Overall Rank: #59
Conference Rank: #6 Big 12
2006-07: 16-15, 6-10, 7th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
Oklahoma was looking decent in Coach Jeff Capel’s first year in Norman before the team lost their last six regular season games. That late season decline cost the Sooners a postseason berth, but year two in the rebuilding process should be better. Leading the team to the NIT is the next step in the program’s development and anything less would be a major disappointment.
The perimeter has lost some weapons in Michael Neal, Bobby Maze, Chris Walker and Kellen Sampson. Neal, who averaged 10.0 points per game during his senior campaign, is the big loss. He may not have been the most consistent long range shooter on the team, but he was the most prolific. Without Maze, Walker and Sampson, the Sooners will need to find some more bodies in the backcourt, but the newcomers will easily be able to replace the lost production. Forward Nate Carter averaged a team high 11.6 points and added 5.1 rebounds. Carter developed into a big scoring threat by his senior season at Oklahoma.
It will not take long for Blake Griffin to make an impact on the program. The McDonald’s All-American is a terrific athlete and will work hard under the basket. The 6-10 power forward has great ball handling skills for his size and will have some amazing finishes sooner rather than later. Blake Griffin, the brother of junior Taylor Griffin, will play an important role for the Sooners this year. Wing Cade Davis and point guards Omar Leary and Tony Neysmith will be needed to provide depth on the perimeter. Davis is a solid outside shooter and can score in bunches. Shot selection has been a major issue for the Sooners as of late, but Leary will not add to that problem. Leary is an effective and smart shooter and the junior college transfer will get some quality minutes running the point this year and may end up being the starter. That leaves combo guard Neysmith as the point guard of the future and possibly the back-up shooting guard of the present. Neysmith lacks the perimeter skills to be an effective off-guard at this stage in his career, but at 6-5, he has great size for a point guard. He will create for himself and his teammates and be an asset on the defensive end while he awaits starting duties.
Who to Watch:
With Blake Griffin joining Longar Longar, Taylor Griffin and Keith Clark, the frontcourt has some talent and potential. Longar has quietly developed into a productive offensive threat and averaged 10.4 points per game last year. Even if the offensive game continues to improve, Longar is most noted for his rebounding and shot blocking abilities. Taylor Griffin is shorter and less touted than his brother, but the 6-7 forward is a hardworking and tough forward who will do the dirty work under the basket. Clark, a 6-8 sophomore, only played in 11 games as a freshman before suffering a season ending right knee injury. If he is healthy, Clark is a versatile big man who will score inside and out and be a presence in the paint on the defensive end. The entire unit has more potential than anything else, but the frontcourt could be very dangerous if they can stay healthy and live up to their ability.
There are some quality newcomers at the point guard position, but for now the job is Austin Johnson’s to lose. The 6-3 junior is an athletic and capable scorer from everywhere on the floor and had a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio last season. Tony Crocker and David Godbold are expected to be starting on the wings. Both can hit the long ball and will help out on the glass. Neither has yet to develop into a big time, consistent scoring threat which Oklahoma desperately needs in the backcourt, but the potential still remains for a breakout offensive season for Crocker and Godbold. All things considered, Coach Capel has done a good job building the Sooners into what they used to be. The big break will not come this year, but the Sooners have the talent to reach the NCAA Tournament if everything goes well.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Austin Johnson, Junior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Tony Crocker, Sophomore, Guard, 8.6 points per game
David Godbold, Senior, Guard, 7.4 points per game
Blake Griffin, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Longar Longar, Senior, Center, 10.4 points per game