Oklahoma Sooners (Last Year: 13-18, 4-12 in Big 12)
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
F/C: Andrew Fitzgerald (Jr)/Casey Arent (Jr)/Barry Honore (Sr)
F: Romero Osby (Jr)/C.J. Washington (Sr)
SF: Cameron Clark (So)/Tyler Neal (So)
SG: Steven Pledger (Jr)
PG: Carl Blair (Jr)/Sam Grooms (Jr)/Calvin Newell (So)/T.J. Franklin (Sr)
Gone: SG-Cade Davis,SG-T.J. Taylor (transfer-Marquette), C-Abdul Ahmed (transfer), PF-Kyle Hardrick (transfer), PF-Nick Thompson (transfer)
Three years ago, the Blake Griffin-led Oklahoma Sooners were one of the hottest commodities in college basketball, coming within one game of reaching the Final Four. However, off-the-court issues and disappointing finishes on the court resulted in Jeff Capel getting fired this offseason. Former UNLV head coach Lon Kruger now tries to resurrect the program.
With only one senior and several newcomers on the roster, Oklahoma was one of the youngest and least-experienced major-conference teams last season. Even though the Sooners return four of their five starters, they are still likely in for a long year.
A lack of size and talent inside was part of the reason for Oklahoma's struggles a year ago, but that group should be more of a threat this season as Mississippi State transfer Romero Osby becomes eligible after sitting out last season. The 6-8 Osby figures to start up front with Andrew Fitzgerald who is the top returning scorer and rebounder. Fitzgerald is also 6-8 though, meaning it will be an undersized frontcourt that does not offer much in terms of protecting the rim on the defensive end.
Kruger will need 6-10 JUCO transfer Casey Arent to help provide some size in the middle. Arent is not the prototypical big man though as he has range out to the three-point line. Reserves C.J. Washington, Tyler Neal, and Barry Honore should re-assume their roles off the bench. Kruger also picked up a transfer in Wyoming power forward Amath M'Baye, who should add some competition in practice while he sits out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Perhaps the team's most talented all-around player, Cameron Clark hopes to build off a solid but unspectacular freshman season. Clark's athleticism and explosiveness around the rim are a nice complement to starting shooting guard and fellow sophomore Steven Pledger. Pledger is a long distance gunner who attempted 177 triples as a freshman and that number should increase this year with Cade Davis now playing professionally overseas.
The point guard battle is one to watch this season in Norman. Carl Blair is the returning starter but will be pushed for playing time by Calvin Newell and Sam Groom,s who was one of the top junior college players in the country this past season. Grooms is a reliable outside shooter who could easily see a decent amount of minutes at the two as well.
With further NCAA punishment on the horizon and a possible loss of future scholarships, Kruger may regret leaving UNLV for a program that seems to have gotten itself in hot water for the second time in less than five years. He certainly has his hands full in trying to rebuild the Oklahoma program. While the roster is one year older and more experienced, it just lacks the true natural talent to compete in the Big 12 this season.
Player to Watch: James Fraschilla, G
Even though he will probably never see a significant minute all season, James Fraschilla might be the most popular player on the team simply because of his lineage. The freshman walk-on is the son of ESPN analyst and former coach, Fran Fraschilla. James weighs a whopping 140 pounds and looks like he is 12 years old, but will quickly become a crowd favorite in Norman.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/24-27 vs. Villanova, New Mexico, Washington State, Boston College, St. Louis, Santa Clara, UC-Riverside (76 Classic)