Lon Kruger has done an incredible job of turning the Oklahoma basketball program around over the past four (an equally impressive timetable) years. The Sooners were in complete disarray and had little talent on the roster when Kruger arrived, but in four short years, Kruger's restocked the cupboard and made OU a factor in the Big 12.
I'd say he's made them a factor nationally, but the biggest stain on his resume is a lack of posteason wins. Actually, it's more of an absence than a lack of—the Sooners haven't won in any tournament since Kruger arrived on the plains.
Kruger's first season—and even his second to a degree—is excused. The Sooners were still in rebuilding mode and squeaked into the NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed in 2013.
Last year, a further-improved OU team stumbled in both postseason appearances, getting blitzed by Baylor in Kansas City before being upset by a good, but very beatable North Dakota State team in the NCAA tournament.
Now, OU is a top-15 team with plenty of talent and lots of wins over good teams. There's no reason the Sooners can't change that zero out for at least a two this month.
There have been plenty of excuses for Oklahoma not winning a postseason game under Kruger. The biggest is the Sooners simply weren't used to winning, much less winning on a big stage like the conference or NCAA tournament. But that's not the case anymore. Oklahoma has three straight 20-win seasons and has exceeded expectations in the Big 12 each of the past three seasons.
Oklahoma also didn't have much talent on the roster when Kruger arrived. His first recruiting class brought in roster mainstays like Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins, and he also convinced Ryan Spangler to come home when the Oklahoma native was pondering transfer options from Gonzaga. Talent is also no longer an excuse.
The biggest hindrance for the Sooners this year could be mental toughness. Oklahoma coughed up an 18-point second half lead at Creighton in November and a 21-point lead at Iowa State just last Monday. Oklahoma's offensive response to adversity this year hasn't always been good, as the Sooners are prone to resorting to chucking up 3-pointers and contested jumpers early in the shot clock when the going gets tough.
However, the Sooners' overall quality as a team is such that it's easy to overlook a couple of warts. Those warts simply mean it's less likely Oklahoma will win the Big 12 tournament or go to the Final Four, not that the Sooners won't be able to win a game or two in each tournament.
Things set up nicely for Oklahoma in this year's venture into the month of madness. The Sooners face Oklahoma State on Thursday in the Big 12 quarterfinals, an excellent matchup for the Sooners based on personnel.
For the NCAA tournament, the Sooners figure to be at the very worst a No. 5 seed, so they'll be a favorite, no matter what team they play. However, the Sooners can help their cause by making a deep run in Kansas City, or even winning the tournament, something that they're very capable of doing. Winning the Big 12 improves their seed and knocks the potential opponent down from a scary mid-major to likely a one-bid league champion.
The Sooners' rise has been impressive, but it's time we started seeing some positive results in the postseason. Past time, actually. Oklahoma needs to win now.