What to watch for this basketball season
NORMAN — After a disappointing season a year ago, Oklahoma opens its season Sunday afternoon against Omaha with high expectations and a remade roster.
Five things to watch this season for the Sooners:
The Trae Young show
There have been few players whose Sooners careers have started with as much expectation on their shoulders as Young, the five-star point guard from Norman North.
Scoring hasn’t been a problem for Young, who averaged better than 40 points per game last year.
That scoring touch plus his ability to distribute figures to change Oklahoma’s offense in big ways, freeing perimeter shooters for driveand-dish opportunities.
The Sooners struggled with point guard play for long stretches a year ago and improving there would go a long way toward an improvement.
Last season, Christian James was expected to be a major offensive weapon after coming on strong toward the end of his freshman season as Oklahoma made a run to the Final Four.
But when Jordan Woodard left the lineup, James put the pressure on his shoulders to carry the load. Instead, his offense sputtered and his confidence waned as his role lessened.
James has shown big improvement over the offseason but how that translates into the season remains to be seen.
Like a lot of areas, Oklahoma’s interior play last year was inconsistent.
Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace had their moments but each struggled with foul trouble among other issues.
But late in the season, both seemed to turn a corner.
Lattin worked on his offensive range throughout the offseason, though Sooners coach Lon Kruger also has asked Lattin not to try to force things too much on that end of the floor.
McNeace has always had plenty of athletic ability but has still been learning the game since his arrival. If he’s able to become a consistent defender, Oklahoma’s depth on the inside could be better than it’s been in awhile.
Kristian Doolittle was one of the bright spots a year ago, starting 25 games as a freshman and averaging 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds as a freshman. But the Edmond Memorial product was suspended from the school for the first semester, leaving him out for the first month of the season.
Freshman Brady Manek and redshirt sophomore Matt Freeman will take that playing time early in the season. Manek, especially, has been a welcome surprise during a summer foreign trip and preseason camp, showing not only strong ability to knock down outside shots but athleticism near the basket as well.
The Sooners won’t have much time to get acclimated to things before being thrown into the fire, as their non-conference schedule could be bumpy.
Oklahoma plays in the PK80 event in Portland that starts with Arkansas and could feature a matchup with North Carolina after that.
The pre-league schedule also features a virtual road game at USC and at Wichita State and a home game against Northwestern. Those three games come in a four-game stretch in December.
Oklahoma freshman Trae Young averaged better than 40 points per game last year at Norman North.