Commentary

Positives, negatives from OU's season

In Lon Kruger's first year at the helm, Sooners have made major improvements

Updated: February 27, 2012, 12:26 AM ET
By Brandon Chatmon | SoonerNation

NORMAN, Okla. -- As Oklahoma enters the final week of the regular season, it is a good time to reflect on what we've learned about the Sooners in Lon Kruger's first season as head coach.

Here are three positive developments and three negative developments that have emerged this season.

Positives

Change in mindset, expectations

[+] EnlargeLon Kruger
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireLon Kruger has brought a change in mindset to the Sooners basketball squad.
Kruger has been able to change the mindset and expectations of the players in the program. Romero Osby has been particularly vocal about this change, saying, "We go into games expecting to win."

The Sooners have developed a better understanding of Kruger's expectations as the season has progressed. His expectations of how to practice, how to compete and how to approach each day has been entrenched into their daily routines.

A solid foundation has been created that should pay off in the future.

Sam Grooms' emergence

Grooms locked up the Sooners starting point guard position in non-conference play, and he's gotten better and better as the season progressed. He ranks second in the Big 12 in assists (6.1 per game) and leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.05).

Grooms will have to spend the summer in the gym, working on his jump shot, but he has proven to be one of the better point guards in the conference.

Consistent effort

Before the season, Kruger spoke of his team's willingness to work and get better as one of his initial impressions of the roster. It was natural to wonder how that might change if OU experienced a losing season.

The Sooners could have quit working hard, particularly when they weren't getting the results and wins they would have liked. But they have not, their practices have continued to be intense and their desire to improve has remained constant.

That means they have bought into Kruger's vision for the program.

Negatives

W-L record

The goal is to win games and compete for championships, and the Sooners didn't do that this season. After a 10-2 non-conference record, OU is 4-12 in conference play. Anytime a team has won two games since Jan. 21, the frustration of losing will impact everything and everyone around the program.

Even though the Sooners were within striking distance in most of their games, they still suffered losses. And that will leave a bad taste in their mouths when they look back on this season.

Making the same mistakes

One of the most disappointing aspects of the season has been the Sooners inability to learn from some of their losses. Teams have repeatedly gone on runs in the second half to pull away from the Sooners after OU was within striking distance at halftime.

The Sooners haven't learned from being in those situations, and they keep seeing the same things happen over and over again. If they had learned from those early losses, they could have added a couple more wins to their ledger in February.

Lack of depth

OU's lack of depth has had a huge impact on the Sooners record. The starters are asked to play major minutes and shoulder the load. When the Sooners fall behind or find themselves in the midst of an opponent's run, they often rally but don't have the energy to get over the hump and pull out the victory.

C.J. Washington and Carl Blair have been solid off the bench, while Tyler Neal is having an up-and-down sophomore season. The loss of Calvin Newell, the Sooners' scoring sixth man who left the team after five games, ended up really hurting OU.

The Sooners don't have a bench player averaging more than 15 minutes or four points per game this season.

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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Oklahoma/Big 12 reporter