Roundball Recap: Kansas

Most rational fans assumed Oklahoma would probably not come out on top against Kansas in Lawrence. While the Sooners didn’t beat the Jayhawks, the overall play of the Oklahoma offense had to leave you with optimism.

The Sooners were flawed, yes. However, through all the turnovers, missed free throws, ill-advised shots and Kansas runs, you could see a path where OU wins this game. Because despite all the frustrating play tonight, the Sooners felt this close to getting over the hump and taking out KU.

  • OU is a veteran squad, but you could tell that the two grad transfers, Miles Reynolds and Aaron Calixte, were a little shook at Allen Fieldhouse. Both turned the ball over a bit much and didn’t quite get hot. While I know this was a baptism by fire, hopefully they can work out the kinks.
  • Jamuni McNeece was desperately needed against the size of this Kansas team. The Sooners couldn’t do much to stop Adoke Azuibuike down low much of the game.
  • For such a rough offensive performance, you gotta love how OU scrapped on defense.
  • Both of these teams are just brutal from three. That was tough on the eyes.
  • Daily reminder that Jamal Bieniemy is going to be an absolute star.
  • Christian James was pretty suffocated by the Kansas defense, but caught on late pretty decently.

Overall, this was a positive performance for the Sooners and something to build from as conference play rolls on. Grade: B+

Up Next: Bedlam in Norman.

Three Pointer: Kansas

Sad about our college football season ending? Me too. But thankfully we have a good basketball team to numb the pain. The Sooners are 11-1, ranked 23rd in the AP and are incredibly fun to watch. This is a team that is red hot entertaining conference play.

Unfortunately, if you are looking for comfort following last Saturday’s Orange Bowl, you probably won’t find it on ESPN 2 tonight at 8 central. In the Big 12 opener Sooners are facing Basketball’s Bama, the Kansas Jayhawks, the team allergic to not winning the Big 12. This team is big, disciplined and in the top five yet again.

Oh, and did I mention the game is in Allen Fieldhouse, one of the most impossible places in win in any sport? Starting off conference play is always hard, but starting it with the hardest game on your schedule is just insanity.

As we know from last season, we’ll see just how good this OU team is through conference play. This is a legit team that can pull off the upset if things fall in place correctly. Here are my big three keys for the Sooners tonight.

1. Stay Composed

Oklahoma has played tough teams in a variety of environments all season, but this is the first one I could call a snake-pit. They have road game experience in a win at Northwestern late last month, but Lawrence is a different animal. If the Sooners can weather the storm early, get good looks despite the score and not let the building beat them, they can hang with this Jayhawk team.

2. Lock Down Dedric Lawson

Among many surprises with this Oklahoma team is their staunch team defense, something missing last season. The Sooners are good on the wings, a skill that will be useful in defending Kansas forward Dedric Lawson. Forcing Lawson into uncomfortable positions and shutting off options will be key to defensive success against the Jayhawks.

3. Don’t Force The Three Ball

This ties into keeping your composure a bit, but relying on threes for this team to survive is just not a good strategy. Forcing them is an even worse one. The Sooners aren’t a particularly effluent three point shooting team, so keeping the shot selection good will be crucial for a win.

When we look back at this season in March, I think this game will end up being pretty impactful. Either it will be a pivotal game in the conference championship hunt or the moment we began to see that this team just wasn’t cut out for the Big 12 gauntlet.

Win or lose, let’s hope for the former.

Battle 4 Atlantis Preview

While the West Virginia game is rightfully on the forefront of the mind of Sooner fans right now, the OU basketball team is about to face their first gauntlet of tests this season with the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament booting up tomorrow at 11 AM. While the 3-0 start has been encouraging, this tournament should serve as a measuring stick of what we can anticipate out of the Sooners going forward this season.

I’m using this tournament as the de facto start of our basketball coverage, so here are five things you need to know about this OU basketball team so far just in case you are still in football mode.

1. OU Might Actually Be Kinda Good

The general thinking about the Sooners this season after the loss of Trae Young was that he was leaving behind a hapless roster that would look like “the island of misfit role players” rather than a solid basketball team. However, this team seems to really gel well together in the absence of Young. The scoring is balanced, defensive intensity has improved and honestly there seems to be real chemistry where there wasn’t any last season.

