Sooners are a one-man team, which puts staying power at risk

Updated: January 16, 2018, 4:22 PM ET
By Seth Walder | ESPN.com

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsTrae Young's talent is beyond debate, but can he carry OU through the Big 12 gauntlet?

Oklahoma's slide back to reality is coming. It's just a matter of when.

The Trae Young hype machine is in full force, with Oklahoma (14-2) now the No. 4-ranked team in the latest AP poll. And there's actually nothing wrong with all the rhetoric around Young himself -- he's been that good (and more on that in a minute) -- but it doesn't mean that the Sooners as a whole really deserve to be considered among college basketball's elite.

Here are some sobering projections for the rest of Oklahoma's season, courtesy of our Basketball Power Index, which believes the Sooners are just the 22nd-best team in Division I going forward.

• Projected remaining record: 7.7-6.3

• Chance to win or tie for Big 12 regular season title: 9 percent

• Chance to win Big 12 conference tournament: 9 percent

• Projected NCAA tournament seed: 5.1

• Chance to earn No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament: less than 1 percent

For a team that is currently in the conversation as the best team in Division I, those numbers are rough. And while the Sooners have played a difficult slate so far, it only gets harder from here as they have the eighth-hardest remaining strength of schedule. So why is BPI so sour on Oklahoma?

Because it just hasn't been that efficient. Plain and simple. The team's straight efficiency rating is plus-15.6, 44th-best in the nation. Of course, we have to account for its tough schedule, but even when we adjust for opponents, the Sooners have only been the 19th-most efficient team.

With opponent-adjustment included, Oklahoma's net efficiency is more than 20 points worse per 100 possessions than the top four most efficient teams: Purdue, Villanova, Duke and Virginia.

So when will the Sooners' slump start? We can't pinpoint when exactly that will happen, but it could be as soon as Tuesday night when they have a sneaky-tough game at Kansas State. BPI basically has the game as a coin flip. Whether they drop their game against the Wildcats or not, some losses are coming in the near future. Here are the chances of Oklahoma earning each possible record over its next six games.

And that stretch doesn't even include dates with Texas Tech in Lubbock and Kansas in Lawrence later in the regular season.

None of this, by the way, should take away from what Young has done this season. The attention he is getting is fully deserved as he leads Division I in opponent-adjusted win shares. That's thanks mostly to being a prolific scorer who also happens to have the second-best opponent-adjusted assist percentage in Division I.

And if we zoom out a little, he's in some mighty fine company. Among all players since the 2006-07 season, Young ranks fourth overall in opponent-adjusted win shares per 40 minutes. The only players he trails are Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky and Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns in 2014-15 and UCLA's Kevin Love in 2007-08. That's it. And sure, the other three obviously got their production in different ways than Young, but that gives you a sense of the level of contribution.

Pretty clearly, though, that isn't enough. Or it won't be, anyway.

Come tournament time, Oklahoma will be considered a dark horse with an electric superstar, not the top-tier team like they seem like today.

Seth Walder

ESPN Analytics

    SPONSORED HEADLINES

    Comments

    Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.