NORMAN – For the sixth time in the last seven years, Lon Kruger's Oklahoma men's basketball team is headed to the Big Dance. The Sooners enter the 2019 NCAA Tournament as the No. 9 seed in the South Region, opening play on Friday against No. 8 seed Ole Miss in Columbia, S.C. OU's opening round matchup will be televised by truTV and tip at 11:40 a.m. inside Colonial Life Arena.
If the Sooners win their tournament opener, they will play Sunday against the winner of Friday's contest between No. 1 seed Virginia and No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb.
"We're happy for the guys,” said Kruger. “They're really a group who has worked awfully hard. They've been up and down in some ways, but never did change their attitude of working hard every day in practice, which gave them a chance to finish on an upswing in the last month."
Oklahoma will be making its 32nd NCAA Tournament appearance, including its 27th in the past 36 years. The Sooners' 27 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1984 are the ninth most in the nation during that span, behind only Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan State and Syracuse.
OU has made the Big Dance six times in the last seven years (since Kruger's second year). Oklahoma is one of only three Big 12 schools with at least six NCAA Tournament appearances during that span, joined only by Iowa State and Kansas.
The Sooners are 41-31 all-time in the NCAA Tournament (6-5 under Kruger) and have reached the Final Four five times (1939, 1947, 1988, 2002 and 2016). Oklahoma also boasts nine Elite Eight showings and eleven Sweet 16 appearances.
Kruger will be guiding a team to the NCAA Tournament for the 19th time in his career – the 10th most among active head coaches. He was the first Division I coach to take five different schools to the NCAA Tournament and is the only coach to win an NCAA Tournament game with five programs. In 2015, he became the first and only coach since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to take four programs to the Sweet 16 or beyond. He is one of only three head coaches to ever lead four schools to multiple NCAA Tournament wins.
The Sooners head to Columbia with a 19-13 record (7-11 in Big 12 play). Oklahoma faced one of the most difficult schedules in the country as the only team in the nation to not play a "Quadrant 4" game.
Oklahoma was led down the stretch by junior forward Kristian Doolittle, who was recently named the recipient of the inaugural Big 12 Most Improved Player Award, as voted on by the league's head coaches. 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.
The Sooners are 1-2 all-time against the Rebels. Oklahoma and Ole Miss faced each other for three straight seasons between 1998 and 2000. The two schools have never met in the NCAA Tournament.
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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