go to especially when going up against Alabama without two big impact players. Yet, the Sooners still found a way to get it done. Reaves has been averaging 16 points per game followed by five assists and five rebounds, while Williams is a huge energy boost for the Sooners, a hustler on both ends who is averaging eight points and three rebounds.

The big key to success for the Sooners though has been the defense. Oklahoma’s worse loss came against Xavier early in the season, and that was due to an absurd shooting performance Xavier put on that game. Xavier has still yet to have a shooting performance similar since, and that was followed by the 15-point loss to No. 2 Baylor a few games after. Since the Baylor game, Oklahoma is 5-1 with the one-loss coming right after the Baylor game against Kansas. Oklahoma lost its lead down the stretch in that game and lost by four. Against the Crimson Tide, the Sooners did not allowed a basket in the final four minutes of the game. Alabama averages over 80 points per game, and Oklahoma only allowed 61.

Transfers are not something Oklahoma basketball always makes a ton of use for, but the spotlight has definitely been taken over by the two transfers Umoja Gibson and Elijah Harkless. Gibson has added another shooting element on the outside for Oklahoma, spreading the defense more and creating space for his teammates. Gibson had 10 against Kansas, 12 against Texas and another 12 today against Alabama. Harkless has added energy, hustle and confidence to this Sooners squad. With seven big points to beat Kansas, another 11 against Texas and 14 points with five rebounds in the win against Alabama. That includes the game-sealing fadeaway bucket with under 10 seconds left to give Oklahoma a four-point lead.

Lastly, the biggest improvement for the Oklahoma team is point guard De’Vion Harmon. Harmon started out the season averaging over 17 points per game then hit a slight drought. Recently, he has found his rhythm. In the last five games Harmon has scored 22, 16, 22, 13 and 18 points while averaging two assists and three rebounds. He has proven to be a great facilitator who can attack the rim and has improved his jump shot immensely.

If this team can stay healthy and hungry like it is now, anything is possible.