Much of the effort issues that plagued the Sooners last season has dissipated and this looks like a team that believes in itself to win some games. Oklahoma already took out a solid Wofford team on Sunday that made the tournament last season and is poised to do so this year as well.

2. Christian James is the #1 Option

The big question entering the season was the matter of who would take the reigns as the primary scorer on the team. While it is too early to call at the moment, it seems clear early on that Christian James will mostly likely be Oklahoma’s workhorse scorer. In his first two games, James poured in 29 and 24 respectively and had a solid 15 against Wofford.

3. The Transfer Guards Are Making A Huge Impact

After having such an unstable season last year, it is nice to have a steady presence at point guard. Thankfully for the Sooners, they have two. Aaron Calixte and Miles Reynolds have been key in operating the OU offense. Calixte is a score-first point guard that works within the confines of the offense to get his buckets. Reynolds usually plays a more complementary role as the backup, but has shown a knack for getting to the rim as well.

4. Brady Manek Has Found His Role

Brady Manek had a freshman year pretty similar to mine: impressive start, followed by a steep decline once the year went along. He showed a knack for knocking down big corner three’s and looked to be the perfect wing man for the Trae Young show. Once the threes stopped falling however, they REALLY stopped falling and Manek eventually fell out of the starting five.

This year, we’ve seen a totally different guy so far. After bulking up (fortunately, not the same type of “bulking up” as sophomore year me) in the offseason, Manek has been playing a different style than the timid corner specialist we saw last season. The Harrah native has notched a double-double in all three games this season, with quite a few rebounds being actual scraps. He has also taken a more aggressive approach to scoring, showing a cutting ability that we saw in spurts last season.

5. Jamal Bieniemy is Going to Be Special

We’ve only seen pieces of Jamal Bieniemy so far and the statsheet doesn’t quite tell the full story of his impact, but the freshman has made a big impact on the Oklahoma backcourt defense. Bieniemy recorded five steals against UTSA to go along with eight points in his best game, but his defensive presence helped lock down Wofford during the 20-4 Sooner run that defined the game. As the season progresses you would hope to see more scoring, but the blueprint is there for Bieniemy to be great.

Beer at the LNC: Everything You Need to Know

As one of probably 100 people in the LNC right now, I have the privilege of checking out the new alcohol pilot program. Here are some quick findings.

  • There are three stands where you can get beer, all of which draft. There are no cans.
  • The price for a beer? $8.50 across the board.
  • Two of the three stations feature Anheuser-Busch products, so Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Goose Island IPA and Zeigenbock are your main options.
  • There is one stand with alternate options of Coors Light, Fat Tire and Modelo.

While this is pretty limited, I consider this a win when you take into account how fast of a turn around this is. Either way, time to raise a glass and watch some basketball.

Prost!

A Super Comprehensive, Exciting Oklahoma Basketball Preview

What is this? A proper preview article for a major sport and not a random, shoehorned in, midseason weekly recap series?

It’s basketball season folks. While Trae Young is putting up massive stat lines in Atlanta with no real heir apparent star waiting in the wings, there is a new addition to the Lloyd Noble Center that has me ready to hit every game: beer. Sure, beer can’t make threes or drop fancy dimes, but at least I know it’ll be at the arena every game.

Okay, okay, that might be a bit too harsh on Trae and crew last year, but that was one of the most frustrating seasons of sport I’ve ever watched. If it was a roller coaster, it might have been fun. However, it felt more like a sharp plummet into the pits of bad shot selection, a general lack of help and frustrating defeats. If we were just bad, that would be acceptable; however, the whole streak was hovered over by the lingering feeling that our own tiny basketball Jesus would show up and start making shots again.

While OU probably won’t be a tournament team, at least we know what to expect. This is a team in transition, with several Buddy Hield era vets about to graduate and a few young players looking to take the next step.

