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Oklahoma Sooners, college basketball

Oklahoma Sooners: Three story lines for the college basketball season

Since hiring Lon Kruger in the spring of 2011, Oklahoma has reached the NCAA Tournament six out of eight seasons, including a Final Four in 2016. The Sooners should again be in the March Madness mix if Kruger can blend three veterans with seven freshmen and two transfers now eligible. It’s the biggest roster makeover Kruger has had in his career.

OU’s recruiting class was ranked in the top 20 and this season will largely depend on how quickly and how well the rookies adjust to Big Time college hoops. If several can contribute, Kruger should have multiple choices in terms of lineup combinations.

“We’ve found out early on that the versatility is going to be a strength,” Kruger said. “I think the depth will be a strength. We’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts and that should give us a chance to play bigger or smaller depending on maybe opponent or how we’re playing.”

Top 3 story lines

Front court duo. Kruger has two reliable starters on his front line. Brady Manek, a 6-foot-9 junior who has started since his freshman season, is capable of playing in the paint or being a stretch four on the perimeter. Kristian Doolittle, who was voted as most improved in the Big 12 last season, is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound senior who is more comfortable operating around the basket.

Another star freshman guard. Two years ago, Trae Young brought a national spotlight on OU thanks to his incredible production (that decreased as the season wore on). De’Vion Harmon isn’t Trae Young, but the four-star recruit is the top player in the Sooners’ class. He has the ability to score and distribute and could be a perfect fit in what figures to be a three-guard lineup.

Former Shocker to starter. Another new face figures to be in that three-guard attack. Austin Reaves, a 6-foot-5 junior, sat out last season after transferring from Wichita State, where he started 11 games in 2017-18. Reaves is a solid 3-point shooter who, like Harmon, appears to be a good fit for what this team needs.

Number to know

Oklahoma finished last in the Big 12 in assists, averaging 12.6 per game. Jamal Bieniemy, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who had 17 starts, led the team with 3.5 dimes per game.

Reasons to hope

Kruger’s 33 seasons and 639 victories illustrate his ability to adjust and be successful. His only non-NCAA Tournament seasons in Norman came in his first season and the season after the Final Four. OU probably won’t contend for a conference title but they’ll likely win at least 20 games.

Reasons to doubt

A lack of experienced depth in the front court could become a negative in terms of protecting the rim and gathering rebounds.

KenPom.com preseason rank: 25.

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