So much has changed since Oklahoma fell to Stephen F. Austin on a cold December night in Norman.
The training wheels have come off the freshman guards. Amath M’Baye’s adjustment from the expeditious Mountain West Conference to rugged Big 12 is complete. Romero Osby has upped his assertiveness in the offense. Steven Pledger has become more judicious with his shot selection. The turnovers are down and 3-point shooting is up, if only slightly.
Above all, a team that once bore the appearance of a fickle .500 team is now in the driver’s seat for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
The Sooners have found their stride in the wake of consecutive losses to Kansas State and Iowa State. Lon Kruger’s group picked up a sorely needed signature win over Kansas last weekend, then followed it up with a beatdown on Monday of TCU, the same Horned Frogs team that stunned the Jayhawks five days earlier. No longer lacking a standout win or noteworthy performance, OU now wields a portfolio worthy of a spot on the Selection Committee’s desk.
Oklahoma is 7-5 away from the Lloyd Noble Center – solid.
The Sooners own nine RPI Top 100 wins – even better.
All seven losses have come versus RPI Top 100 teams – important.
The team has played the ninth toughest strength of schedule in all the land – clincher.
Absent a bad loss and now in possession of wins worth acknowledging, Oklahoma’s tournament application is assured heavy consideration come Selection Sunday. With a steadily improving team enabled by a first-class band of forwards, a go-to backcourt scorer and a pack of young guards growing up on the fly, Oklahoma certainly passes the eye test too. If forgotten linchpin Andrew Fitzgerald can recall his sophomore and junior-year form — and don’t rule out the possibility just yet — Boomer Sooner will be trucking merrily along into March for the first since Blake Griffin called Norman his home.
For those reluctant to take the basketball scene seriously in central Oklahoma, here’s your last opportunity to change before OU’s presence on the 68-team bracket leaves no other choice.