OU preparing for second season

OU guard Buddy Hield

Following a quality nonconference season, Lon Kruger and his Sooners begin Big 12 play with a trip to Texas.

If you would have told most Oklahoma fans the Sooners would enter Big 12 conference play at 11-2, most would have been pretty happy.

But after letting a lead slip away against Louisiana Tech, feels like a game that could haunt OU later in the season.

Before the year started, SoonersIllustrated.com asked five questions regarding what would become of Lon Kruger's team. Here are the answers at the midway point.

Where is the leadership going to come from?

It's coming from senior forward Cameron Clark, who has made the leap the Sooners needed him to make in order to have a chance for another run to the NCAA tournament. Clark is leading the team averaging 18.5 points per game, while averaging 6.3 rebounds per game and shooting 85 percent from the free throw line. More than that, though, is he has stepped up in the locker room and has made crucial big plays for the Sooners when they've needed it most.

Which big man is going to emerge first?

Not even close to being a question anymore. Power forward Ryan Spangler will never be confused with being flashy, but he has been very efficient during the first half of the season. Spangler is shooting an incredible 65 percent from the field and is averaging 11 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and leads the team with 17 blocks. D.J. Bennett has played all 13 games but hasn't made too big of a splash yet, averaging 3.7 points per contest.

How good can Jordan Woodard be?

Pretty good so far. Woodard has already been named the national freshman the week once this season and is third on the team with 12.2 points per game. He has a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio right now, averaging five dimes per game. However he is coming his worst outing of the season where he had eight turnovers. Woodard has also been the team's most aggressive player, shooting 40 more free throws than the next closet player. That's OK because Woodard is shooting 76 percent from the line.

How will the sophomore trio develop?

The prevailing thought was one of the sophomore guards was going to emerge, and it has been Buddy Hield. He made his presence known early and hasn't backed down since. He is second on the team at 15.8 points per game and is also averaging 4.3 rebounds per contest. Je'lon Hornbeak was faring well until another foot injury has sidelined him. His acceptance of being a backup point guard has been huge so far. Isaiah Cousins is shooting the ball with a lot more confidence but still isn't quite comfortable handling the offense. He is at 10.8 points per game.

What can we expect this season?

The key is certainly going to be the defense for the Sooners going forward. OU is averaging a solid 87.2 points per game, but too many of the games have turned into track meets. OU is allowing 77.8 points per contest and that won't cut it for Kruger going forward. All the talk has been about OU improving defensively, but the proof is not there yet. If OU can stay healthy and put together some solid defensive outings, a tournament berth is possible. It won't be easy, though, to start conference play with Texas, Kansas and Iowa State as the first three conference games.

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