Oklahoma Basketball: Losing Not Commonplace for Sooners

Oklahoma basketball is having a very rough go of it this season. Unless the Sooners get things turned around fairly quickly, they are staring at their second losing season under head coach Lon Kruger and first in five seasons.

Mar 11, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lon Kruger talks to players during a time out in the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Big 12 Conference tournament at Sprint Center. West Virginia won 69-67. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 11, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lon Kruger talks to players during a time out in the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Big 12 Conference tournament at Sprint Center. West Virginia won 69-67. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

OU is undeniably a football school, but the Sooners have also had a great deal of success on the hardwood, perhaps more than many fans realize.

There are no national championship trophies in basketball in the Sooner trophy case, but Oklahoma has been to the Final Four five times, and that is more than most Division I teams can admit to.

In 109 years of varsity basketball, Oklahoma men’s teams had won 1,623 times coming into the current season, or 61 percent of their games. In Lon Kruger’s five previous seasons at the helm of Sooner men’s basketball, OU’s record is 111-57, a winning percentage of 66 percent.

According to the ESPN Basketball Power Index, Oklahoma men’s basketball ranks 76th among Division I teams this season, but the Sooners have played the most difficult schedule, according to the number crunchers who put together the BPI.

If you prefer the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) formula, the 8-14 Sooners are 144th in the country. A far cry from their top-10 standing of a year ago.

Since the most recent turn of the century, Oklahoma basketball has experienced three losing seasons, all coming in the last decade. In 2009-10, was forced to vacate 13 wins because of NCAA violations stemming from recruiting improprieties by an OU assistant coach as well as illegal payments to a former Sooner player (Tiny Gallon). The Sooners ended up with an 0-18 overall record that season.

The very next season, in 2010-11, Jeff Capel’s final season as the Sooners’ head coach, Oklahoma finished with a 14-18 record, and in Kruger’s first season, in 2011-12, OU ended the season with a 15-16 overall record.

In 109 seasons, however, Oklahoma has finished below .500 just 24 times total.

Broken down by conference affiliation, Oklahoma experienced three losing seasons each as members of the Missouri Valley Conference and later the Big Six Conference.

Both as members of the Big Seven and the Big Eight, the Sooner men lost more games than they won over six consecutive seasons – once in the 1950s (in the Big Seven) and again in the 1960s (in the Big Eight).

Oklahoma finished below .500 twice in the 1940s, six times in the 1950s, seven times in the 1960s and once in the 1970s.

Between 1981-82 and 2008-09, a period of 28 seasons, the Sooners never had a losing season. Oklahoma’s cumulative record over those 28 winning seasons was 672-256, which translates to a winning percentage of 72 percent. Two head coaches are responsible for the vast majority of those victories: Billy Tubbs, who only had one losing year in 14 seasons as head coach, and Kelvin Sampson, who never had a losing season in 12 years on the job at OU.

Suffice to say, 2016-17 is not going to be one of the better seasons for Oklahoma men’s basketball. But it is also good to keep in mind, those kind of years have been relatively few in the century-plus history of Sooner hoops.

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