Before the Sooners open up the regular season Friday at UT-Rio Grande Valley (yeah I got no clue don’t ask), let’s take a little look at the five big questions going into the 2018-19 campaign, as well as some newcomers that you need to take note of.

1. How can this team handle this schedule?

We all know how tough the Big 12 grind can be in basketball; not only are the teams some of the best in the country, but you have to play everyone twice. That obviously wasn’t going to be anything new.

This non-conference schedule though is going to be brutal.

OU starts the season the road with two UT-school system teams, who aren’t great but have upset potential before the home opener against Wofford, who took out North Carolina last season and played them tough again Tuesday night.

Then, things get hellish. This season, OU is in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas during Thanksgiving, opening up against a very good Florida team. The rest of the teams in there are a murder’s row; UVA, Butler, Stanford and Wisconsin are also in the mix. I wouldn’t expect much from this.

OU also has tough tests against Notre Dame in New York City, Northwestern in Evanston, USC in Tulsa, Wichita State in Oklahoma City and Creighton in Norman (Vanderbilt is also coming to campus, but that’ll come as a bit of a relief in January).

The OU boys will need to grow up quick if they want any chance of making a postseason tournament.

(Spin zone? This is the best schedule in the nation. So we have that going for us.)

2. Who is this team’s star?

As fantastic as Trae Young was, his departure created a massive playmaking vacuum. The way the season went seemed to sour on some within the program as we saw Kameron McGusty and Jordan Shepard transfer from the program. As a result, we have no idea who our “go-to” player is going to be.

Aside from Hannes “The Cement Truck” Pöllä, there is not much star power on this team. All kidding aside, Brady Manek is probably the safe bet to take the leap to lead man. Manek had an inspiring start to last season as reliable three point threat and slasher, before falling off the face of the earth during The Slump. His further physical movement into becoming a young Larry Bird (Larry on the Prairie is a GOAT nickname) gives me more hope that he will be the “star” of this team. Let’s hope he can not only take the leap, but show signs of consistency that he lacked last season.

3. Will this team finish last in the Big 12?

Maybe. OU was selected 7th in the preseason Big 12 poll, only ahead of Oklahoma State and Baylor. The Cowboys and Bears, much like OU, are going through a big of a transitional period as well with several players lost due to graduation. The brutal non-conference schedule will do one of two things; toughen up the Sooners for the Big 12 gauntlet, or grind them into a demoralized paste. If anyone can manage a turnaround however, it’s Lon Kruger. Expect the Sooners to show some guts this season.

4. Do the Sooners get an Upset?

I’m gonna go with yes! Give me a beer fueled LNC over Kansas in February. The Jayhawks will be riding high and will put up a dud on a frigid Tuesday night. KU Center Udoka Azbukake (just trust me on that spelling) will miss many a free throw and OU’s record will be just rough enough to merit a court storm, giving this lukewarm season it’s very own one shining moment.

5. Will I live up to my promise of making every home game?

Well, we should let Twitter decide.

Notable Newcomers: 

#24 Jamal Bieniemy – SG

Easily the most talented out of this bunch of newcomers, Jamal Bienemy is a 6-3 guard out of Katy, Texas. Bienemy is a four-star combo guard that provides much needed shooting as well as a spectacular finishing ability at the rim. While you shouldn’t expect to see Trae Young level quality of play this season out of him, Bienemy has a very high ceiling and will show flashes of greatness this season.

#2 Aaron Calixte – PG

After a mass exodus of guards occurred this past offseason, Lon Kruger got to work to patch up the holes. Aaron Calixte, a 5’11 graduate transfer from Maine, might be the best piece of the bunch. Calixte averaged over 16 points per game last season for the Bears and brings a Jordan Woodard like game to the floor with his shooting and ball movement. Expect to see plenty of Pacific transfer Miles Reynolds as well.

#52 Kur Kuath – SF/PF

Kur Kuathe is a JUCO transfer out of Salt Lake City Community College that bring raw athleticism and length to a team that lacks a bit in both of those categories. Kuath has the ability to hit a solid jumper, but is mainly going to be a defensive threat around the rim in spot duty. He is a bit of a raw prospect, but as the old adage goes, you can’t teach athleticism.