Oklahoma junior forward Amath M'Baye learned this season that he needs to get a little more patient.
Sometimes he rushed shots. Sometimes his anger overtook his game. The Preseason Big 12 Rookie of the Year struggled to be a second shooter behind senior Romero Osby many games for Oklahoma during the 2012-2013 season. Next year, Osby's consistency and production will be gone, along with the 3-pointers from Steven Pledger, steady point guard play from Sam Grooms and the rebounds from Andrew Fitzgerald.
So what will Oklahoma have next season? A group of experienced sophomores, talented players who redshirted this season and incoming recruits who could help the Sooners to another to another NCAA Tournament bid.
The sophomore class will feature guards Buddy Hield, Je'lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins, all three of whom saw significant playing time as freshman. Though he missed time late in the season with a broken foot, Hield turned heads across the Big 12 with his energy and his 3-pointers as he gained the trust of his teammates. Cousins provided aggressive defense but was not always confident offensively. Hornbeak gave the Sooners consistency on defense and provided help from 3-point range.
The Sooners also have a talented group who redshirted this season. That group helped push the starters in practice.
The strong worth ethic of Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler pushed senior Romero Osby, helping him earn All-Big 12 honors. As he prepared for the NCAA Tournament, Osby praised Spangler as having the ability to fill his shoes.
D.J. Bennett will be another forward with great athleticism, and C.J. Cole will provide high energy and hustle.
Then Oklahoma adds a point guard in Edmond Memorial's Jordan Woodard, who has helped his team to two of the last three Class 6A state titles. Woodard could see significant playing time at point guard.
Bottom line is that this team will likely be better next year than they were this year if they can find a consistent point guard and second shooter, but they'll need to replace a lot of the production and stability that Osby brought. Oklahoma ended the season by basically riding his hot streaks.
The Sooners must replace Osby's output if they want to turn in another 20-win season, another NCAA Tournament bid and another improved year under Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger.
“I want to leave a stamp of, ‘Hey, this program is back and we're on to bigger and better things,'” Osby said. “We just don't want to look back from here.”