Contender Report: Oklahoma

In just his third season in Norman, head coach Jeff Capel has taken the Oklahoma Sooners to the top of the Big XII standings and national rankings.

Oklahoma is led by everyone’s All-American Blake Griffin, a double-double machine as well as a slew of talented guards.

The Sooners are one of college basketball’s most talented teams, but will they be able to overcome their relative lack of experience, and make a deep run toward a championship?

Why They Will A National Championship:

Blake Griffin is college basketball’s most talented player, and a future NBA superstar.

The 6’11” sophomore leads the country with close to 14 rebounds a game, while also chipping in 22 points a night. And the scary thing is, he is just scratching the surface of his potential.

But with all the hype surrounding Griffin, not enough credit is given to Oklahoma’s three-headed monster at guard, Willie Warren, Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson.

The three compliment each other well, and one always seems to step up, even if the other two are struggling.

Griffin’s brother Taylor is a bruiser down low, and the Sooners bring athletic wing Juan Pattillo off the bench.

Sophomore guard Cade Davis is one of college basketball’s most deadly long range shooters.

Why They Won’t:

Anyone who watched the Sooners play their two recent games without Blake Griffin knows they are very beatable without the big man in the middle.

Not only does Griffin get his numbers every single night, but his presence often draws double teams, allowing his brother Taylor and Pattillo to get easy put-backs around the rim, while also freeing up Oklahoma’s guards for kick-out jumpers.

And as good as those guards are, only Warren can truly take his defender off the dribble and create his own offense; which is both a blessing and a curse. In Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas, Warren had a team high 23 points, but down the stretch was out of control, forcing shots and passes that weren’t there. These are the perils of having a freshman point guard.

As for Crocker, Johnson and Davis, they are all good guards, but lack the one-on-one breakdown ability that Warren has. All three rely on Griffin down low to provide the spacing on the perimeter they need to get their points.

Finally, while each of the other contenders is led by a coach with loads of experience, Capel has coached in just three NCAA Tournament games.

We always talk about a player’s familiarity in pressure situations, but what happens when their coach is just as green?

Final Analysis:

Because they don’t play in the Big East or ACC, Oklahoma never receives the credit they deserve as a truly elite team.

The Sooners have the best player (Griffin) and freshman (Warren) in college basketball, with seven guys on their roster that could play for anyone in the country.

But they are also one foul plagued afternoon or freak injury away from being in big trouble without Griffin.

His recent bouts with a concussion may be a blessing in disguise though, as the Sooners have shown college basketball fans and themselves that they are capable of competing with good teams even without their center. But to beat the big boys, Griffin will have to be healthy, and on the court.

With or without Griffin, the key to the Sooners stretch run may be Warren, one of the physical and aggressive guards in college basketball.

We know Griffin is going to get his numbers, but Oklahoma needs consistency from someone on the perimeter. Warren has shown great flashes, turnovers in pressure situations may become a problem.

Oklahoma has as much talent as anyone in college basketball, but also more questions than any contender as well.

(Author’s note: This article was originally published at www.aarontorres-sports.com)

About the Author

Aaron Torres With a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Connecticut, Aaron Torres has covered a number of different sports for several different media outlets in the northeastern United States. You can find more of his writing at www.aarontorres-sports.com and you can follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/Aaron_Torres).

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