Sooners now await postseason fate

Oklahoma’s Kristian Doolittle (21) and his Sooner teammates will now have to play the waiting game as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned after a 72-71 loss to West Virginia in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

KANSAS CITY — Oklahoma’s postseason fate remains in the selection committee’s hands.

The Sooners (19-13) missed an opportunity to reasonably lock down an NCAA Tournament at-large bid Wednesday after losing 72-71 to West Virginia in their Big 12 tournament opener.

“This game could have sealed the deal,” Christian James said. “... I just want to see [my teammates] get a chance to see what it’s like to go to the NCAA Tournament. It’s going to be a stressful couple of days, a lot of praying and hope we get a bid and go far in the tournament.”

A tournament berth isn’t out of the question, but OU’s early departure allows plenty of time to think of what went wrong and what can improve.

The answer might be as simple as rebounding the ball better.

The Sooners have only outrebounded one of their opponents since the start of February. They managed to win four games during the span but are 6-12 when recording fewer rebounds than opponents. They are 13-1 when winning the boards.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a shock that OU struggled on the glass against West Virginia, considering the Mountaineers already did it twice this season to the Sooners.

But this isn’t a “playing West Virginia” problem or solely an OU problem, says coach Lon Kruger.

“[It’s] a little of both,” Kruger said. “West Virginia always hangs their hat on rebounding, and they’ve always throughout the year is rebound the ball well. We’ve got to do a better job, regardless if it’s West Virginia or anyone else.”

The solution to OU’s rebounding struggles might be a residual effect of an overlying issue.

Junior Kristian Doolittle was asked where Wednesday’s game got away from OU, which he used as a chance to address the Sooners’ effort.

“I would say we were lacking emotion and fight from the beginning of the game, which is something that can’t happen,” he said. “We were playing catch-up. We knew going into this game that West Virginia was going to be crashing the glass and playing really hard. That’s what they pride themselves on.”