After making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 at the conclusion of what was classified as a stop-gap season, the young and talented Oklahoma Sooners tip off their 2019-20 campaign Tuesday evening against a familiar foe — Steve Henson’s UTSA Roadrunners.
Oklahoma vs. UTSA: 7 p.m. at the Lloyd Noble Center
TV: This game will not be televised. It will instead be available online on SoonerSports.TV
Commentary: Chad McKee, Bryndon Manzer and Jessica Coody
Live Stream: SoonerSports.TV (subscription required)
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa, TuneIn App), Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing
Line: Oklahoma -12.5 (as of 3 p.m. CT)
- The Roadrunners are coached by Lon Kruger protégé and former OU assistant Steve Henson, who enters his fourth season as the head man in the Alamo City. Henson coach UTSA to a 14-19 record in his first season but has since led the program to consecutive winning seasons, which includes a tie for second in Conference USA last season.
- In 2019-20, UTSA is picked to finish second in CUSA by the league’s coaches, trailing only Western Kentucky. In Ken Pomeroy’s preseason ratings, the roadrunners are ranked 143rd nationally, which is good for fifth amongst the 14 CUSA basketball programs.
- Guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace UTSA as preseason All-CUSA picks, with each averaging over 20 PPG last season. In 2018, Wallace scored 16 against the Sooners on 6-16 shooting (4-12 from deep) while Jackson missed the game as he was recovering from a torn ACL.
- No Doolittle tonight: On Monday, it was revealed that Oklahoma would be without senior forward Kristian Doolittle in tonight’s contest. According to Lon Kruger, Doolittle played in a summer league game without receiving proper clearance from the NCAA, which will leave OU without its second-leading returning scorer and leading returning rebounder. At many times last season, Oklahoma’s half-court offense revolved around Doolittle, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Sooners fare as an incomplete product against a team that’s capable of at least making this thing somewhat interesting.
- Tempo, tempo, tempo: As one would imagine, Henson’s teams like to get out and run. His team was No. 19 nationally in KenPom’s adjusted tempo rating last season, and with the returning personnel, I wouldn’t expect that to change. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s new-look roster looks to return to this style of play after moving at an uncharacteristically slow pace in 2018-19. With De’Vion Harmon running the show and Jamal Bieniemy playing off-ball more frequently, expect OU in speed up from last season’s 123rd-ranked tempo (and probably by quite a bit). With all of this in mind, expect a ton of possessions and shot attempts tonight.
- Fresh faces: With only three returning contributors from last year’s team, some on the outside might assume that the Sooners are in for a down year. However, Lon Kruger’s staff assembled a formidable class to go along with household names Doolittle, Bieniemy and Brady Manek as a well as redshirt juniors Austin Reaves and Kur Kuath. The group is led by the aforementioned point guard Harmon, who was a four-star recruit and the No. 47 overall player in the 247Composite rankings. With him at the helm of the offense, expect this to be an exciting team. However, don’t sleep on fellow freshmen Jalen Hill and Victor Iwuakor, whose length and athleticism off the bench will be a sight to behold. Add athletic JUCO transfers Alondes Williams (SG, No. 19 overall JUCO) and Corbin Merritt (C, No. 36 overall JUCO), and you have yourself a fairly deep and intriguing roster.
Lon Kruger confirmed on today’s “T-Row Show” on @Sportstalk1400 that his plan is for Anyang Garang and Rick Issanza to redshirt this season. @OU_MBBall opens the season vs UTSA on Tuesday night (7p) in Norman.— Toby Rowland (@TRowOU) November 4, 2019
As I mentioned earlier, expect a fast-paced affair at the Lloyd Noble center this evening. It wouldn’t surprise me to see UTSA hang around well into the second half, but Oklahoma’s speed and athleticism paired with the outside shooting of Manek and Reaves should be too much for the Roadrunners in the end.
Score prediction: Oklahoma 92, UTSA 75