Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/2/12

Sam Grooms has been key to the Sooners success, and will need to continue his excellent play to keep the Sooners tournament dreams alive.

There are many things that could be credited to the Oklahoma Sooners hot 10-2 start to the season.  Maybe it’s the improvement we’ve seen out of 3rd-year guard Steven Pledger who is coming into conference play as the Big 12’s 2nd leading scorer.  Perhaps it has something to do with the addition of a true point guard in JUCO transfer Sam Grooms, or maybe, Lon Kruger is just doing an exceptional coaching job in his inaugural season as head men’s basketball coach.  Whatever way you look at it, the Sooners are greatly ameliorated from season’s past.

With league play just two days away, the Sooners look to have a legitimate shot at finishing in the middle of the Big 12, the question: will they?  Can they finish at least .500 in the conference which should, in theory, be enough to send them dancing?

As we dive into January, we’re about to find some answers, as the Sooners open Tuesday against eighth-ranked Missouri in Columbia, then follow up Saturday with a matchup against the always talented Kansas Jayhawks.  It is the most crucial two-game stretch thus far and will reveal a lot about the Sooners.

We’ve witnessed Steven Pledger score 30+ against the likes of Houston, but is he capable of the same against household names?  Sam Grooms has definitely been a factor pacing the offense for 5.4 assists an outing, but will it hold true against faster more athletic teams?

Not to say that the Sooners have faced bad teams, but with a strength of schedule of just 135th in the nation the questions are warranted.  Silence could come in the form of an upset or two, and a solid outing in conference play.

Though I’m sure you won’t hear this from the coaches, the Sooners don’t even have to win to send a message that they are for real.  Even a solid outing and a single-digit loss on the road, or a splitting of the two contests would be satisfactory.  Though a win certainly would seemingly cement them a spot among the Big 12’s best.

Nevertheless, so far, there has never been as much emphasis on a game as there will be when the Sooners face Missouri tomorrow.  The Sooner faithful will be tuning in to find out if this team is to be, or not to be, tourney worthy.

The spotlight is on the Sooners this week, it is their time to shine.  Because the next few weeks really could, make or break the rest of their season.

 

Want more Sooner hoops?  Follow me on Twitter @ChandlerVessels

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