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Big XII Team Previews: Oklahoma

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking an in-depth look at every school in the Big XII.  I'll focus on the past (i.e. last season's strengths and weaknesses), the changes (i.e. incoming freshmen, departing seniors, new coaches), and the future.  

See past previews: Iowa StateNebraska

Rounding out the bottom tier of the conference are the mighty Oklahoma Sooners.  Last season they floundered without 2008-2009 Player of the Year, Blake Griffin.  Willie Warren proved incapable of stepping up in Griffin's absence; McDonalds All-Americans Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin played below their potentials; and the Sooners suffered for it (along with Warren's salary).  Like Nebraska, Oklahoma fans probably see basketball as a diversion from the boredom that accompanies the football offseason.  Unlike the Huskers, the Sooner athletic department has shown a commitment to winning games and paying coaches (although Billy Tubbs did leave for TCU complaining Oklahoma is a football school).  Last season was a major disappointment, coming off 2009's 30 win, Elite Eight season.

Rubbing salt in the wound, Mason-Griffin and Gallon both departed for the NBA draft (neither was drafted), Willie Warren finally departed, and Tony Crocker graduated.  Those four averaged 52 points and 20 rebounds a game between them, and rising senior Cade Davis is the only returning Sooner who averaged close to double figures (9.9 ppg in 32 minutes of playing time).

The good news is: the slate has been wiped clean.  The bad news is: the slate has been wiped clean.  Mason-Griffin and Gallon clearly didn't want to be in Norman anymore, and I think both would have been nightmares for team chemistry (not to mention eligibility questions).  Hopefully Jeff Capel's recruiting class will provide a solid block to build a team around in the future.  He brought in five incoming freshmen (two in the ESPNU top 100) and three JuCo transfers.

Oklahoma is decidedly rebuilding from last year's exodus.  The most important thing for Jeff Capel right now is to establish some semblance of continuity.  He's shown the ability to recruit at a high level; now he needs to get said recruits to stick around to rack up some more winning seasons.  Oh, and avoid NCAA violations.