NORMAN — After making the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2009, Oklahoma begins practice Friday. It's been an eventful offseason for the Sooners, especially with their recent five-game trip to Belgium and France. The Sooners practice at 2 p.m. Friday at the Lloyd Noble Center practice court. Practices are open to the public. Here are five things to watch as OU gets started.
1. Will the Sooners make it back to the NCAA Tournament?
It'll be a tough proposition with so many new players on this year's team, especially in the frontcourt. OU lost forward Romero Osby, who started 62 of 63 games the last two seasons, to graduation and Amath M'Baye decided to forgo his senior season to start his professional career overseas. Those two give the Sooners more than 26 points per game to replace, just in the frontcourt. OU has a talented group of young guards returning and talent in other spots, but it might be rough going early and could be a transitional season.
2. The feet
Surrounding the trip to Europe, the Sooners lost a pair of players to foot injuries. First, sophomore guard Buddy Hield reinjured his right foot just before the team left. Hield went on the trip but was held out of action. Then Je'lon Hornbeak, another sophomore guard, suffered a stress fracture in his foot that required surgery within days of the team returning. If the Sooners are to make it back to the tournament, Hield and Hornbeak figure to be big pieces. If either injury turns into a lingering situation, the guard depth that appears to be the strength of this team could evaporate quickly.
3. The frontcourt