Tonight, the Frogs welcome the Oklahoma Sooners to Schollmaier Arena for their second Big 12 game of the season. In order to learn more about tonight’s opponent, we caught up with Jack Shields of Crimson and Cream Machine. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Last year was an incredible year for Oklahoma, making it to the Final Four behind Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler. What about those three players do you think has been the hardest to replace? Scoring? Leadership?
It’s definitely a bit of both, but the leadership void has definitely been noticeable. Jordan Woodard is this team’s only senior, but he isn’t a very vocal individual. Hield and Cousins were cold-blooded killers late in games last season, and Hield always kept everybody loose in high-pressure situations. That piece is missing for OU this year, which has led to four blown halftime leads.
2. Despite losing that trio, Oklahoma still has some solid players on their roster this season, namely Jordan Woodard and Khadeem Lattin. Outside of those two players, who should fans keep an eye on in tonight’s game?
A pleasant surprise for this team has been freshman point guard Jordan Shepherd. He was a late addition to last year’s class after Austin Grandstaff’s departure for DePaul who has now assumed the role of starting point guard for this team. He has a lot of poise for a player with limited experience, and he also has the potential to be a terrific defender because of his length.
3. The Sooners have not gotten off to the greatest start this year at 6-6. However, looking at their schedule, none of the six losses appear to be bad losses. What will it take for Oklahoma to start winning those close games against good teams and can they figure it out in time to make a run at the NCAA tourney?
First, they need Jordan Woodard to come back from injury. He’s been out for the last two games, and OU’s field goal percentage has suffered mightily as a result. Second, they need consistent performances from Christian James. He’s a guy who has the ability to fill up the stat sheet, but it needs to happen on a nightly basis. Third, they need guys to step up and be leaders. But even if all of that stuff happens, the Sooners could STILL end the year with a losing record, which says more about the strength of the conference than anything else.
4. Going off of that question, what are your predictions for the Big 12 this season? How will conference play shake out and how many teams will be playing in the postseason? Who wins Big 12 Player of the Year?
First off, I’m not betting against the Jayhawks. But if there’s one team who can challenge them, it’s definitely Baylor. I predict Kansas wins the regular season title by one or two games over Baylor. I think the Player of the Year will be Frank Mason (even though I don’t necessarily think he’s the best player). Lastly, I think the Big 12 gets seven teams into the tournament. Oklahoma and Texas will be watching March Madness from home, and I think TCU and Tech will fight for that seventh spot.
5. Lastly, what is your prediction for what will happen tonight? Who leads the way for each time?
It depends partially on whether or not Jordan Woodard plays. He’s been out with an undisclosed injury, so no one outside of the program is really sure what the timetable is. Even if he does play, it’ll be tough for OU to come away with a win. I think Christian James leads OU in scoring tonight, while I predict Kenrich Williams to lead TCU in scoring (because he’ll likely be getting a lot of offensive rebounds, unfortunately). I think TCU wins this by four if Woodard is back, but I think TCU wins by 12 if he isn’t.
A big thanks to Jack and the people over at Crimson and Cream Machine for talking with us about the game tonight! If you’re looking for more info on tonight’s matchup, check out their preview of the game here. Tune in tonight on ESPNU to see if the Frogs can get their first Big 12 win of the season!