Last season the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Oklahoma Sooners had identical 5-11 conference records, tying them for the second worst record in the Big 12. This season, it appears that one of the teams can catapult up the standings, while the other is looking to be stuck near the bottom again.
I wrote about it yesterday, as I have all season, but OU is my ‘under the radar team to watch' this season, and I can sum up in one word why: Lon.
College basketball is a funny thing, where two things can't be taken for granted. One is home-court advantage and the other is coaching. If you have the advantage in both those categories, my money is on a victory. Take OU's home victory over K-State as a prime example.
Not to discredit Frank Martin, but between him and Lon Kruger, I'd rather have Lon calling my Xs and Os, and that K-State game was in Norman. Result? A nine point victory over the 18th ranked team in the country.
What Lon has done is to figure out how to maximize the play of the talent he inherited this season. And that is the true mark of a good coach. Anyone with four years under their belt should have a team suited to his style, but to come in to a new team and adapt to what is there is truly outstanding.
And don't let the Sooners 1-3 conference record fool you. If you dive into their schedule you'll see a road game at Mizzou followed by a home loss to Kansas followed by a road loss at Ok State. Of the three, the Bedlam game was the only one I think OU will look back and kick themselves for, but again, that was on the road.
So tonight's game pits two great coaches, and for the purpose of this argument I'll equalize Billy Gillispie and Lon, so then you have my other factor, HCA. And that sits squarely in OU's lap.
Admittedly there are other factors that play into a team winning and losing, and in this case OU has a vastly superior team to Tech. Steven Pledger third in the conference in scoring at 17.3 ppg. Romero Osby is equlayy third in rebounding at 8.3 rpg and contributing 11.3 ppg.
Not to discredit Tech's rookie sensation Jordan Tolbert, and his 13.5 ppg, while placing second in the conference at 59.6% FG%, but outside of Tolbert, no other Red Raider averages double-figures. Ty Nurse is close at 9.3 ppg, but he's been held scoreless in his past two games, going a combined 0-8 against Teas A&M and Kansas.
So if you do the math OU should win this one, and that is why Vegas has them as a 12.5 pt favorite. You can catch tonight's only Big 12 game on ESPN3 at 7pm CST.