The Oklahoma Sooners certainly ended 2017-18 on an unpleasant note, but the 2018-19 campaign is going to be interesting.
Oklahoma at UT-Rio Grande Valley: 7:30 p.m. at Bert Ogden Arena (7,688)
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Commentary: Chad McKee and Bryndon Manzer
Live Stream: FoxSportsGo.com
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa)
Line: Oklahoma -14.5 (as of 4:15 CT)
The bad news: No @TRowOU for 5 of our first 6 games due to obligations.— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) November 9, 2018
The good news: @TomDore is filling in on the OU radio call. He was the Bulls' PxP man during all 6 of Jordan's championships...so you're in good hands, Sooner Nation. https://t.co/7oHqZYgbXe
The expectations certainly aren’t high, as OU was picked to finish 8th in the Big 12 this season. Having said that, this team returns a number of familiar faces and should have much better chemistry than last season’s squad. This roster is comprised of six scholarship seniors, including returning contributors Christian James, Jamuni McNeace, Rashard Odomes and Ty Lazenby as well as grad transfers Aaron Calixte and Miles Reynolds. OU also added talented freshman guard Jamal Bieniemy and lengthy JUCO big man Kur Kuath (pronounced “Kweth”). With talented players Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle also still in the fold, this team could surpass expectations.
- The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is the result of a 2013 consolidation of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, with campus locations in Brownsville, Edinburg, McAllen, Harlingen, Rio Grande City and South Padre Island.
- The Vaqueros play their home games at the UTRGV Fieldhouse (2,500) in Edinburg, Texas. However, tonight’s game is being played at Bert Ogden Arena, which is home to the NBA G League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
- Lon Kruger’s first head-coaching gig was at Pan American, and he led the program to a 20-8 record in his final season before leaving for Kansas State in 1986. Because of this, he was inducted into the UTRGV Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday.
- Lew Hill, who was an assistant for Kruger at Oklahoma (2011-16) and UNLV (2004-11), is in his third season as the head coach at UTRGV. The Vaqueros went 15-18 in Hill’s second season after going 10-22 in 2016-17.
- The starting lineup: Kruger went with a lineup of Calixte, James, Doolittle, Manek and McNeace in the preseason game, and it’ll be interesting to see if he sticks with that. The prospect of having Doolittle and Manek starting at the two forward positions is definitely intriguing, as both played power forward in 2017-18.
- Jamal Bieniemy: In the preseason win over Pittsburg State, the freshman often looked like the best player on the court for the Sooners, playing under control and seeming to have a great feel for the point guard position. Will he take Calixte’s spot in the starting lineup by season’s end?
- Christian James: The sailing has never been smooth for Christian James, but he clearly has the ability to be one of the better scorers in the conference as a senior. OU fans would love to see this guy go out on a high note.
- Brady Manek: If OU is going to be successful, Manek is going to have to take things up a notch as a sophomore. That will entail bringing a bit more physicality to the table, which is doable after adding some mass this offseason. These early games will also show us how much he has expanded his offensive game.
- Kristian Doolittle: Doolittle showed a ton of promise as a freshman, but missing the fall due to academics was clearly a serious hindrance to his progression. Now that he has a fresh start, I’d expect him to get much closer to realizing that potential.
Monday’s game at UTSA features another OU/Kruger connection, as former assistant Steve Henson is in his third season coaching the Roadrunners. That one will tip off at 7 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network.