Oklahoma Sooners Face Tough Start to Big 12 Conference Season

Mark D. Smith – US Presswire

The start of the Big 12 Conference season can’t look much worse on paper for the Oklahoma State Sooners, with a four-game stretch that includes away games against the Kansas State Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks and Baylor Bears after just the first three games of the conference slate.

Opposing teams are a cozy 5-30 at those three venues this season.

The Sooners are deep at several positions this season but aren’t particularly good at any other than power forward. At least, that’s what the current nine-player rotation is dictating.

I guess when you have Blake Griffin leading your squad you don’t have to do much coaching but Griffin’s been out of Oklahoma for the past three seasons and so has the Sooners’ talent, as evidenced by three-straight losing seasons.

Oklahoma needs to sort out its point guard situation if it even hopes to keep above water in a Big 12 Conference absolutely loaded with talented floor generals.

Senior Sam Grooms has a team-high 29 assists this season but is largely a non-factor whenever he’s on the floor for his 17 minutes per-game. Freshman Je’lon Hornbeak has the makings of a great point guard but he needs to take his shots when they’re there.

Hornbeak barely puts up a handful of shots each night but good things happen when he gets a little selfish. In Oklahoma’s first game against the West Virginia Mountaineers this season, Hornbeak put up 14 points and was active on defense.

One of Hornbeak’s problems, though, is part of a nationwide trend in which guards get too caught up in rebounding and put themselves at a disadvantage in the transition game. Hornbeak needs to be the finisher on the fast break, not the outlet passer.

Fellow freshman Buddy Hield has the same rebounding obsession as Hornbeak but doesn’t have the same all-around game. Hield is more of a defensive specialist who can find open teammates when he needs to but that’s really all he should do at this point in his development.

Sure, the Sooners don’t have a ton of height but that doesn’t mean their point guards need to be in the paint if they’re not slashing to the hoop for a bucket. A better understanding of playing roles will do Oklahoma well coming into conference play. If things don’t change, though, OU has no chance this season.

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at mgillmei@gmail.com or on Twitter:@mgillmei

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