The Oklahoma Sooners haven’t shied away from tough non-conference schedules during Lon Kruger’s tenure in Norman, and that remains the case in 2018-19. Most of these — such as the Big 12-SEC Challenge and Jimmy V. Classic — had already been announced, but this slate looks mighty impressive now that it’s set in stone.
Oklahoma opens play with an exhibition against the DII Pittsburg State Gorillas the night before Halloween, and the Sooners then travel to face a pair of Kruger’s proteges. OU will be in Edinburg, Texas, to play a game at UT-Rio Grand Valley, who is coached by former Kruger assistant Lew Hill. They follow that one up with a trip to San Antonio to face a Steve Henson-led UTSA team. That second game should be a serious challenge for an OU team that will still be searching for chemistry, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them stumble in that one.
After a meeting with the Wofford Terriers at the Lloyd Noble Center, OU heads to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, which will be played at the Atlantis, Paradise Island resort. That field also consists of Butler, Dayton, Florida, Middle Tennessee, Stanford, Wisconsin and Virginia, and the tournament bracket will be announced at a later date.
North Texas comes to Norman on Nov. 27, which will probably be OU’s last easy game of the season. The Sooners then travel to New York to play Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic before returning to the Sooner State to face Wichita State and USC in OKC and Tulsa, respectively. Those of you who attended the 2016 OU-WSU game in OKC know that OU didn’t exactly have a crowd advantage in that one, and I probably wouldn’t expect OU fans to dominate The Peake this time around, either. Wichita State fans travel quite well and can be pretty loud, and they’ll make a tough game even tougher. USC, on the other hand, has a ton of talent and upside on its roster and will provide another difficult matchup for this group.
OU will then return to Norman to play Creighton, who is expected to be its usual, competitive self in 2018-19. Three days later, OU will be in Evanston for a game at Northwestern, and the Wildcats will have revenge and redemption on their minds after allowing 68 first-half points in Norman this past December.
Sandwiched in the middle of conference play is a Big 12-SEC Challenge matchup against Vanderbilt in Norman.
In short, there are few layups in this non-conference schedule, and many of the games that look like layups may turn out to be challenges for a group that will be in search of an identity in the early going. If they find said identity and form some semblance of a cohesive unit (unlike last season), this team can at least be somewhat competitive. Having said that, OU could easily enter Big 12 play with a losing record even if Kruger pushes the right buttons.
At the same time, I’m glad Lon and the program are doing this. There’s nothing more uninspiring than watching your favorite college basketball program schedule a bunch of Coppin States and Incarnate Words. Those games also won’t help your RPI in the slightest, nor will the experience be particularly beneficial once Big 12 play starts.
Oct. 30: Pittsburg State (Exh.) - Norman
Nov. 9: at UTRGV - Edinburg, Texas
Nov. 12: at UTSA San Antonio, Texas
Nov. 18: Wofford - Norman
Nov. 21: vs. TBD (Battle 4 Atlantis) - Paradise Island, Bahamas
Nov. 22: vs. TBD (Battle 4 Atlantis) - Paradise Island, Bahamas
Nov. 23: vs. TBD (Battle 4 Atlantis) - Paradise Island, Bahamas
Nov. 27: North Texas - Norman
Dec. 4: vs. Notre Dame - New York, N.Y. - 6 p.m.
Dec. 8: Wichita State - Oklahoma City, Okla.
Dec. 15: vs. Southern California - Tulsa, Okla.
Dec. 18: Creighton - Norman
Dec. 21: at Northwestern - Evanston, Ill.
Jan. 26: Vanderbilt - Norman