OU to the SEC: Where Does Oklahoma Basketball Fit Into the SEC Hierarchy?

Oklahoma, along with Texas, appear to be moving to the SEC in the near future.
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Oklahoma and Texas’ impending move to the SEC has made ripple effects across the college sports landscape for the past 48 hours quite unlike anything in recent memory.

The change this move will have on college sports is hard to overstate as the way we currently know them will be long gone as we head into a new era in collegiate athletics.

Naturally, the main focus of the move has been lasered in on how this affects college football and what a new 16-team super conference will look like on the gridiron.

But what about the other sports?

SI Sooners took a dive into what the move will mean for Oklahoma softball and baseball already on Friday and now we’ll do the same here with basketball.

The Sooners enter the 2021-22 season under new head coach Porter Moser, who replaced Lon Kruger after he announced his retirement at last season’s end.

Porter Moser

Porter Moser

The Oklahoma roster will look tremendously different next year with a plethora of new faces coming to Norman via the transfer portal. The Sooners, on paper, look to have a solid bunch of players if they can manage to create some cohesion among all the additions.

Leading the charge on returning players is Elijah Harkless, who brings back his fabulous defense and playmaking ability. Also back is sharpshooter Umoja Gibson and another solid player in forward Jalen Hill.

As for the rest of the expected contributors? New blood.

So where would the Sooners theoretically stack up in the SEC next season and in the future when the move actually goes through?

Well, unlike football, baseball and softball, the Big 12 is quite inarguably a stronger league than the SEC as things currently stand.

Baylor is the defending national champion, Kansas is a consistent winner as a blue blood, Texas Tech has proven to be a quality program with Chris Beard now headed to rebuild Texas into a likely behemoth. Add in Oklahoma State who continues to have a talented roster along with the rest of the league and there just aren’t many easy wins on a Big 12 slate from year to year.

The SEC, meanwhile, has tended to be fairly top heavy in recent seasons. Kentucky is typically a top-tier program but fell on hard times a year ago. Florida is in a similar situation as a program that is always a candidate for a deep tournament run although is coming off of an underwhelming year of their own.

Alabama and Arkansas are both fresh off great seasons a year ago with Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn all sprinkling in big years here and there but also having down seasons as well.

So where does Oklahoma fit in?

The honest answer is probably about the same as they do in the Big 12. Meaning, somewhere around the middle. Although, with a better chance of breaking through to the upper tier. 

The SEC has shown a knack for parity in basketball in recent years with programs popping up and having fantastic seasons but then quickly fading down the standings in the years shortly thereafter (see Auburn after their 2019 Final Four run).

With Moser now at the helm, it can be optimistically viewed that the Sooners have a chance to put together more consistent success in the SEC than currently in the extremely unforgiving Big 12, albeit with the Longhorns coming along for the ride.

Elijah Harkless and Umoja Gibson

Elijah Harkless and Umoja Gibson

But, the problems Oklahoma basketball currently have aren’t going to magically go away.

The Lloyd Noble Center is still not a great facility that isn’t going to tempt the football-centric fanbase to come out on a Tuesday night in January.

Perhaps the jolt of new blood and new opponents will excite fans in the beginning. But, that will quickly fade if the team isn’t winning. Because, unlike in the Big 12, there won’t be a revolving door of top-15 opponents coming into Norman on a regular basis.

In a lot of ways, Oklahoma’s move to the SEC in basketball is pretty much the reverse of the move in football.

In football, the Sooners are heading to a situation of far more marquee matchups where they can expect to compete against the best on a week-to-week basis.

In basketball, Oklahoma will have a fairly significantly easier go of things on the competition standpoint - but that could hurt them on attendance in a sport that has struggled in that area.

It will be fascinating to watch the impact the move has on the Sooners’ recruiting as Moser tries to build the program into a perennial winner.

Oklahoma fans will get the chance to have a slight peek into the future this upcoming season, as the Sooners are slated to have matchups with Florida, Arkansas and Auburn throughout the campaign.