Tipping Off Sooner Basketball: OU Begins Season on the Road


Tuesday night marks the long-awaited 2015-16 season opener for Sooner basketball as Oklahoma travels to the state of Tennessee to take on the Memphis Tigers in a game to be televised nationally on ESPN.

The Sooner men’s team, ranked eighth nationally to begin the college basketball season, return four starters from last season’s 25-win squad along with 75 percent of its scoring production and almost 70 percent of its rebounding. Most college basketball experts and the preseason preview publications believe this will be the best OU team in head coach Lon Kruger’s five seasons at Oklahoma.

Leading the Sooner attack again this season is reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, who led the Big 12 in scoring a year ago in his junior season with a 17.4 average. Hield is joined in the starting lineup by returning starters Isaiah Cousins, forward Ryan Spangler and point guard Jordan Woodard.

Mar 27, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield (24) drives to the basket against Michigan State Spartans forward Matt Costello (10) and guard Travis Trice (20) during the first half in the semifinals of the east regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

OU newcomers expected to make important contributions this season are 6-10 redshirt freshman Jamuni MacNeace, freshman guards Christian James and Rashard Odomes and redshirt-freshman forward Dante Buford. Those four contributed a collective 28 points in two exhibition wins this month.

Memphis is 1-0 this season, having defeated Southern Mississippi 67-49 in its season opener last Friday. The Tigers were 18-14 a year ago and tied for fifth in th expece American Athletic Conference. Memphis is led in scoring by 6-9 senior forward Shaq Goodwin, who averaged 9.6 points and 7 rebounds a game last season and put in 15 points with 9 rebounds in the Tigers season-opening win over Southern Mississippi.

The Tigers are also expected good things this season from Alabama transfer Ricky Tarrant, Jr., who averaged 13 points a game for the Crimson Tide in 2013-14.

Oklahoma has never beaten Memphis is six previous games between the two schools. The Sooners have been very good in the 2000s in season openers. They are 4-0 under Lon Kruger and have won 12 consecutive games to open the men’s basketball season.

After the Memphis game, Oklahoma returns home for four consecutive games before heading to Hawaii for a game on Dec. 7 against Villanova, ranked 11th this week in the Associated Press Top 25.