After losing to TCU 63-82 in a play-in game of the Big 12 tournament, the OU Men’s Basketball Twitter account is proclaiming “The Future is Bright.” By all accounts it will be; coming into the 2016-2017 campaign, the Sooners had a roster-carrying eleven underclassmen. True Freshmen Kameron McGusty and Kristian Doolittle worked their way into the starting lineup. McGusty, an honorable mention for All-Big 12, averages 11 points per game and found himself in position a couple of times this season to decide the Sooners’ fate. Even coming up short against Texas and Oklahoma State, McGusty’s confidence seems unshaken. Five-star guard Trae Young will be on campus in a few weeks, and If OU can get consistent play from their bigs, they could be back in the NCAA Tournament.
With this in mind: there is no excuse for Lon Kruger’s bunch to have finished 11-20. We saw glimpses of what they could have been all season, but whether it was coaching or just being undisciplined, OU had a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Khadeem Lattin never built on the promise he showed during last year’s Final Four Run. Jamuni McNeace towards the end of the season showed why he was worth a scholarship – but had McNeace played like that all season long, he would have been a real difference maker. Jordan Woodard’s absence resulted in McGusty’s assuming the leadership role, and he did an admirable job but could have used a mentor to smooth out the transition.
Another potential bright spot is 6-9 Brady Manek from Harrah. Manek, according to Bob Przybylo, is a stretch four who prefers to be out on the parameter. While the coaching staff will want him to play down-low in the day and age of seeing big men hit from three, we hope he can be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.
There is also a chance to see departures from the program. Christian James was expected to be the Sooners’s most reliable scorer. That never materialized, and James only averaged eight points per game in a year when Kruger needed that to be about 15. Changes could be in order if James wants to turn things around.
Dante Burford could also fall into that category. The 6-7 sophomore has way more talent that his averages show, and it’s time that this four-star recruit lived up to expectations.
Maybe a “NCAA tournament or bust” attitude is too lofty, but a bounce-back is most definitely in order.