Sooners Open Big 12 Championship Against WVU
WEDNESDAY'S GAME BASICS
Oklahoma (19-12, 7-11 Big 12) is on the hunt for its fourth Big 12 Championship tournament title, opening play in Kansas City on Wednesday as the seventh seed. The Sooners will face 10th-seeded West Virginia (12-19, 4-14 Big 12) in the second game of the opening session, tipping off no earlier than 8 p.m. CT at Sprint Center. The winner of the opening round matchup with meet No. 2-seeded Texas Tech in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The Sooners and Mountaineers split the regular-season series, with Oklahoma defeating West Virginia earlier this month in Norman. A win would give the Sooners their 20th victory of the season, marking the fifth 20-win season in the eight years under head coach Lon Kruger.
ON THE AIR
The tournament matchup will air on the Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa) with Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Jon Sciambi, Robbie Hummel and Tara Petrolino calling the action.
• After dropping five straight games in late January and early March, the Sooners head to Kansas City as winners of four of their last six games. In Oklahoma's four wins since mid-February, the Sooners are averaging 78.2 points, shooting 51.4 percent from the field and dishing out 15.8 assists. Strong shooting has correlated with success all year long, as Oklahoma is 19-0 when it holds a better shooting percentage than its opponents.
• The Big 12 Conference named junior forward Kristian Doolittle the recipient of the inaugural Big 12 Most Improved Player Award, as voted on by the league's head coaches. Doolittle led the Sooners throughout conference play with team-high Big 12 averages of 13.9 points and 7.8 rebounds to go with 2.1 assists. He was the only Big 12 player to average at least 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in league competition.
• Doolittle was also named to the All-Big 12 Third Team alongside senior guard Christian James while sophomore forward Brady Manek received All-Big 12 Honorable Mention recognition. Earning his first on-court conference honor, James has led Oklahoma’s scoring efforts this season with averages of 14.5 points. Manek, also earning his first all-conference recognition, is averaging 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting .458 from the field and .355 from behind the arc.
Aaron Calixte is averaged 19.5 points in his two games against the Mountaineers this season.
SERIES HISTORY: WEST VIRGINIA
• Oklahoma holds a narrow 10-8 lead in the all-time series with West Virginia. The Mountaineers had won four consecutive meetings before the Sooners snapped their streak ealier this month in Norman with a 92-80 victory.
• Sooner guard Aaron Calixte has had the Mountaineers' number this season, averaging 19.5 points on 13-of-22 (.591) shooting (6-of-11 from 3-point range) in the two regular season meetings with WVU. Two of his three highest-scoring games as a Sooner have come against West Virginia, notching 17 points in Morgantown on Feb. 2 and a season-best 22 points on March 2 in Norman.
• The Sooners and Mountaineers have met just once before in the postseason, facing off in the semifinals of the 2016 Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma fought back from a 12-point deficit late in the second half to trail 69-67 with 1.8 seconds remaining. With the length of the floor to go, the ball was inbounded to Buddy Hield who chucked up a halfcourt heave at the buzzer. Hield's Hail Mary went in and pandemonium ensued. Upon review, the officials determined the ball was not released from Hield's hand before the game clock expired and the bucket was called off. The Sooners bounced back from the heartbreaking loss with a run to the Final Four over the following weeks.
OU'S BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
• Oklahoma opens Big 12 Championship play as the seventh seed. The Sooners look to make history, as a team seeded outside the top four has never won the Big 12 Championship title in the event’s 22 years.
• OU won postseason Big 12 Championship titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003. OU’s three titles rank third in the conference behind Kansas’ nine and Iowa State’s four. The Sooners have made five Big 12 Championship title game appearances in the event’s 21 years. OU’s 10 consecutive league tournament game victories (2001-04) are tied with Kansas for the most in event history.
• The Sooners are 22-19 all-time in the Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma owns the fourth-best winning percentage (.537) in Big 12 Championship play among the conference’s current 10 teams.
• This season is just the second time in the event's 22-year history that Oklahoma will be the seventh seed. The Sooners were previously the No. 7 seed in 2004, topping 10-seeded Nebraska in the opening round before falling to Texas in the semifinals.
• Oklahoma has played in the first round of the four-round tournament on eight occasions, going 4-4 in those games.
DOOLITTLE DOOING IT ALL
• Junior forward Kristian Doolittle continues to show progress in his game as the season goes along - so much so that the Big 12 coaches voted him the league's Most Improved Player. After averaging 7.2 points and 5.8 boards in the first 12 games of the season, Doolittle Doolittle led the Sooners throughout conference play with team-high Big 12 averages of 13.9 points and 7.8 rebounds to go with 2.1 assists. During Big 12 play, Doolittle ranked in OU's top-three in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, field goal perecentage and free throw percentage.
• An All-Big 12 Third Team selection, Doolittle was the only Big 12 player to average at least 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in league competition this season.
• The forward won the league's inaugural improvement-based honor after averaging only 2.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in 2017-18 and 7.2 points and 5.8 boards during this season's non-conference stretch. He closed the regular season by reaching 14 points in the last six straight games (17.3 points per game in that stretch), highlighted by a 24-point, 11-rebound performance against Kansas.
• The chart to the right highlights Doolittle's increased his improvement by recording his points for each game he's played in his sophomore and junior seasons.
