Here’s the kind of team Oklahoma is: This afternoon, their leader Buddy Hield was struggling with foul trouble and putting forth an uncharacteristically loose performance against Baylor. The Bears were beginning to turn the corner on the Sooners, and had just tied it up at 41 with 17 minutes left. Right as Baylor was building up a serious head of steam, Hield awoke. Less than a minute later, he’d hit a pair of threes. Five minutes and a flurry of threes after that, the Sooners were up 14. Baylor made it a game, blinked, then all of a sudden it was garbage time.
Oklahoma is ranked #1 in the country for the first time since 1990, and they’re playing incredibly fun basketball. They’re hitting 46.4 percent of their threes, good for first in the nation, and they play with the fastest pace in the Big-12. Lon Kruger has them running a spread-out system, where most every player on the court can space it out and shoot threes. Take this set that they ran today:
They’ll run a pick-and-roll with a guard (usually, Isaiah Cousins) and a forward (either Dante Buford or Khadeem Lattin). Right as Buford rolls, big man Ryan Spangler flashes towards Cousins and gets an open three. Two plays later, Oklahoma ran the same thing, everyone collapsed on Spangler, and Cousins found Buford for an easy layup under the rim.
Buddy Hield is probably the leading candidate for Player of the Year right now, but this isn’t a one-man team. Point guard Jordan Woodard knocked in five three-pointers today and he’s shooting 53 percent from three. In fact, all of Oklahoma’s starting guards shoot better from three than they do from two. Cousins, Woodard, and Spangler are all elite three-point shooters for their positions, which opens up the floor for Hield to work.
Hield won the Big-12 Player of the Year award last year, but this season, he’s been far better in his senior season. He’s scoring the second most points in the nation (26.1 per game) on some ridiculous percentages (51/52/90 on twos, threes, and free throws, respectively). Stats aside, he’s also had some massive clutch moments this year (last year too!), and he was the best player in the best game of the season. He’ll probably be rewarded for sticking around for his senior season by becoming a lottery pick in the summer.
Oklahoma’s only two losses this season have come on the road to ranked conference opponents by a combined eight points. They’ve smoked Villanova, beaten West Virginia, and have played one of the hardest schedules in the country, according to CBB Reference. Unlike Washington, another very fun team, their core is almost all seniors. You could counteract their guard-heavy strategy by going big and trying to win the game in the post, but as today’s game showed, nobody in the country can pillory you to death with threes quite as quick as Oklahoma. They’re a juggernaut, and, refreshingly, a fun one at that.
Photo via AP