Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Haven't we seen about enough of Porter Moser's Sooners?
Not very effective, players not developing, painful to watch and horribly attended, must this experiment continue?
Does anybody believe Porter Moser’s a great hire now?
Does anybody believe he’ll ever prosper, put together a top 10 team, fill Lloyd Noble Center?
Billy Tubbs spent 14 seasons at the Oklahoma’s men’s basketball helm. Kelvin Sampson lasted 12. Jeff Capel lasted only five and though Lon Kruger was no Tubbs nor Sampson, he revitalized the program, got to a Final Four, and coached 10 fine seasons, the longest stop of his hall of fame career.
I’d love to tell you Moser’s reign’s bound to mirror the short-timer among them, Capel, yet doing that will require his having the job three more seasons, reaching two NCAA tournaments and making one Elite Eight trip.
Yes, Capel was gifted Blake Griffin after inheriting his brother, Taylor, while Moser inherited no such advantage. But why, in any world, with every inherited advantage, would a supreme offensive talent like Griffin want to suit up for Moser?
Have you watched his teams play?
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Wednesday night in Stillwater wasn’t the last straw, just another to throw on the already broken camel’s back, glaringly pointing again how far the program sits from anything sustainably good.
OU entered Gallagher-Iba Arena having won two of its last three conference games, and Oklahoma State, gloriously, happened to be the crazy rare team even more offensively challenged than its Bedlam rival.
But after OU took a six-point edge to intermission, the only Sooner capable of scoring on his own, Grant Sherfield, no longer could and the Pokes walked out with a 72-56 victory, outscoring their in-state foes 48-26 after the half.
It’s embarrassing, but it was already embarrassing, last season and this one.
Here’s the kindest assessment one can make about Moser’s Sooners.
They play their hearts out defensively, stay in games in which they’re clearly outmatched offensively and sometimes, rarely but occasionally, even win a game in such circumstances.
But the thing about little-engine-that-could programs like Moser would like his to be? To flourish, they must consistently do certain things offensively:
Shoot the ball well.
Not turn it over.
Do no harm.
Moser’s Sooners do none of that.
Even when it appears they might, they don’t.
Though the NCAA claims 363 Division I men’s basketball programs, it only tracks the stats of 352, while teamrankings.com, throwing out games against non-Division I opponents, tracks all 363 with many more numbers, too.
Using it, let’s take a look at OU.
The Sooners have one offensive stat that looks dang good and it’s the batting average of the hardwood: field goal percentage.
Only Colgate, Gonzaga, Indiana, Marquette, Youngstown State, Xavier, Arizona and Denver own shooting percentages better than OU’s 48.9. Also, like batting average, the number is practically meaningless.
The Sooners’ shooting percentage from 3-point land and the charity stripe is 34.7 percent and 73.9 percent, ranking 50th and 96th, so it’s not like they get the offensive benefit their FG percentage appears to imply. Indeed, their offensive efficiency mark, 1.031 points per possession, ranks 104th.
Of course, having the 104th-best offensive efficiency in a sport including 363 teams doesn’t have to be so bad if other things are in play.
But they’re horribly not.
My go-to number has always been OU’s shot attempts per game — 51.9, 347th of 363 teams — but even it doesn’t capture the true futility of Moser’s offense.
Like, if OU’s not taking any shots, opponents’ can’t be taking a lot more, can they? They’re not playing make-it-take-it.
But they can and they are.
While the Sooners get off 51.9 shots per outing, fewer than all but 16 teams nationwide, their opponents are getting off 55.7 shots, making OU only 107th best in limiting those same attempts.
How can that be?
Well, it turns out all that defense OU appears to play is kind of a mirage, too. Because as bad as Moser’s squad is at getting shots up, it’s almost as bad at turning opponents over.
OU itself appears to turn the ball over a not terrible 12.8 times per game, ranking 169th. But given the snail’s pace it plays its real turnover number is 19.2 percent of its possessions, ranking 246th. This while opponents turn it over just 15.1 percent of the time.
Of 363 programs, only 25 turn their opponents over at a lesser rate than OU
The Sooners shoot well enough, but hardly take any shots. Because they can’t turn anybody over, opponents perpetually take more shots. If they took care of the ball at a high level, it might be salvageable, but they don’t.
Worse, given the way OU plays, even when it plays well, there’s no focus on turning defensive into offense, no free points to steal, no reason to believe it can get much better.
The way the Sooners play and are coached, they may actually be near their ceiling and how depressing is that?
Meanwhile, no matter how long Moser stands and yells at his team, about 40 minutes per game give or take, never taking a breath, never stopping to absorb what’s in front of him long enough to inform all that yelling — does Bill Self do that? — no difference is made.
Is anybody developing?
A year ago, I was sure Bijan Cortes flashed his potential, emphatically leading OU past Iowa State. But if he did, none of it has arrived, the performance a blip in time, the Kingfisher native averaging 16.9 minutes, 3.3 points and 1.9 assists this season.
Perhaps if his team didn’t play so slowly.
Last season, entering conference play, 11 games into his Sooner experience, Tanner Groves averaged 14.6 points, making 58.2 percent of his shots and 41.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Now, 52 games deep, Groves’ career Sooner numbers are 11.1 points, 53 percent shooting, 35 percent 3-point shooting (and just 28 percent this season).
Averaging 10.2 points, he remains OU’s second offensive option, a fact that explains little about him and everything about his team.
Though Sherfield’s been an offensive revelation, his presence still means, barring miracles, opponents must shut down only one Sooner to give OU no chance.
Beyond all of it, to the fans — and therefore, perhaps, the brass — as the program dances on irrelevancy’s edge, it’s an awful brand of a great sport that nobody wants to watch
Why make them?