KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Sooner coach Lon Kruger answered questions at Big 12 Men's Basketball Media Day in Kansas City today. Entering his third year at OU, Kruger has brought noticeable improvements to the basketball program. The Sooners made the jump from eighth in the Big 12 in 2011-12 to fourth last season, and while many key components from last year's squad are gone, the Sooners were picked to finish tied for fifth in the preseason conference poll. Here's what Kruger had to say at the annual Big 12 gathering.

What are your thoughts on the state of the Big 12 this year?

Everyone thinks their league is great and ours is no different. There will be some turnover in terms of rosters in some cases, in other cases pretty good chunk of minutes returning. When you look at the roster with Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor all returning a lot of people, I think they understandably are thought to be at the top of the league in the preseason expectations. But then I think great balance as well after that. It will be an interesting race, as all conferences are. It's great to see how things unfold. It will be a very good league and fun to watch it unfold.

Have you seen your three sophomore guards (Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Je'lon Hornbeak) making progress?

We really have. Isaiah will play a totally different role in moving to the wing. Last year we saddled him a little bit with trying to be a point guard. Little unfair to him, but we needed some help in that area. He worked at it, but much more comfortable moving on the wing, running the floor, looking to be more of a scorer, attacking off the dribble much more. Je'lon Hornbeak will play. Swing over and play some point and have a good understanding for the game and very competitive. (He's) making progress as well. But Je'lon and Buddy are both coming surgery in the off-season, Buddy during the latter part of last season with the fifth metatarsal. Both have had good recovery from that and both are playing full speed right now. All three of those guys, Buddy doing what he does in terms of great enthusiasm, great energy, are all very healthy right now and looking forward to getting going.

How satisfying was it to make the NCAA Tournament last year?

Well, satisfaction anyone feels from a coaching perspective is the result of how the players feel. I was really, really pleased. I knew we had five seniors and Amath M'Baye is a sixth guy we lose off that team. For those guys to have the opportunity to experience the NCAA Tournament was very satisfying because they worked hard and had gone through their college careers (without making the Dance). When you start out a season, that is your goal: to play in the NCAA Tournament. For those guys to realize that goal was very satisfying and very pleasing.

What do you look for from Ryan Spangler?

Ryan is a guy that's a blue collar-type guy. He brings it every day. He loves to play. He runs the floor very well, a good rebounder. Will step out and make shots, pick up opportunities around the basket. Just one of those guys that coaches love because he's very competitive. He's a gym rat. Will do all the dirty work inside.

What are your thoughts on the new hand check rules in college basketball? Will it be difficult for players to play defense this season?

It will be extremely difficult and that's what they want. That they are able to, and hopefully they are, call it like they're prescribing and sustain that throughout the course of the season, I think we'll all be better for it. The games will be ugly early. Everyone will be unhappy about it, but hopefully they can sustain it and call it the way they're projecting. It will be a huge adjustment.