- Elena Bergeron
Insider knows you're hot for hoops during the summer, so we bring you a closer look at five programs on the rise, five on the way down and five at a crossroads. The series concludes with one more team at a crossroads, whose season could go in either direction: Oklahoma.
30-6, Elite Eight
Blake Griffin. Blake Griffin. Blake Griffin. There. Now that that's out of the way, the Sooners can get back to normal. The departed National Player of the Year put up robust numbers (22.7 ppg, 14.4 rpg) and deservedly dominated the playbook because of it. But pre-BG, head coach Jeff Capel had been a 4-out, 1-in motion coach for most of his career. And with two returning starters and the No. 6 recruiting class in the country, Capel can be again.
"I know one thing," says sophomore guard Willie Warren. "You're going to see a lot more ball-screening, times when we run three or four guards at a time. We're going to be a fast team." With the return of Warren -- the top scorer (14.4 ppg) among Big 12 frosh last year -- and one of the league's best on-ball defenders in senior guard Tony Crocker, the Sooners have a solid enough core to prevent too much of a post-Griffin slide.
Only this year, a backtracking might not be theirs to control. The Big 12 boasts two Final Four maybes in Kansas and Texas, both of whom Oklahoma lost to last season without Griffin on the floor. Now that those two rivals are firmly out of rebuilding mode they'll try to impose order at the top of the conference. It remains to be seen whether the young Sooners can push back.
To see how a new face could make Warren's scoring job easier, read about the Sooners' summer initiation ritual and get analysis from Jay Bilas and Doug Gottlieb, you must be an ESPN Insider.