NORMAN, Okla. The expired eligibility of 2005-06 Oklahoma men’s basketball seniors Kevin Bookout, Terrell Everett and Taj Gray means a loss of 55 percent of the Sooners’ points, 55 percent of their rebounds and 55 percent of their assists from last year. Their departure also translates into the lowest preseason Big 12 ranking for OU in the 11-year history of the conference.
In a poll released by the Big 12 today, the league’s coaches picked Oklahoma to finish in ninth place.
Kansas (121 points) was the unanimous No. 1 selection (Texas A&M got one first-place vote but coaches were not allowed to slot their own team). Texas A&M received 109 points for second place and was followed by Oklahoma State (97), Texas (95), Kansas State (76), Texas Tech (68), Baylor (60), Missouri (44), Oklahoma (42), Nebraska (37), Iowa State (23) and Colorado (20).
“Personally, I think we’re a lot better than that,” said senior guard Michael Neal of OU’s poll position. “Preseason polls don’t mean anything. We’ve been working really hard since the season ended and we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year. I think it’s safe to say our guys will be using this as motivation.”
The lowest the Sooners had been picked in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll prior to this year was fourth place (OU was selected for the No. 4 spot in October 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2004). The league’s coaches poll started in 1997. OU was picked to finish seventh in the conference in the 1996 preseason media poll, which no longer exists.
Neal, OU’s leading scorer in conference play last year (14.8 ppg) when he was one of the country’s top 3-point shooters, is one of eight returning letterwinners for the Sooners. Also back are senior forward Nate Carter (6.0 ppg in 16.7 mpg last year), junior guard David Godbold (5.7 ppg in 23.0 mpg), sophomore forward Taylor Griffin (3.1 ppg in 11.5 mpg), sophomore guard Austin Johnson (3.1 ppg in 17.8 mpg), junior center Longar Longar (2.1 ppg in 7.2 mpg) and senior guards Chris Walker (1.1 ppg in 7.9 mpg) and Kellen Sampson (0.3 ppg in 4.7 mpg).
Oklahoma plays its first game under head coach Jeff Capel on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. CST against Norfolk State. The Sooners play a pair of exhibition home games prior to that on Oct. 31 against Oklahoma Christian (7 p.m.) and Nov. 5 versus Central Missouri (2 p.m.). For great deals on basketball season tickets or mini-season tickets packages, click here or call the OU Athletics Ticket Office at (405) 325-2424 or (800) 456-4668.
BIG 12 PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Kansas (121)
2. Texas A&M (109)
3. Oklahoma State (97)
4. Texas (95)
5. Kansas State (76)
6. Texas Tech (68)
7. Baylor (60)
8. Missouri (44)
9. Oklahoma (42)
10. Nebraska (37)
11. Iowa State (23)
12. Colorado (20)