How are Porter Moser's Sooners winning?
Almost nobody takes fewer shots and scores fewer points than the Oklahoma men, yet they're 6-1, just won a tournament and face Villanova tomorrow morning on CBS.
As you may know, Jay Wright’s no longer the Villanova hoops guy and, as you might expect, the sledding’s already turned tough for the Wildcats.
National champions in 2016 and ’18 and yet another Final Four only last April, the opening weeks of the season under first-year coach Kyle Neptune have not been kind.
’Nova will bring a 2-5 mark into Saturday’s Big 12-Big East Battle matchup, where it will try stopping the four-game losing streak it’s riding — to Michigan State, Iowa State, Portland and Oregon — inside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center … against, perhaps, the very last team anybody pegged to be 6-1 right now, especially after an opening-night 52-51 loss to the perennial power — sarcasm — that is the Sam Houston State Bearkats:
At different times a year ago, the Sooners were 7-1, 11-2 and — after fighting the good fight at No. 1 Baylor only to fall, before doing the same against No. 11 Iowa State and prevailing — 12-3 before everything fell apart for them and first-year coach Porter Moser.
Yet, fast forward to the moment, though many of the same players remain (and one apparently terrific newcomer in senior transfer Grant Sherfield, by way of Wichita State and Nevada, has been added), OU has somehow claimed six straight contests despite scoring hideously few points, taking hideously few shots, while continuing to be horribly difficult to watch, though with two notable exceptions to the game it put on the court last season.
Turnovers are down, so perhaps Moser’s constant sideline assault of words and volume is no longer so distracting. And shooting is up, the Sooners hitting 48.4 percent from the field, 36.7 percent from 3-point land and 70.3 percent from the foul line, still leaving one category that can be improved upon by a fair margin.
Count me among the those who saw none of this coming, who said goodbye to last season with little confidence in this one or Moser, who didn’t understand how his constant, constant, constant screaming from the bench could ever co-exist with strong in-game coaching.
Because last season OU seemed to crater under the weight of Moser’s inability to relax long enough to digest the game he was trying to capture.
Winning means not having to say you’re sorry and perhaps that will be Moser’s and the Sooners’ fate this season and who wouldn’t like to see that happen?
Yet, until OU returns to the NCAA tournament, or doesn’t die in the middle of the conference season, it’s fair to question how the sausage is being made, because it’s not pretty.
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Seven games into last season, the Sooners were averaging 75.9 points during a campaign they eventually wound up averaging 69.1 thanks to scoring just 64.9 against Big 12 Conference opponents.
This season, there’s no head start.
OU’s averaging 65.7 points — 302nd of 352 Division I programs — against a decent schedule, but not a great one.
After falling to the Bearkats, the Sooners topped Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UNC-Wilmington and South Alabama by 6, 21 and 4 points, then set off for the ESPN Events Invitational, where they topped Nebraska, Seton Hall and Ole Miss by 13, 13 and 4.
It sounds terrific, and perhaps it is, the Huskers, Pirates and Rebels presently sporting a combined 15-8 record.
That mark, though, is fueled by Ole Miss’ 6-1, achieved by beating Alcorn State, Florida Atlantic, Tennessee-Chatanooga, Tennessee-Martin, Siena and just one power conference program, Stanford.
OU’s broken the 70-point barrier only twice and failed to score 60 twice, and that 302nd-in-the-nation scoring clip is being made possible by averaging just 49.9 shot attempts per game.
At NCAA.com, where points per game is listed for everybody, shot attempts are not kept in rankings form. However, at teamrankings.com, which tracks shot attempts for the entirety of Division I and, for some reason, a few additional teams, OU’s 49.9 rank 354th of 363.
And you thought Kelvin Sampson’s Sooners struggled to get shots up?
Yet, they’re winning.
Sherfield has been humongous.
His 15.6 points-per-game may not knock you over, but in the context of him scoring 23.7 percent of his team’s points after never previously playing for that team, it’s astounding. He’s dished 35 of OU’s 95 assists, too.
Tanner Groves’ 3-point shot hasn’t come back — 31.8 percent — but he’s shooting 58 percent overall and his 10.7 points and 7.4 rebounds have been crucial for a team that keeps shots and points down on both ends.
Though not many, OU’s caught the attention of a few pollsters and would be 37th were the AP Top 25 carried out and 35th if the coaches’ poll did the same.
Who knows how quickly fans can turn from football to basketball, but CBS will make the 11:30 a.m. game easy to watch, and with legendary analyst Bill Raftery on the call, fun to listen to, too.
The Wildcats may be down, but the Sooners, somehow, are rolling.
Can they keep it up?
Might want to tune in.