After losing six of their last eight, the entire season was thought to be heading in the wrong direction after an unexpected rise from Trae Young and a 14-2 start for Oklahoma. This fall was predicted by sports analytics writer Seth Walder of ESPN before the Sooners’ first road loss in this stretch to Kansas State. The loss was the worst combined team field goal and 3-point percentage of the season. It was the first time all season Trae Young and Oklahoma looked normal, something Walder told everyone would happen.
The numbers said the Sooners were not efficient enough, that their No. 4 Associated Press’ ranking at the time was too much. Oklahoma’s projected finish by ESPN’s own Basketball Power Index at the time was 7.7-6.3. Since that article was posted, they’ve gone 2-6. It’s a direction that is worth noticing, but thanks to the most recent Associated Press’ top 25 poll and early NCAA Tournament Bracket Preview by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, Oklahoma can step back and breathe..for now.
With six quadrant one wins according to the NCAA Tournament selection committee, the Sooners found themselves sitting as a 4-seed if the season ended today in their early Bracket Preview on Sunday. Many thought Oklahoma would fall out of the top 25 rankings come Monday morning, but the Associated Press’ college basketball poll voters followed suit with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee by surprisingly voting the Sooners in at No. 23.
The NCAA Tournament Selection committee and Associated Press’ voters proved one thing: wins matter. Trae Young and Oklahoma beat then No. 25 USC at the Staples Center, and went to then No. 3 Wichita State and then No. 10 TCU and won. They came home and beat then No. 8 Texas Tech, then No. 16 TCU, and then No. 5 Kansas.
Those are the six quadrant one wins that the Sooners have in their back pocket right now. They are one of two teams that have five wins against the RPI top 25 (Alabama), but the only team that is undefeated against the top 25 (5-0). It is Oklahoma’s body of work over the first half of the season that they are able to hod their hat on, and despite their recent stretch of six losses in eight games, they can add on to what is one of the better résumé’s in college basketball.
Wins at No. 7 Texas Tech tonight, No. 13 Kansas next Monday, and Baylor on Feb. 27 would give Oklahoma three more quadrant one wins based on today’s rankings. The Jayhawks currently lead college basketball with nine quadrant one wins, which was the main reason behind their No. 6 overall ranking by the NCAA Tournament selection committee on Sunday, despite home losses to Arizona State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and a road loss at Baylor over the weekend.
If nine quadrant one wins leads college basketball and helped Kansas to a 2-seed at this point in the season, Oklahoma’s NCAA Tournament resume can improve immensely over their final six games of the regular season with wins. For a team that looks to be heading in the wrong direction, a chance to stop and turn the other way presents itself.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and Associated Press’ college basketball voters made the dim light at the end of the tunnel look a little bit brighter, and No. 23 Oklahoma can make it even brighter starting tonight against No. 7 Texas Tech.