I know we're in the middle of football season, but I am starting to get jacked up about the college basketball season. It's just around the corner.
This is what I expect from each of our state teams:
TULSA: Second place in C-USA
It all depends on the way point guard Jordan Clarkson progresses. Last year he was outstanding as a freshman. He averaged 11.5 points per game, but just fewer than two assists. The assist numbers have to spike this season, especially with Justin Hurtt off playing pro ball overseas. I expect him to be up near 17 points, 4 to 5 assists per game this season. Scottie Haralson will be key this year. TU needs big nights out of Steven Idlet as well. Last year he was wishy-washy. Some nights he'd give you 20-10. The next night, like in the C-USA tournament, he'd struggle to 0 points and 3 rebounds.
Memphis will be really good. SMU will be pretty good, too. UTEP loses key players, but will contend as well. TU has a chance to win the league, but it will depend on Clarkson's emerging star power.
ORAL ROBERTS: Summit League Champions
There is no reason why the Golden Eagles can't win the league title this year. It's Dominique Morrison's final season at ORU and Damen Bell-Holter, Steven Roundtree and company should be much improved. I was in the Mabee Center practice gym a few weeks ago watching Bell-Holter work out. The big man was nailing 3-pointers like a point guard. At one stretch, he made eight in a row. If he can do THAT as well as post up and grab valuable rebounds, ORU will be a really tough out. Expect to see Scott Sutton's team in the NCAA tournament come March.
OKLAHOMA STATE: Sixth in Big 12
This is Keiton Page's last hoorah. Marshall Moses is gone. So is Matt Pilgrim. Play in the paint will be key. The team is really young. Expect big things from freshmen La'Bryan Nash and Cezar Guerrero. Jean Paul Olukemi will need to be instant offense. Reger Dowell could provide some sparks the same way he did a year ago. The problem is the schedule. OSU plays Texas Tech at home, Texas on the road and Bedlam at home all within six days to start January. They travel to Kansas and Mizzou in the same week later on as well. The season hinges on the freshmen and the scoring of Page and Olukemi.
OKLAHOMA: Ninth in Big 12
Lon Kruger will have a lot of work to do. The Sooners didn't win many games a year ago. They finished 5-11 in league play and struggled in many of the wins. The addition of Kruger could bring an infusion of energy to the program but the team loses its best player. Cade Davis graduated and took his 14 points per game average with him. Replacing him will be difficult but Andrew Fitzgerald should mature into a big time offensive star in his second season in Norman.
Still, Kansas, Texas, A&M, K-State, Mizzou… they're all better than OU. Can the Sooners leapfrog from teams this season? I hope so. It makes my job more fun.