Know Your Crimson Rival: Oklahoma Sooners

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As I mentioned in today's podcast (posting soon) ... if your goal is a good NCAA tourney seed and a high-quality overall season, then a slip-up tonight, in the mother of all trap games, would not be the end of the world. But if your goals include a conference title, then you absolutely must figure out a way to gather yourself from an emotionally and physically draining Saturday night and pull out a win tonight in Norman. As we saw the last time these two teams played, Oklahoma does not match up incredibly well with Mizzou -- they don't have the depth to hurt Mizzou's thin bench, and they don't have the multitude of 3-point shooters that can occasionally blow up Mizzou's defense -- but they are competitive, improving and at home. That has been a recipe for plenty of road upsets over the years. If Mizzou is dialed in, they win. But how close to 100% can they come after Saturday night? We'll see.

Oklahoma (Since Last Time): 3-7


OU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
65.4
Points Per Minute
1.62
1.82
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.00
1.13
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.13
1.35
2-PT FG% 44.1%
52.9%
3-PT FG% 30.9%
37.%
FT% 76.7%
74.6%
True Shooting % 49.6%
58.3%




OU Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.2
15.3
Steals/Gm 7.0
5.7
Turnovers/Gm 11.6
13.8
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.74
1.52




OU Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 12.9
11.0
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 11.6
11.2
Difference -1.3
+0.2

As we'll see below, Oklahoma's 3-7 record since the last time I previewed them is at least a little bit misleading. Since getting blown up by 38 points at Mizzou, the Sooners have upset Kansas State twice, held tough for about three halves against Kansas, lost at Oklahoma State by seven (a familiar margin, no?), and lost reasonably competitive home games against Baylor and Iowa State. They have faced a rough schedule, and while they haven't done particularly well against it, they haven't embarrassed themselves either. Rebounding has taken a hit with the upgrade in competition, but they are a quality ball-handling team, and they do have a potential high-volume scorer in Steven Pledger.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

OU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

OU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 63
57
Push
Effective FG% 211
182
MU
Turnover % 53
49
Push
Off. Reb. % 23
116
OU
FTA/FGA 282
9
MU Big
MU Offense vs OU Defense Ranks

MU Offense OU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 1
113
MU Big
Effective FG% 2
198
MU Big
Turnover % 4
137
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 181
149
OU
FTA/FGA 100
77
OU

Where the Sooners are weakest

As much as I want to build the Sooners up here (to justify some relative paranoia), I cannot in any way pretend they are a very good defensive team. You get good shots against them, especially inside the arc (205th in Def. 2PT%). They don't force enough turnovers (137th in TO%, 150th in Steal%), and they have the tendency to mostly foul guards, which means they rank 288th in Def. FT%. (Meanwhile, if you haven't noticed, Mizzou's guards are, by and large, pretty good at shooting free throws.) Their trip to Columbia perfectly magnified all of their defensive issues, though they usually aren't as bad as they were that night. Just ask Kansas State.

On offense, they aren't a good shooting team. They rank 211th in Effective FG% and 250th in 2PT%, and they don't do themselves a lot of favors in failing to draw many fouls.

Oh yeah, and they rank 286th in Bench Minutes.

Where they are best

For the season, they have shot well from behind the 3-point line, though that has regressed quite a bit in conference play. They do rank 31st in Off. FT%, though as mentioned above, they don't actually get to the line very much. They don't get many shots blocked, either (12th in Off. Block%), mostly because they usually settle for jumpers.

Oklahoma's Season Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at No. 22 Kansas State, 63-60
    No. 22 Kansas State, 82-73
    No. 245 Texas Tech, 64-55
  • Losses
    at No. 3 Kansas, 62-84
    No. 3 Kansas, 62-71
    No. 12 Baylor, 65-77
    No. 36 Iowa State, 70-77
    at No. 99 Oklahoma State, 65-72
    at No. 111 Texas A&M, 75-81 (OT)

Again, I don't want to build them up too much, but in their five conference home games, they have beaten Kansas State and Texas Tech and held mostly tight with Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State. That's not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Oklahoma Player Stats (Since Last Time)

