Every time we think we’ve seen the best Trae Young has to offer, he goes and one-ups himself.
How about this for a Big 12 debut: Playing on the road against a top ten team that entered league play undefeated, Young went for 39 points and 14 assists – including the game-winning free throws with 7.9 seconds left in the game – as the No. 12 Sooners went into Fort Worth and knocked off No. 10 TCU, 90-89.
And here’s the craziest part about it: Young didn’t play his best.
He was sloppy on Saturday. He finished with seven turnovers, more if you count some of the questionable shots that he fired up; he finished the day just 9-for-23 from the floor. Perhaps the most impressive part of the game is that Oklahoma looked to be out of it early in the second half. TCU led by five at the half and pushed the lead to double-digits with the first seven points after the break. Oklahoma hung around, but Jamie Dixon’s club made enough plays – and Oklahoma’s defense was questionable enough – that they were able to keep the Sooners at bay.
But Young took over late. He scored 17 of his 39 points in the final ten minutes and added four of his assists during that stretch as well. Jamuni McNeace, who finished with eight points, six boards, four blocks, three assists and two steals, made a number of big plays down the stretch, while Kameron McGusty – who finished with 22 points off the bench – made a three in the final minute to give Oklahoma their first lead of the second half.
The easy assumption here is that TCU is not as good as their record would indicate, and I wouldn’t blame you for that. Three years ago, the Horned Frogs were one of the last remaining unbeaten teams in America and finished 4-14 in the Big 12. This team feels different. They’re a top 25 team on KenPom. They’ve beaten SMU and Nevada in impressive fashion. They’re old, they rebound the ball well and they are super-efficient on the offensive end of the floor.
They are quite a bit like Dixon’s old Pitt teams from his Big East teams. Shocker, that.
Put another way, I don’t think this loss says much about TCU. They’re probably not the tenth-best team in the country, but they probably are a top 25 team that can get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
It does, however, say something about this Oklahoma team.
Right now, the Sooners are 11-1 on the season. They have won at Wichita State. They won at TCU. They won in Los Angeles against USC. They humiliated Northwestern. Their only loss on the season came against an Arkansas team that will be in the top 25 come Monday.
So I ask you this: Are we underselling the chances that Oklahoma can be the team to end the Kansas run of Big 12 championships?
The key to winning the conference is going to be defending your home court and picking up enough wins on the road to get to, say, a 13-5 record. That might be enough to earn a share of the league title this season. 14-4 might win the conference outright.
If Oklahoma is going to win at TCU, are they good enough to get to that 14-4 record?
They may be.