Jeff Capel’s Oklahoma Sooner basketball team has gotten off to a bad start this year and there are a few specific reasons why.
The Sooners are (6-6) on the year, and are coming off a win on Tuesday against a weaker Division I opponent, Sacramento State, and in the wake of a recent departure by one of their highly-touted point guards, T.J. Taylor.
The Sooners also lost their tallest player back in November, when 6′ 11″ Abdul Ahmed became homesick and went back to his home in the Canary Islands. Ahmed’s departure, has left Jeff Capel’s team as one of the smallest teams in the Big 12 Conference, and their struggles continue as a result.
In last week’s lost against the Cincinnatti Bearcats in the Lane Furniture All-College Classic in Oklahoma City, it was obvious that the Sooners could not match-up with the taller Bearcats.
The Bearcats took advantage of a considerable height advantage over the Sooners with players such as 6′ 11″ and former Oklahoma St. transfer Ibrahima Thomas, and 6′ 9″ Yancy Gates. They won convincingly over the Sooners by a 66-56 margin as a result.
Cade Davis played the power forward position in Capel’s zone defense and the coaching staff scrambled to come-up with a lineup that could compete against the much taller Bearcats.
Nick Thompson, who has started the majority of the games this year at the center position, did not start this game, only played six minutes, and has been somewhat of a disappointment to Jeff Capel and his Sooner staff so far this season.
Thompson, at 6′ 9″ tall, is one of the tallest players on the team. He was voted captain by his teammates at the beginning of the season, and was projected to hold-down the center position, but has not had a good season thus far by any stretch of the imagination
To counter the lack of depth in the paint, Capel recently went with a lineup that consisted of four guards (Pledger, Davis, Clark, Blair), and one forward, Andrew Fitzgerald. What was ironic about the loss to the Bearcats was the fact that the much smaller Sooners were only outrebounded by a 38-33 margin.
But nevertheless, the Sooners still came-up short in the loss, and their short-comings are highly visible at this stage of the season. Most of their six wins this year have come over much weaker competition.
Cade Davis is the only senior currently in the starting lineup for the Sooners. Although he was voted captain at the beginning of the year, and was projected to be the leader of this young team, he has not lived up to the billing. Although Capel won’t admit it, his overall play has obviously been a disappointment.
Another thing hurting the Sooners at this point of the season is their lack of a consistent play at the point guard position. The point guard position is obviously one of the most important positions on the team. It is the proverbial coach on the floor, and this is crucial to any team’s success.
Steven Pledger has been the lone consistent guard who Capel can count on, but he has had to play out of position. Pledger is a natural shooting guard and stuggles to play the point guard position.
Jeff Capel has also struggled to find the right combination of guards, and has opted to put the five best players on the court at any given time, that give him the best chance to win. Although this is a good strategy, it has usually meant a lineup sometimes consisting of four guards and a power forward.
Because of their lack of experience and lack of size, none of the current players on this team have stepped-up to put this team on their back, and enable it to win.
But critics also wonder why Capel hasn’t given his taller players against taller teams like 6′ 8″ C.J. Washington, 6′ 9″ Nick Thompson, or 6′ 8″ Barry Honoree more playing time, along with a better rotation of his best guards (Davis, Pledger, and Clark).
Cameron Clark has star qualities and has shown that he is a marquee player. But for some reason his talent hasn’t been showcased and Capel hasn’t found a way to get arguably his best player involved as the number one option in the offense on a consistent basis.
More criticism stems from the fact that when the Sooners go to a smaller yet quicker guard-oriented lineup, they don’t tend to use a half-court of full-court press enough, to complement that extra speed and quickness, and force their opponent to make tunrovers that usually lead to easier baskets.
Jeff Capel has his work cut out this year and there are a few reasons why his team is still struggling and will continue to struggle as they look for ways to put a team on the floor that can compete against the even more taller, talented and athletic opponents in the Big 12 Conference.
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