After back-to-back seasons without a tournament appearance, Porter Moser looks to get the Oklahoma Sooners back on track with a relatively new team.
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When Porter Moser was hired by Oklahoma, Sooners fans expected him to take them to the Final Four like he did with Loyola Chicago. Not only has he failed to do that, but they have missed the tournament in both seasons since he took over, something the Oklahoma Sooners haven’t done since 2009-2013. Moser got to work, bringing in five transfers and two freshmen, hoping that a new start will be enough to propel the Sooners back into the promised land. With a Big 12 departure incoming, the Oklahoma Sooners are hoping to end on a sweet note.
As mentioned, they bring in a completely new team, so chemistry could be an issue early on, but the new talent is undeniable. They bring in Javian McCollum, a 16 PPG last year at Siena, John Hugley, who averaged 15 PPG his sophomore year before facing issues last season, and Le’Tre Darthard, who averaged 14 PPG at Utah Valley. They also return Milos Uzan, a former Top 75 recruit who really seemed to find his groove towards the end of last season.
The Big 12 is going to be tough once again, so every game matters. They’ll get a ton of opportunities to boost their resume in the nonconference though. They’ll face Iowa, a projected top 50 team, and either Seton Hall or USC in the Rady Children’s Invitational. They’ll also face Providence, Arkansas, and UNC in the nonconference play. All of these teams are potential tournament teams, so capitalizing on these games can go a long way on Selection Sunday.
We know the defense will be there, as Moser thrives on his defensive schemes, finishing top 50 both years with the team, but the question remains the offense. Moser likes to run a half-court offense, which slows the game down, but that might not be the way to succeed in the Big 12. If things go south this year, the seat will get even warmer, but knowing Coach Moser, he won’t allow that to happen and will lead this team back to the tournament.
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Head Coach: Porter Moser (20th season, 3rd at Oklahoma)
2022-23 record: 15-17 (5-13)
2023 postseason finish: No postseason
Notable departures: Grant Sherfield (Graduated), Tanner Groves (Graduated), Jalen Hill (Transferred to UNLV), Jacob Groves (Transferred to Virginia), Joe Bamisile (Transferred to VCU)
Notable non-conference games: Rady Children’s Invitational (Iowa & Seton Hall OR USC, Nov. 23-24), vs. Providence (Dec. 5), vs. Arkansas (Dec. 9), at UNC (Dec. 20)
PG: Javian McCollum (6-2, 160, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 15.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 89 FT% (Siena)
SG: Le’Tre Darthard (6-4, 190, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 13.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 88.9 FT% (Utah Valley)
SF: Milos Uzan (6-3, 194, So.)
2022-23 stats: 7.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 47.0 FG%
PF: Jalon Moore (6-7, 222, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 7.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.8 APG, 68.8 FT% (Georgia Tech)
C: John Hugley IV (6’10, 275, R-Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 8.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 47.8 FG% (Pittsburgh)
6: Rivaldo Soares (6-6, 215, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 7.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 83.1 FT% (Oregon)
7: Otega Oweh (6-5, 215, So,)
2022-23 stats: 4.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 44.3 FG%
8: Sam Godwin (6-10, 235, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 4.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.4 APG, 66.0 FG%
9: Kaden Cooper (6-5, 190, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 63 rated recruit
10: Luke Northweather (6-11, 245, Rs.-Fr.)
2022 247Sports Composite No. 196 rated recruit
Oklahoma Sooners MVP: Javian McCollum
Oklahoma doesn’t have a clear MVP, but McCollum has the highest chance of separating himself as the season goes on. He took a huge jump in scoring last year, going from 6.7 PPG his freshman year to 15.9 PPG last season. Jumping from a low major to the best conference in basketball might be a tough transition, but he fared well in those games last year, totaling 24 points and 8 assists against Ole Miss, 18 and 8 against Florida State, and 14 points against Seton Hall.
We will need to see the passing aspect of his game improve, as his 3.9 per game last year won’t cut it. However, with more talent around him, that shouldn’t be a problem. In the last three games of the season, McCollum scored 30, 22, and 24 points. In each of those games, he made at least 4 threes, which he didn’t do once all season before then. If he can solidify his three-point shooting, he can become a really quality Big 12 guard and put Oklahoma in a great spot to succeed.
Oklahoma Sooners Make-or-Break Player: John Hugley
Hugley is a very interesting case. In his sophomore year at Pittsburgh, he averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and just under a steal per game. With two years of eligibility left, many thought he would be a lock to make the All-ACC team over the next two seasons and be a contender for one of the top big men in the country.
However, that wasn’t the case, unfortunately. Last year, Hugley only played eight games before leaving the team for mental health reasons. Mental health is extremely important, and we hope that Hugley is doing well and can get back on the court. If he does and he returns to his peak form, then Oklahoma may have gotten the steal of the portal. At 6’10 275, his pure size makes him difficult to guard, and he has a great scoring touch around the rim. He rebounds well and while he isn’t a great defender, he does enough to not be a liability.
There’s always the possibility that the year off made him lose this touch and he can’t perform at the level he used to. If this is the case, the Oklahoma Sooners will really struggle since they’re already extremely thin at the center position. Behind him is Sam Godwin who averaged 5 points per game last season and Luke Northweather, a borderline top 200 recruit who hasn’t touched the court in his career. They need him on the court, and they need him to play well in order to compete in the Big 12.
Key analytic: Returning minutes
Something that many don’t talk about but is so important is chemistry. A lot of teams really benefit from this, keeping the same core year after year, and as a result, this has led to championships and deep tournament runs. For Oklahoma, this is quite the opposite. They return only 27.1% of their minutes from last year, good for 304th in the country. As shown, four of their projected five starters are expected to be transfers and they are coming from all different levels. This could be an issue and one that the Oklahoma Sooners hope to avoid.
The way they do so is by capitalizing on these nonconference matchups. They have a lot of great tests, and this will give them great practice for the Big 12 schedule. The more time Oklahoma can put their rotation in these high-pressure situations instead of beating up on low majors, the better their chemistry will develop. Having a team this new typically doesn’t fare well, so hopefully Coach Moser can whip them into shape and avoid these issues.
Oklahoma Sooners 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 12th in the Big 12
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Round of 32