The TCU Horned Frogs look to continue their winning ways this afternoon, this time on the road against the 16th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. The Frogs are looking for an upset win to add to their potential NIT resume while the Sooners are looking to make a late-season push toward a Big 12 Championship. To preview this afternoon's contest, I met up with Rich DeCray from Crimson and Cream Machine. Check out his side of our Q&A right here.
1. The Sooners are currently involved in a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12 with West Virginia and Iowa State. With games against the Cyclones and the Kansas Jayhawks remaining, it is possible for Oklahoma to win at least a share of the Big 12 title. Would you have ever guessed that the Sooners would be within striking distance with just three games left?
Bringing experience and talent to the floor, I thought Oklahoma could easily win the conference from day one. With news of TaShawn Thomas becoming immediately eligible, that possibility magnified itself. However, the strength of the Big XII meant that anything could happen realistically.
2. I asked this in the first Q&A, but I'll ask again to see if sentiment has changed any as the season has progressed. What do you think is the ceiling for this OU team? Can they make a deep run in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments?
This Sooner squad continues to peak at the right time. Over the course of the season, the missing element revealed itself in a lack of bench scoring. As the end of the season has quickly approached, Frank Booker has come alive averaging 11.5 points off the bench over the past four games. The effort gives guys like Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield a breather without the team experiencing a drop in production. It wouldn't shock me if Oklahoma made a push into Big XII Championship Game and the Elite Eight of the NCAA. Unfortunately, the Sooners are not an elite team capable of winning it all.
3. I know that Oklahoma still has a lot of basketball to play this season, but let's talk about next year for just a bit. What does the future look like for Lon Kruger's team? How has recruiting gone so far?
Next season remains a question mark as to how this team can perform. Obviously, the Sooners lose Thomas to eligibility and potentially lose Hield who is projected as a late first round pick in the NBA Draft. Looking to sure things up underneath the basket, Lon Kruger made the concerted effort to pull in bigs like Jumani McNeese (redshirt) and 7-footer Akolda Manyang (2015 freshman). On the perimeter the coaching staff landed the biggest recruit during the Kruger era in point guard Payton Pritchard. Needless to say, the current regime has taken the program back to a nationally recognizable brand. Talent wise, the Sooners are set but it will depend on the development of said talent that determines the future.
4. In the first meeting between OU and TCU, Ryan Spangler and Buddy Hield went off, combining for 37 points and 15 rebounds. These two have been leaders for the Sooners this season. Do you expect a similar performance today? What else does Oklahoma need to do to sweep TCU?
Hield undoubtedly leads this group into battle and sets the tone each and every night. However, others like Cousins have the ability to pick up the slack assuming the usual suspects experience an off night. If Oklahoma looks to sweep the Horned Frogs, they'll need to value each possession while protecting the ball. Then, simply play to their strengths in rebounding and getting out in transition basketball. When the Sooners rebound well and protect the ball while playing solid defense, they have proven difficult to defeat.
5. Finally, how do you see the game playing out? Can the Frogs pick up their best road win of the season, or will Oklahoma put away TCU at home?
Hopefully, Oklahoma isn't caught looking down the road to Iowa St. and Kansas focusing on the game at hand. In the end, I see TCU keeping things close for one half before succumbing to a suffocating defense 72-63.
Big thanks to Rich and the team at Crimson and Cream Machine. Look for continued coverage of TCU vs. Oklahoma right here leading up to this afternoon's game.