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Veteran coach Lon Kruger makes Oklahoma unlikely contender in Big 12

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Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger, left, reaches for guard Buddy Hield (24) as he comes off the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Waco, Texas. Oklahoma won 66-64. (AP Photo/LM Otero) (The Associated Press)

Oklahoma was picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 after losing its top three scorers from last season, yet the Sooners enter Saturday's game at Texas Tech tied for second place in league play.

No. 25 Oklahoma already has victories over ranked conference opponents Iowa State and Baylor.

Behind it all is 61-year-old Lon Kruger, who has made a career out of making programs better. He took Kansas State to the Elite Eight in 1988, Florida to the Final Four in 1994 and UNLV to the Sweet 16 in 2007. He took an Oklahoma program that went 15-16 his first year in 2011-12 to the NCAA tournament last year. This season, the Sooners have cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 2009.