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Romero Osby (6'8, 232, Jr.)
15.5
0.47
33.4 MPG, 14.5 PPG (50% 2PT, 77% FT), 6.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 2.0 TOPG
Steven Pledger (6'4, 222, Jr.)
13.4
0.39
34.5 MPG, 16.3 PPG (40% 2PT, 41% 3PT, 96% FT), 3.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.8 TOPG
Andrew Fitzgerald (6'8, 247, Jr.)
12.5
0.41
30.4 MPG, 14.9 PPG (50% 2PT, 75% FT), 4.6 RPG, 1.6 TOPG, 3.5 PFPG
Sam Grooms (6'1, 203, Jr.)
6.7
0.20
33.6 MPG, 4.6 PPG (33% 2PT, 0% 3PT, 63% FT), 6.1 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.6 TOPG
Carl Blair (6'2, 205, Jr.)
6.5
0.37
17.7 MPG, 4.4 PPG (35% 2PT, 18% 3PT, 86% FT), 2.9 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.6 TOPG
Cameron Clark (6'6, 198, So.)
5.9
0.22
26.3 MPG, 7.5 PPG (39% 2PT, 73% FT), 4.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.6 TOPG
C.J. Washington (6'7, 230, Sr.)
2.3
0.21
11.1 MPG, 1.5 PPG (54% 2PT, 25% FT), 2.6 RPG
Casey Arent (6'10, 227, Jr.)
0.7
0.16
4.4 MPG, 0.5 PPG, 1.1 RPG
Tyler Neal (6'7, 227, So.)
0.6
0.06
8.9 MPG, 1.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.0 TOPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Fitzgerald (27%), Pledger (25%), Osby (23%), Blair (20%)
  • Highest Floor%: Osby (41%), Fitzgerald (41%), Washington (40%), Grooms (39%)
  • Highest %Pass: Grooms (79%), Blair (69%), Clark (34%), Pledger (28%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Fitzgerald (62%), Pledger (54%), Washington (53%), Osby (48%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Osby (23%), Washington (16%), Clark (14%), Fitzgerald (13%)
  • Highest %T/O: Osby (9%), Clark (9%), Fitzgerald (8%), Washington (8%)
  • Mizzou did a fantastic job of keeping Oklahoma off the glass in Columbia; they will need to match that level of intensity this time around, as Romero Osby is the type of player designed to frustrate the Tigers. The offense doesn't really run through him that much, but he's averaged nearly 15 points per game in his last 10 contest, in part because he is averaging three offensive rebounds (and therefore putback opportunities) per game.
  • Osby contributes the most, but the offense runs through Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald. That's sometimes good, sometimes less so. Pledger scored 30 points on 11-for-17 shooting in their upset of Kansas State, but he was just 5-for-14 for 14 points against Iowa State, 5-for-15 for 16 points against Texas A&M and 3-for-13 for nine points against Oklahoma State. He is strangely consistent in his usage -- he has taken between 12 and 17 shots in every game since Missouri. The number he makes, however, varies. (And if Mizzou's last trip to the state of Oklahoma is any indication, expect a 12-for-17 game tonight.)
  • Oklahoma's main problem is that they get very little from anyone outside the Top Three. Sam Grooms is a great passer, but you can sag off of him -- he is shooting just 18-for-63 (29%) in the last ten games, 0-for-9 on 3-pointers. For their other primary passer, Carl Blair, it's mostly the same story.
  • Oklahoma has taken 110 3-pointers in the last ten games; Pledger and Blair have taken 85 of them. Pledger is 26-for-63 (41%), Blair just 4-for-22 (18%). Nobody else has taken more than nine. Tyler Neal is 1-for-9, Grooms 0-for-8, Osby 3-for-6, Cameron Clark 0-for-2.

Keys to the Game

  1. Road Things. Always. Offensive rebounds, fouls and Phil Pressey. Mizzou showed against Texas that they can win without these three things breaking well for them, but it will be hard for them to lose if they win in these three categories.

  2. Legs. Specifically, legs on the jump shot. Oklahoma is not a big-time shot-blocking team, and Ricardo Ratliffe could have some success (lord knows he might be the freshest of Mizzou's seven players after his Saturday night foul trouble), but life gets infinitely easier for Mizzou if the jumpers fall, especially early on. They weren't for a while, and they very much did Saturday night. What happens tonight?

  3. Keep Pledger Cool. The last time Mizzou traveled to Oklahoma following a big win, they played well enough to take a lead but couldn't pull away; and then Le'Bryan Nash got hot and carried Oklahoma State to a win. If there is a Nash in this game, it is Steven Pledger, Oklahoma's only true high-volume perimeter scorer. He will probably need a huge game for the Sooners to pull the upset, but he has had big games recently. His ceiling isn't as high as Nash's, but it's high enough to give Mizzou problems. Stop him.

Prediction

Ken Pomeroy says Mizzou wins, 78-70. Honestly, that sounds about right to me. There is certainly potential for disaster, and there is potential that Mizzou gets hot and wins by 20, but being this a Big 12 road game, the most likely scenario is a tough, physical game, closer than we want, that Mizzou eventually wins late. The Tigers match up well here, but they still have to make their shots and hit the glass.

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