It’s literally been less than two weeks since Oklahoma fans stormed the floor of the Lloyd Noble Center following the 93-69 win over No. 2 Alabama.
First, it seems like eons ago. Second, it looks like one of the most unlikely outcomes in all of college basketball this season.
Because at the end of this game, there were different directions it could take for the Sooners and the head coach Porter Moser.
OR could he build on that win, play with confidence and find ways to win in the Big 12 game? Or could Bama be an isolated moment, and could the Sooners fall flat on their stomachs?
In the two games since, this is the last. Two losses (to Oklahoma State, West Virginia) by 42 points combined.
Let’s stop talking about NCAA Tournament at this point. OU needs to look like a functional team again because it didn’t last week. When OU took the first hits from the Cowboys and Mountaineers, there was no response.
And then this rumor hit on Tuesday, regarding Moser and the Notre Dame head coaching job.
Ever since Mike Brey announced he was leaving the Irish at the end of this season, it has been very easy to connect the dots for Moser. Back in the Midwest, where he coached and lived for years and understands how to recruit in the area.
It makes sense, but the spoken-aloud rumor was the first time she really questioned whether or not this might be Moser’s last matches at Norman.
OU is 12-11 overall and a dismal 2-8 in Big 12 play, and if you can push back the ND rumors a bit, here’s what the Sooners can try to get out of this funk.
Even if OU is running, it might not matter. OU’s next four games will be against teams ranked in the top 15, including heading to No. 14 Baylor on Wednesday night. Next up is at home to No. 9 Kansas, No. 12 Kansas State, and No. 5 Texas. Phew.
But that’s where it has to start for the Sooners.
* Be tough, physically and mentally
“You just have to start with complete focus and tenacity and consistent effort before you try to put on some magic dust and try to change the lineups,” Moser said. “We could make some subtle changes, but we’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We must begin with a coherent, firm, enthusiastic unity.
“We have done things. We’ve been there in terms of competing and beating some of the top teams. And we haven’t played well, except for one game, in two weeks. We have to go back to why we are good. We have to get back to the grain. Passion. Belief. You have to bounce back. That’s our message, man. Belief. Unit. Squeak. And that’s what I didn’t see. This is what we come back to.
Yes, it must largely be a matter of mindset. You have to be mentally strong and be resilient in races, but there are some personnel moves that could help.
* Get your athletics in the game
Granted, it’s not a lot for OU, but the Sooners have a few special freshman athletes. Otega Oweh and transfer guard Joe Bamasile.
Oweh has worked his way up to get more minutes in recent weeks, but Bamasile had been missing for most of 2023 before playing his first half minutes of the conference season in Morgantown.
“The message with Joe – and we’ve been in constant communication with him – is intensity, effort and offensive and defensive efficiency,” Moser said when asked by SoonerScoop.com on Tuesday. “Those three areas have been better over the last 2-3 weeks. We went into this game knowing Joe was going to be in the rotation early. And you’ll see him back at Baylor.
The Bamisile saga has had the media and fans scratching their heads. Here’s a guy who scored over 16 points per game at George Washington last season who can’t even sniff out meaningful minutes so far.
Moser has said before that he needs Bamisile to invest more in attack and defense, especially with his one-on-one defense. And Bamasile might falter a time or two in that department, but what he can do athletically can’t be matched.
You think back to his block against Arkansas or WVU, nobody else on this team can do that. You have to take the good with the bad, but there’s a lot of good with Bamasile that we never got to see.
* Break it, Tanner
OK, maybe Bamasile and Moser didn’t gel. But how do you even try to explain what happened with Tanner Groves?
He was to be not only the vocal leader of the Sooners, but a solid No. 2 option any night to accompany the point guard. Grant Sherfield.
Instead, he’s been as inconsistent as anyone, and it’s as confusing as it gets. In 11 minutes on Saturday, Groves had two points, zero rebounds and five fouls.
“That’s exactly the message we told him about,” Moser said. “You can’t have senseless fouls. If you get an effort fault, you get a fault. But you can’t have fools. He just grabbed a guard with both hands on a back cut. He just dropped (for a) offensive rebound looking at the thing and just knocked down a guy. He is so important to us.
“The message has been sent. We’ve spoken to them a lot about it. He just needs to be smarter. You can get fouls, but you can’t have stupid fouls. That’s the message.
Against Bama, Groves had 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. In the TCU blowout before Bama and last week (three games), Groves had 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks combined.
That won’t be enough. Time is running out for Groves. Time is running out for OU and for Moser to try to put this back in the right direction.