Tag: Isaiah Cousins

Buddy Hield (AP Photo)

Top 25 Countdown: No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners

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Buddy Hield (AP Photo)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 15 Oklahoma.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

Head Coach: Lon Kruger

Last Season: 23-10, 12-6 Big 12 (2nd), lost in the opening round to North Dakota State

Key Losses: Cameron Clark, Je’Lon Hornbeak

Newcomers: TaShawn Thomas (transfer*), Khadeem Lattin, Dante Buford, Jamuni McNeace, Dinjiyl Walker, Bola Alade

Projected Lineup

G: Jordan Woodard, So.
G: Buddy Hield, Jr.
F: Isaiah Cousins, Jr.
F: D.J. Bennett, Sr.
C: Ryan Spangler, Jr.
Bench: TaShawn Thomas, Sr.*; Frank Booker, So.; Khadeem Lattin, Fr.; Dante Buford, Fr.; Jamuni McNeace, Fr.; Dinjiyl Walker, Jr.; Bola Alade, Fr.

They’ll be good because … : Lon Kruger has managed to assemble one of the best back courts in the Big 12, if not the country, and the star of the show will be one of the nation’s most underrated talents in Buddy Hield. A 6-foot-4 wing and native Bahamian, Hield was as improved as anyone in the conference as a sophomore, doubling his scoring output to 16.4 points, which was in large part a result of his much-improved consistency from beyond the arc. Hield developed a reputation for being an excellent defender and a hard-worker as a freshman.

While Hield was overshadowed by the incredible amount of individual talent that was in the league last season, his improvement also hid the fact that the rest of the Sooner back court was thriving. Jordan Woodard came in as a freshman and supplanted Je’Lon Hornbeak as the starting point guard. Isaiah Cousins also turned in an impressive sophomore season, becoming the third-leading scorer on the Sooners.

That trio will be able to match up with any perimeter attack in the country.

source: AP
Lon Kruger (AP Photo)

But they might disappoint because … : Oklahoma is a very, very young team, which is a good thing when it comes to their starting lineup. Hield, Woodard and Cousins all have at least one more season of eligibility remaining, yet have all played significant minutes for the Sooners since setting foot on campus. Throw in center Ryan Spangler, a double-double machine and a junior, and Oklahoma’s four best players have that ideal combination of youth and experience.

But beyond that, the Sooners are extremely young, and that’s before you factor in TaShawn Thomas (more on him in a second). The way things currently stand, sophomore guard Frank Booker will be the only reserve that saw meaningful minutes last season, and only one of Oklahoma’s newcomers is expected to be difference-makers immediately. That would be Thomas, a 6-foot-8 power forward that transferred to Oklahoma from Houston, but the problem is that Thomas has not yet been cleared to play this season. He spent three years at Houston before leaving and is waiting on word on whether or not the NCAA will be granting him a waiver.

If he does get a waiver, Thomas will become an immediate starter for the Sooners and, in all likelihood, a double-figure scorer.

Outlook: The way the power structure in the Big 12 is set up this season, there are five teams that appear to clearly be head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Now, I would be fired on the spot if I picked someone other than Kansas to win the league; that’s just how it works with Bill Self these days. But those other four really good teams — Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa State — are more or less a crapshoot. Anyone of them could theoretically win the league, and anyone of them could end up finishing fifth in the regular season, if not lower.

What that means is that Oklahoma could win the conference, particularly if Thomas gets his waiver to play this season. They could also find themselves finishing below a Baylor or Oklahoma State if things don’t go their way. The Big 12 is that tight at the top. What I’m sure of, however, is that this is a team capable of playing into the NCAA tournament’s second weekend. Another opening round tournament exit would be a massive disappointment.

Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins hit by stray bullet Tuesday night

Isaiah Cousins

In 33 games last season Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins posted averages of 11.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, emerging as one of the Big 12’s most improved players as a sophomore. And despite the loss of leading scorer Cameron Clark the return of Cousins is one reason why the Sooners are expected to make another trip to the NCAA tournament in 2015.

Unfortunately Cousins’ offseason isn’t off to the best of starts, through no fault of his own. According to Will David of The Journal News, Cousins was hit in the back of his shoulder by a stray bullet on Tuesday, with the gunfire coming as a result of two warring gangs in his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Cousins was with a group near 7 West Third Street – Levister Towers – that had nothing to do with the gang warfare, police said. The Goonies and Gunnas (the two warring gangs) were about a half block to a block away – around Third Street and Third Avenue – when one [member] fired a shot, striking the athlete.

According to the story Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Terrance Raynor expects Cousins, who was taken to the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for treatment, to heal from the gunshot wound. However Raynor was not sure how the injury would impact Cousins’ basketball career.

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

h/t CBS Sports

Turnovers prove critical in Oklahoma’s win over No. 24 Texas

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Entering Saturday’s game at Oklahoma, No. 24 Texas ranked dead last in the Big 12 in turnover margin and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio. Those have been areas of concern for Rick Barnes’ team, which has exceeded the preseason expectations set by many who believed the head coach was on the proverbial hot seat. And against the rival Sooners turnovers were once again an issue for Texas, which committed 16 in their 77-65 loss in Norman.

Isaiah Cousins scored 24 points and Buddy Hield added 17 for Oklahoma, which outscored Texas by 21 points (30-9) from beyond the arc. But the Longhorns were able to make up for that with their superior size, outscoring the Sooners 38-18 in the paint. Cameron Ridley accounted for 19 points and 14 rebounds, with the sophomore center proving to be a handful for the Sooner front court.

What Texas couldn’t make up were those 16 turnovers, with the Sooners making them pay on multiple occasions.

Oklahoma scored 23 points off of turnovers, outscoring the Longhorns 23-5 in that statistical category. Texas may have young guards with freshman Isaiah Taylor and sophomore Javan Felix being asked to lead the way, but against the Sooners the entire starting lineup struggled with turnovers. All five starters committed at least two turnovers with Felix committing three. By comparison Oklahoma, which ranks fourth in the Big 12 in both turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio, committed just seven turnovers on the afternoon.

With the victory Oklahoma completes a sweep of the season series while also adding another quality win to its resume, which will help in regards to seeding for the NCAA tournament. As for Texas they’ll also hear their name called on Selection Sunday, but if they want to play multiple games in the NCAA tournament the Longhorns must take better care of the basketball.