Why Porter Moser, Sooners are more 'focused on the process' than being ranked
NORMAN — Porter Moser and his squad aren't paying any mind to the polls.
Moser has led the OU men's basketball team to an 11-2 record in his debut season at the helm — which is tied for the program's best start through the first 13 games since the 2018-19 campaign. The strong play hasn't garnered much recognition on a national level, though.
The Sooners haven't managed to crack the AP Top 25 poll yet this season. They're currently sitting two spots out of the rankings with 71 receiving votes, but that could change on Tuesday.
OU is set to face No. 1-ranked Baylor on the road at 6 p.m. The Bears are the reigning national champions, and it'll be impossible for the Sooners to be ignored in the polls if they can escape Waco with an upset victory.
'Believe in your work': Elijah Harkless delivers another clutch bucket in OU's win over Kansas State
“I’ve always been someone that’s been so focused on the process, and that’ll take care of itself,” Moser said of the rankings. “If you win, it takes care of itself. If you are getting better, it’s going to take care of itself.”
Parallels to Porter Moser's Loyola Chicago team
Moser’s approach to the rankings shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Despite coaching a 2017-18 Loyola Chicago team that peaked at No. 7 in the USA Today coaches poll before making a Final Four run, the squad never managed to crack the AP Top 25.
It was until Feb. 8, 2021, that the Ramblers came in at No. 22 in the AP Top 25 poll. This marked the first time the program got ranked in a regular-season poll since 1985.
Meanwhile, the Sooners' case for a spot in the Top 25 this season is a good one.
Of the teams that are currently ranked, only four of them have more AP Top 25 wins under their belt than the Sooners.
'He's with me and close to my heart': How OU's Porter Moser gets his drive from his late father
“We really haven’t talked about (rankings) with our guys,” Moser said. “It’s nice to think the fans like it. It means you are doing something right if you are ranked. You are moving your team forward.
“But I don’t spend a ton of time if we’re not ranked getting pissed. It’s not something that I’m consumed with. I’m more consumed with getting the team better.”
Baylor is ranked No. 1 for a reason
Defeating Baylor is a tall task.
The Bears are led by James Akinjo, a senior guard who is averaging 13 points and a team-high 6.1 assists per game this season. Three other players on the team are also averaging double-digit points per game, making it one of the deepest groups in the country.
Baylor has won its last six meetings with OU by an average of 14.8 points per contest, but the Sooners hope to snap that streak on Tuesday.
“(Baylor) is going to come out ready, and we’re gonna come out ready,” Harkless said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity. Opportunities like this don’t come very often, so we’re happy we get the opportunity now.”
As if they need any more of a challenge, the Sooners might be undermanned when they battle the Bears.
'I'm blessed as a father': How OU coach Porter Moser and his family have made Norman 'feel like home'
Senior center Tanner Groves, junior forward Jacob Groves and freshman guard Bijan Cortes all missed OU’s game against Kansas State on Saturday due to health and safety protocols.
Tanner Groves is averaging a team-high 14.3 points per game this season while shooting 58.8 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from distance. His younger brother, Jacob Groves, also provides some much-needed depth at small forward.
Cortes is OU’s top facilitator off the bench, and he enjoyed a breakout game in his most recent outing against Alcorn State on Dec. 22. The freshman point guard racked up six points and two assists in a career-high 19 minutes.
Moser said on Monday that all three players cleared their five-day quarantine window, but he won't know if they'll be available until the day of the Baylor game. If OU is undermanned, numerous players are in line for a bigger role.
Redshirt senior forward Ethan Chargois tallied season-highs of nine rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes against Kansas State, while freshman guard C.J. Noland recorded a career-high 10 points and three boards in 24 minutes.
"It just shows you the character of our team,” senior guard Umoja Gibson said. “I don't think one player defines our team. We’re solid as one… We're confident in ourselves as a group."