BRADY SCORING IN BUNCHES
• The Sooners almost always have team success on nights that sophomore forward Brady Manek is rolling. During his career, OU is 26-10 when Manek scores in double figures, 15-3 when he scores at least 15 points and 8-2 when he hit four or more 3-pointers.
• Manek has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 13 games, including a season-best 21 points against Kansas. Manek is 12 points shy of hitting 700 career points (688). Only four Sooners have recorded 700 total points in their freshman and sophomore seasons during the Big 12 era: Blake Griffin (1,278), Trae Young (876), Willie Warren (868) and Buddy Hield (756). Should he reach 700 career points, he would be just the 10th Sooners to reach that total before the end of their sophomore season.
• Earning his first all-conference recognition, Manek was named an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection. He is averaging 11.7 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting .458 from the field and .355 from behind the arc.
ZERO HAS BEEN THE HERO
• Senior guard Christian James has been the Sooners’ leading scorer this season with an average of 14.5 points per game. James entered the season as Oklahoma’s top returning scorer, averaging 11.9 points per game in 2017-18. In 31 games, James has scored at least 10 points in all but six contests – including seven games of 20 points.
• James failed to produce a double-double in his first 104 collegiate games but has produced at least 10 points and 10 boards in six games since Dec. 1 - the fourth most in the Big 12 this season.
• By scoring 20 points on Jan. 16 against Kansas State, James became the 45th Sooner to eclipse 1,000 points in an Oklahoma uniform (eighth in the Lon Kruger era). James ranks 33rd on the all-time OU scoring list with 1,165 career points.
• James also boasts 500 career rebounds and is just the seventh guard in OU history to produce 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in a career.
• James enters the Big 12 Championshio with 168 career 3-pointers. He is one away from cracking OU’s all-time top 10 in the category. Mookie Blaylock is currently 10th in Sooner history with 169.
• Oklahoma is the only school in the country with a win over a team from every major conference (Power Five + Big East).
• OU sits at No. 40 in the NCAA's new NET Rankings. Oklahoma is the only team in the country that has not played a "Quadrant 4" game. OU's average opponent NET Ranking of 63 is the second best in the country, and the evaluation tool ranks OU's schedule as the 18th toughest in the country. OU is 15-2 in "Quadrant 2 and 3" games and 4-10 in "Quadrant 1" games.
• Sometimes the key to victory can be as simple as making shots. Oklahoma is 19-0 when it holds a better shooting percentage than its opponents and 0-11 when the Sooners have a worse shooting percentage (0-1 when the percentages are equal). Oklahoma is shooting .475 (.373 from 3-point range) in its 19 wins and .396 (.305 from deep) in its 12 losses. The Sooners are 13-2 when they shoot above 45 percent.
• The Sooners are 12-4 when limiting opponents to under 70 points and 4-1 when opponents score less than 60.
• Oklahoma is 18-4 when it scores at least 30 points in the first half.
• The Sooners are 13-1 when outrebounding their opponents. In its 19 wins, Oklahoma is winning the rebounding margin by an average of 3.5 boards.
• OU opponents are shooting 40.3 percent from the field – the second lowest opponent field goal percentage in the conference and 23rd nationally. The Sooners rank 23rd in KenPom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency.
• Oklahoma is 22nd in the nation and first in the conference in defensive rebounding with 28.3 defensive boards per game.
• OU has three players ranked in the top 11 in rebounding in the Big 12: Kristian Doolittle (sixth, 6.9), Christian James (eighth, 6.4) and Brady Manek (11th, 6.1). TCU is the only other school with multiple players (two) ranked in the top 11.
• Oklahoma is 17-5 when outscoring its opponents in the paint. OU is averaging 33.8 paint points per game.
• Of the nine players in the Big 12 averaging at least 11 points and six rebounds, three play for the Sooners. Oklahoma is the only team in the conference with multiple players averaging 11 and six as its roster features Christian James (14.5 points, 6.4 rebounds), Brady Manek (11.7, 6.1) and Kristian Doolittle (11.0, 6.9).
• Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team with multiple players possessing at least five double-doubles. James leads the Sooners with six games of at least 10 points and 10 rebounds while Manek has produced five. Neither Manek or James owned a double-double in their career prior to this season. Additioally, Kristian Doolittle has secured four double-doubles.
UP NEXT: TEXAS TECH
• Should Oklahoma win its tournament opener on Wednesday, the Sooners will face No. 2-seeded Texas Tech in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The matchup with the Red Raiders would be the first game of the evening session and tip at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Texas Tech enters the quarterfinals on a nine-game winning streak.
• The regular season co-Big 12 champions, Texas Tech has won its last three meetings with the Sooners, including both matchups in the 2018-19 regular season. Oklahoma leads the all-time series 39-25 and is 2-1 in previous neutral-site contests.
• Oklahoma and Tech have met twice previously in the Big 12 Championship, both coming in the semifinals. The Sooners won the 2003 matchup (and would go on to win the tournament's title) while the Raiders won the most recent March meeting in 2005.
• It's been 14 years since the Sooners and Red Raiders have met in a Big 12 Championship game - the second-longest gap by a Big 12 opponent between potential tournament meetings. The Sooners have faced every other team since 2007 except for Kansas State (last tournament meeting was 2002).