Much thanks to Rich DeCray at Crimson and Cream Machine to trade questions and answers regarding Texas Tech’s big game with the Oklahoma Sooners. You can check out my answers at Crimson and Cream Machine. Thanks so much to Rich for the opportunity.
1. You’re an opposing coach, what’s the best way to contain the un-containable, Buddy Hield?
Rich DeCray: On one hand, the key to containing Hield is to not let him catch the ball…something easier said than done. The Sooners don’t run many off ball screens for any player on the roster. But, when they do, most defenders fight over the screen to force the shooter off the three point line. When Buddy does receive a screen without the ball in his hands, his release is quick enough to get the shot off as we’ve seen multiple times through the past several weeks. On the other hand, while Hield has improved in the ball handling department, he struggles against the double team at times resulting in more turnovers than most expect. The Texas Longhorns utilized the tactic putting themselves in a position to win in Norman.
2. Hield gets a ton of credit for being so good this year, but the role players for this team have been just as instrumental in Oklahoma’s success. Who are three other players that help make this engine go and how do they contribute to the team?
RD: Jordan Woodard moved out to the wing this year and has increased his scoring output after playing two seasons as the point guard. Instead of making a living at the free throw line, Woodard is attempting a career high 4.7 three pointers each outing knocking down 46.9% of those attempts for an average of 13.1 points per game.
Senior forward, Ryan Spangler sets the tone in terms of physicality behind a near double-double average. However, he’s developed an outside shot over the past several years stretching the floor for opposing defenses. The move not only gives Oklahoma another three point threat but it opens things up for others who like to get inside the lane.
We can’t forget Isaiah Cousins though. After struggling with the point guard role as a freshman, Cousins finds himself sliding back over as a senior. The difference between then and now remains night and day as the offense runs much smoother with Cousins at the point. With the ability to create, this is a player who can take over a game at any time. While we like to talk offense, Cousins’ defensive skill set is highly underrated in my opinion.
Each of these players has picked up the slack at one time or another. Simply put, Lon Kruger has a plethora of scoring options in the starting five.
3. What’s been the biggest surprise, good or bad, for this team this year?
RD: Bench scoring has been a major surprise as Oklahoma literally has none. That can easily be credited to a lack of depth. Of course, the Sooners signed two 4-star recruits with Matthew Freeman remaining unavailable until the Spring Semester due to Australia’s high school calendar. Akolda Manyang was also a 4-star JUCO recruit but is raw in form and lacks offensive skills. With three seniors starting, I expected this team to be far ahead of where they are not to mention I think it hurts Oklahoma in the Tournament.
4. Lon Kruger maybe doesn’t get enough credit for the way that he’s built the Oklahoma program. What has influence meant to this team in particular?
RD: After having the opportunity to meet Kruger on several occasions, he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. I’ve also attended a few practices and have never heard him yell at a player. With that said, Kruger is a great promoter who re-established a connection to basketball alums. Preaching hard-nosed defense, the coach has been able to solicit a response not only players but also fans who continue to buy into this program and more specifically his philosophy.
Let’s just say after a string of NCAA infractions and sanctions, it’s great to witness a coach doing things the right way at Oklahoma through hard work and dedication.
5. Right now, Oklahoma is projected as a number 1 seed, so it’s tough to pick at what the Sooners need to improve upon, but as we get closer to the post-season, what specific area or areas can Oklahoma improve upon?
RD: That’s a tough one… One aspect the Sooners excel at is in the transition game. But, in the tournament I’d expect a handful of teams to possess the ability to limit fast break points. How? By moving the ball exceptionally well while not turning it over and grabbing offensive rebounds. In my opinion, OU is not nearly as good when forced to play in the half court. Traps toward the edges often lead to forced turnovers out of the guards.
So if I were to nitpick, Oklahoma has left room for improvement in their half court execution.