OU men's basketball: Moser, Sooners looking to improve in Year 2

Nov. 4—There's a lot of new faces again entering this season for Oklahoma, but head coach Porter Moser has more of a foundation to build on compared to last year.

Tanner Groves, Jacob Groves, Jalen Hill, C.J. Noland and Bijan Cortes all return after playing key roles last season. Tanner Groves and Hill started every game they played last season, while Jacob Groves, Cortes and Noland were prominent role players off the bench.

The Sooners did lose some key contributors from last season's team, including Jordan Goldwire, Elijah Harkless and Jordan Goldwire. But for Moser, the returning players bring a foundation to build on.

"Almost everywhere, I'm seeing the benefit of having guys back," Moser said during OU local media day on Sept. 29. "They can demonstrate stuff.... They know the mentality, the togetherness, the attitude, the positivity, all those intangible things of how practice goes, they know it.

"I think I see our togetherness better early on because of their knowledge of the program."

The Sooners finished last season with a 19-16 record and narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament, but they hope things will be different in Moser's second year at the helm.

Here's a look at four storylines for the Sooners entering the 2022-23 season:

1. Can Grant Sherfield, Joe Bamisile make an impact?

Moser's no stranger to building a roster using the NCAA Transfer Portal, and this past offseason was no different.

It looks like he may have found his new starting point guard that way.

Sherfield transferred to the Sooners after spending two seasons with Nevada. He had a standout season last year, leading the Wolfpack with per-game averages of 19.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists while shooting 43.5 percent from the floor.

All signs point to Sherfield filling the starting point guard spot following Goldwire's departure. He got the start in the Sooners' exhibition game against Oklahoma City University last month, recording a team-high 14 points and four assists.

"He's a really good offensive player," Moser said. "He really can see the floor. He's one of those rare guys that can really score at all three levels. He can shoot the 3. He has one of the best mid-range games and he can get to the rim. What makes him hard to guard in ball screens is you're going to have to pick your poison. He can really pass out of ball screens. He's really good with it."

Bamisile is coming off a solid sophomore campaign at George Washington, where he started 29 games and averaged 16 points per game. He shot 45 percent from the floor and 35 percent from 3, and he projects to bring a much-needed scoring punch for the Sooners.

"Joe is another guy who can score," Moser said. "He's athletic. He can really cut. He can knock down 3s. He just gives you a versatile athlete who can score. And I know at times we struggled scoring last year. I thought we added two guys who can score."

2. Can the Sooners improve their outside shooting?

It was an area that hurt the Sooners at times last season.

The Sooners shot 34.7 percent from the 3-point line as a team, which ranked in the top half of the Big 12. The problem was their consistency — they shot below 30 percent from deep in 11 of their 21 conference games.

Moser brought in assistant coach Matt Brady to help improve the team's outside shooting, but Brady suddenly resigned from the team on Tuesday. However, there's still optimism around the team that things will be better this season.

Tanner Groves, who shot 38 percent from 3 on 113 attempts, figures to be the team's best outside shooter. Bamisile and Sherfield figure to help out. Noland made 43 percent of his treys last season, though on only 39 attempts, and Moser has encouraged the sophomore to be more aggressive offensively.

Ultimately, how the Sooners shoot this season could be the difference in improving from last season or taking a step back.

3. Can any of the freshmen carve out a role?

It was just an exhibition, but there were positive signs from the freshmen against OCU.

Freshmen guards Otega Oweh and Milos Uzan each finished with 11 points and combined to shoot 9-of-13 from the field. Uzan, in particular, flashes lead guard skills that could help him carve out a role on the team's second unit.

The team has also expressed excitement for Luke Northweather. The six-foot-11 big man made waves in his senior year of high school and was named the Gatorade Missouri Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Benny Schröder could also compete for bench minutes. The freshman guard was labeled the top international prospect by ESPN and averaged 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 59.0 percent from the field in the NBBL in Germany.

Moser said he'll play a lot of guys during the team's first few games, and he's looking for the freshmen to play with confidence.

4. Can the Sooners make a push in the Big 12?

The Sooners struggled in conference play last season and finished with a 7-11 record. However, they played their way to the Big 12 Tournament title game last season, where they lost to Texas Tech by just one point.

They finished eighth in the conference standings and missed out on the NCAA Tournament, ending their season in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.

The expectations aren't high this season. The team finished seventh in the annual Big 12 preseason rankings. Baylor, Kansas, Texas and TCU figure to compete for the top spot in the conference.

This season, Tanner Groves said the focus is on competing in the Big 12 and making the tournament.

" I just want to make the tournament," Groves said. "Last year, we fell short. That was our main goal. As a team, that's just something you've got to do is make the tournament. I think we were kind of snubbed a little bit, but this year I think we've got a squad that's come in, we've got a chip on our shoulder, especially the five guys that were here last year.

"We're looking forward to redeeming ourselves a little bit this year."

The Sooners open their season at 7 p.m. Monday against Sam Houston.