NORMAN – For the fifth time under head coach Lon Kruger, the Oklahoma men's basketball team is going dancing. The Sooners enter the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region, opening play on Thursday against No. 7 seed Rhode Island in Pittsburgh, Pa. OU's opening round matchup will be televised by CBS and tip at 11:15 a.m. CT inside PPG Paints Arena.
If the Sooners win their tournament opener, they will play Saturday against the winner of Thursday's contest between No. 2 seed Duke and No. 15 seed Iona.
“Any time you get to play in the tournament you're delighted,” said Kruger. “A long year, and we've had the extremes all in one season... very good play to less than that by a lot. But we're excited for the guys. Obviously, great respect for Rhode Island and the year they've had. We know how tough that will be.”
Oklahoma will be making its 31st NCAA Tournament appearance, including its 26th in the past 35 years. The Sooners' 26 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1984 are the 10th most in the nation during that span, behind only Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan State, Syracuse and UCLA.
The Sooners are 41-30 all-time in the NCAA Tournament (6-4 under Kruger) and have reached the Final Four five times (1939, 1947, 1988, 2002 and 2016). Oklahoma also boasts five Elite Eight showings and six Sweet 16 appearances.
Kruger will be guiding a team to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in his career – the 10th most among active head coaches. Despite missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years last season, Kruger continued his track record of bouncing back. Since 1986 (his first season as head coach at Kansas State), Kruger has never missed the postseason in consecutive seasons. Of the past seven instances that Kruger failed to reach the postseason, six of his teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament the next year.
Oklahoma owns an 18-13 record behind the fifth-highest-scoring offense in the country, averaging 85.2 points per game. The Sooners are led by freshman guard Trae Young, who is on pace to become the first Division I player to lead the country in scoring and assists in the same season.
"We've had the extremes all in one season... very good play to less than that by a lot. But we're excited for the guys."
– Lon Kruger
A 6-2 guard from Norman, Young averages 27.4 points and 8.8 assists, helping him earn the 2018 Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Bringing home OU's first Freshman of the Year honor adds to a growing list of national recognitions. Young was also named a Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year finalist, a Naismith Trophy semifinalist and selected for the national ballot for the Wooden Award. Last Sunday, he was chosen as the Big 12 Conference's Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous selection for the All-Big 12 First Team and Big 12 All-Newcomer Team.
Young is one half of the highest-scoring freshman duo in the nation. He and freshman forward Brady Manek (10.4 points) combine to average 37.8 points per game.
The Sooners and Rams will face off for the first time in program history. Rhode Island boasts a 25-7 record and won the Atlantic 10's regular-season crown.
A limited number of tickets will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. CT. on SoonerSports.com/tickets or by calling (800) 456-GoOU.
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