Key Departures: Austin Reaves (NBA); De’Vion Harmon (–>Oregon); Brady Manek (–>UNC); Alondes Williams (–>Wake Forest); Kur Kuath (–>Marquette)
New In Town: Jordan Goldwire (<–Duke); Tanner Groves (<–E. Wash); Marvin Johnson (<–E. Illinois) Ethan Chargois (<–SMU); Jacob Groves (<–E. Wash); Akol Mawein (JUCO); CJ Noland (#87); Bijan Cortes (#183); Alston Mason (#241)
State of the Program:
The Lon Kruger retirement has ushered in a new era in Norman and the arrival of Porter Moser has many excited about what is to come. Kruger led the Sooners to a Final Four and kept Oklahoma relevant year in and year out, and Moser will be held to just as high of standards. In Moser Oklahoma gets an accomplished coach in the big dance, but what we’ve never seen from Moser is consistent success, as he’s coached 17 years and only won 3 Conference championships and made 2 NCAA tourneys. Now, those things are hard to do, but the media has largely treated this hire as a home run, and Moser was the most sought after coach on the market. While he has had success in his two trips to the tournament, including a Cinderella Final Four run it will be interesting to see how his style at the mid-major level translates to a high major conference. His style is very similar to the Tony Bennett Virginia style, as his teams are routinely near the bottom in tempo rankings, and attempt to lock you down defensively and out-execute you when they have the ball. That is a tough strategy to implement quickly, especially when working with transfers from all over the country. And that is what Moser is tasked with doing, as 9 of the players on the roster are either transfers or freshmen. He does get back a few returners in Umoja Gibson (SR), Elijah Harkless (SR), and Jalen Hill (JR). Beyond them Moser will be relying on all transfers and freshmen.
The most notable of the transfers coming in is probably Eastern Washington transfer brothers F 6’10” Tanner Groves (SR) and 6’9” F Jacob Groves (JR), who exploded on the national scene in the tournament last year as they scored 35 and 23 points respectively in a loss to Kansas. Tanner was the Big Sky POY last season and should come right in and be the starting big man for the Sooners. He can score inside and stretch out to the 3, and while his athleticism will leave some to be desired his offensive game obviously translates to the Big 12. Jacob is a year younger and profiles very similar to his big brother and came on strong to end last season, and should be a primary option off the bench. 6’5” G Marvin Johnson (SR) comes into the program off an All-OVC selection after averaging 15/5/5. He was the primary playmaker for E. Illinois and is a really good athlete that excels when attacking downhill, especially in transition. He will battle for the 5th starting spot, but either way will be a nice piece for Moser this year in the backcourt. A familiar face out of Duke, Jordan Goldwire (SR), also enters the program this season looking to battle for a backcourt role. We all know him for his defense, and he’s always been reliable in terms of taking care of the basketball. We know he won’t score a ton, but he should serve as a quality backup guard. SMU transfer F Ethan Chargois (SR) will also be looking to compete for big minutes in the frontcourt. He came in with a big splash his first 2 seasons, but the following 2 were a pretty big disappointment. He is a stretch big that averaged 12 ppg his SO season, but never got to double digit averages again. If he can find previous form he can be a key contributor. The final transfer coming in is Akol Mawein (JR) from the JUCO ranks. He’s a 6’10” C with solid athleticism and length, and he will battle with returning big Rick Issanza (SO) for backup minutes at the 5. CJ Noland (#87) enters as the only Freshman with a real shot at playing time this season. The 6’3” CG is a big strong kid that looks like he should be a Linebacker as he plays the game with physicality and excels at getting to the rim and finishing through contact. His jumper shows promise as well, and he is the best long term piece in the program as he could develop into an All-Conference player in the years to come.
It will not be an easy task for Moser to come in and create cohesion with this group all while trying to implement a very demanding style. He requires an extreme commitment on the defensive end and air tight execution on offense, and when it all comes together he’s proven to have success. What I foresee are some growing pains initially, but I do think over the long haul if Oklahoma sticks with him he will bring success. What I fear for the short term is getting this hodge podge of a roster to all buy in and learn that brand of basketball to the level necessary to succeed right away. They don’t have a lot of star power on offense either, and were not great defensively a year ago. The loss of Reaves, Manek, and Harmon is devastating and the weapons incoming are not surefire replacements of that kind of production. It may be a tough season this year, as I’m not convinced they get into the tournament, but long term with Moser I think there could be success eventually if they exercise a little patience.