Oklahoma basketball: Sooners’ non-league slate for 2017-18 includes as many as 6 NCAA Tournament teams

One season after going to the Final Four, men’s Oklahoma basketball barely escaped last place in the highly competitive Big 12, winning just 11 of 31 games overall and only five in league play.

Part of the reason for the deep falloff in wins from 2015-16 to last season was because of the schedule. According to ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index, the Sooners had the toughest overall strength of schedule in NCAA Division I basketball last season.

And things haven’t changed much for Oklahoma looking ahead to the 2017-18 nonconference schedule, which was released on Monday.

Former Oklahoma football coach always liked to say that to be the best, you have to play the best, OU basketball coach Lon Kruger buys into that same philosophy.

The Sooners will play as many as six of its 12 nonconference regular-season games against teams that participated in the 2017 NCAA Basketball Tournament, plus a game at Alabama as part of the Big 12/SEC Basketball Challenge. The Crimson Tide participated in the National Invitation Tournament in the postseason.

Oklahoma will go on the road to play at USC and Wichita State on back-to-back weekends in December. In addition, the Sooners are one of 16 teams participating in the PK80 Tournament in late November, recognizing Nike co-founder Phil Knight in connection with his 80th birthday celebration.

The Sooners will open against Arkansas, another NCAA Tournament team from last season, in the PK80 Tournament. OU also could potentially go up against defending national champion North Carolina, Michigan State or Oregon in its side of the bracket.

For the complete 2017-18 Oklahoma nonconference basketball schedule click here.

Oklahoma’s 12 nonconference opponents this coming season combined for a .620 winning percentage on an overall record of 327-200.

In a statement issued by the Oklahoma athletic department along with the announcement of the 2017-18 men’s basketball nonconference schedule, Kruger said:

“In playing in one of (the toughest), if not the toughest, conferences in college basketball, it’s important for us to prepare our team for Big 12 play through an ambitious nonconference schedule.

“The challenges and opportunities of this nonconference schedule are meant to set up our team for conference play and help our team play its best basketball late into the season.”

The Sooner men will open the 2017-18 college basketball season on Nov. 12 with a home opener against Nebraska-Omaha.