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Oklahoma Sooners basketball: OU’s non-conference schedule is littered with intriguing matchups

The Sooners will have several chances to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The eyes of the nation will be on Norman, Oklahoma this weekend for one of the most anticipated games of the year. It will be loud, it will be rowdy, it will be mayhem. One team will walk away feeling great about it’s postseason hopes, the other left to deal with the agony of what could have been. I’m talking of course about the Oklahoma Sooners matchup with the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks at the Lloyd Noble Center on Sunday.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the most anticipated sporting event taking place in Norman this weekend, but basketball season is here in all of its glory, folks. Lon Kruger’s squad looks poised to establish itself as contenders in the Big 12 once again following a season that was plagued by injuries and inexperience. KenPom currently has OU slated as the No. 5 team in the Big 12 and the No. 21 team in the country. The addition of homegrown superstar point guard Trae Young coupled with a slew of returning talent gives Sooner fans plenty of reasons to be excited about this season.

The Sooners will have a great chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament this year after a one year hiatus. A strong non-conference schedule will give OU plenty of chances to boost its tournament resume before getting entering the gauntlet that is Big 12 conference play. Here is a breakdown of each of the Sooners’ non-conference games.

November 12 - Nebraska Omaha Mavericks (Norman, OK)

KenPom rank: 245

The Mavericks came within two points of their first NCAA Tournament birth in program history last season. UNO will probably take a step back this year following the departures of two of its three leading scorers in Tra-Deon Hollins and Marcus Tyus.

November 15 - Ball State Cardinals (Norman, OK)

KenPom rank: 139

Ball State is no longer the MAC’s proverbial doormat as they were three years ago. The Cardinals have posted back-to-back 21-win seasons after winning just 12 total games from 2014-16. James Whitford’s squad was one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country last season, shooting 38% from beyond the arc as a team. Tayler Persons and Sean Sellers are capable of catching a hot hand and making this one interesting.

November 23 - Arkansas Razorbacks (Phil Knight Invitational - Portland, OR)

KenPom rank: 56

The Razorbacks lost their two best players from last season in Dusty Hannahs and Moses Kingsley. One of the SEC’s most experienced teams last year will be forced to rely on a trio of freshman for serious contributions. Together Dan Gafford, Khalil Garland and Darious Hall comprise Mike Anderson’s best recruiting class since 2013. This matchup will come down to backcourt play as Trae Young and Kameron McGusty will have their hands full with Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford. If OU wins this game, they will likely face the defending national champion North Carolina Tarheels in the second round.

November 30 - North Texas Mean Green (Norman, OK)

KenPom rank: 303

Former Baylor assistant Grant McCasland takes over a UNT team that won just eight games last year. McCasland had moderate success at Arkansas State, but he has a long climb ahead of him if he wants to turn the Mean Green into CUSA contenders.

December 4 - UTSA Roadrunners (Norman, OK)

KenPom rank: 284

UTSA hasn’t had a winning season since 2012. The Road Runners look to take another step forward in the second year of Coach Steve Henson’s tenure, but this game will likely be nothing more than a nice tune up for the the toughest stretch of OU’s non-conference schedule.

December 8 - USC Trojans (Los Angeles, CA)

KenPom rank: 12

USC is ranked No. 10 in the AP preseason poll. The Trojans bring back every single rotation player from last year’s team and adds a stellar recruiting class highlighted by Charles O’Bannon, ESPN’s No. 30 recruit in the class of 2017. This will be a great chance for the Sooners to boost their NCAA Tournament resume if they can go into the Staples Center and take down USC.

December 16 - Wichita State Shockers (Wichita, KS)

KenPom rank: 4

This will be OU’s toughest non-conference game by far. Wichita State is projected to be one of the best teams in the country again this season. Like USC, the Shockers did not lose a single player off last year’s team. The point guard matchup between Trae Young and Landry Shamet will be appointment television. OU will likely have to play a near perfect game if they want to pull off the upset.

December 19 - Northwestern State Demons (Norman, OK)

KenPom rank: 299

Five of OU’s last six non-conference games will come against quality opponents. This is not one of them.

December 22 - Northwestern Wildcats (Norman, OK)

KenPom rank: 18

The Cats are fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. Chris Collins returns six of his top seven players from a year ago, and KenPom has Northwestern slated as the third best team in the Big Ten.

January 27 - Alabama Crimson Tide (Tuscaloosa, AL)

KenPom rank: 23

Baker Mayfield takes on one of the top defenses in the country in a rematch of the 2014 Sugar Bowl...oh wait, wrong sport.

OU travels to Tuscaloosa for this year’s Big 12/SEC Challenge to face an Alabama team that is projected to be the Tide’s best team in over a decade. The main factor behind the Alabama hype is the arrival of a pair of freshman phenom guards in Collin Sexton and John Petty. Sexton and Trae Young are rated by most as two of the top three point guards in the class of 2017. Expectations are higher than usual for both teams, and this should be a great measuring stick game for the Sooners in late January.