Could Kruger, Sooners surprise?
The general consensus is Lon Kruger will need another year or two to get the Sooners back to the NCAA Tournament.
But if you take the glass half full viewpoint, the Sooners might be one of those bubble teams that stay in the NCAA Tournament picture next season after Kruger signed Sam Grooms, one of the nation’s top junior college point guards.
Grooms, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, is a pass-first point guard who has a reputation for playing solid defense. No, Grooms isn’t a top NBA prospect, a difference maker. But signing Grooms gives Kruger a legitimate eight-man rotation.
Kruger inherits enough talent from former coach Jeff Capel, combined with three newcomers, if the pieces fall together OU could be better than most project.
The Sooners lack superstar talent but bring back six of their top seven scorers. Three newcomers should all play key roles and improve depth. At least the Sooners won’t be trotting out a four-guard lineup that was overmatched in every conference game.
A breakdown of the roster:
Forward Andrew Fitzgerald shed more than 30 pounds and arguably was the Big 12′s Most Improved Player. A consistent scorer from 15 feet and in the paint, Ftizgerald gives Kruger a valuable offensive weapon to build around.
Capel, fired a month ago, said Romero Osby, who sat out last season, was the best player on the roster. The 6-foot-7 Osby, who transferred from Mississippi State, is an inside-outside threat. How Osby plays could be the biggest factor on how much the Sooners improve.
Guard Cameron Clark had a solid freshman season. A top 40 consensus national recruit, Clark might never average more than 15 points, but he’s extremely athletic. Clark will be an asset on both ends. Long and athletic, Clark could develop into an elite defender.
Guard Steven Pledger expanded his game, putting the ball on the floor more but primiarly is a shooter. Ideally, Pledger would be a scoring threat off the bench. Regardless of his role, Pledger is a double figure scorer to build around.
Carl Blair, OU’s starting point guard last season, could be a valuable backup point guard if Grooms is as good as advertised. Blair sometimes received too much criticism. The final six weeks his assists to turnover ratio (1.55-to-1) provided some stability.
Tyler Neal showed his freshman year he’s athletic. The 6-foot-7 Putnam West product has 3-point range. He was overmatched defensively in the paint. But if he adds 10 or more pounds of muscle in the off-season, he could improve dramatically, especially if he’s not asked to guard power forwrads.
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