Oklahoma basketball: Sooners host Cincinnati in near must-win Big 12 home finale

Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

All season long, we've talked about this being the final Oklahoma basketball season as a member of the Big 12 Conference. And tonight, the Sooners will play their last home game at Lloyd Noble Center under the Big 12 banner.

The Sooners (19-10, 7-9), still looking for that elusive 20th win, will host Cincinnati (17-12, 6-10) in a game with NCAA Tournament implications for both teams. Oklahoma probably needs at least one more win to assure its place in March Madness for the first time in three seasons.

A Sooner win would put an end to any hopes the Bearcats have of reaching the NCAA Tournament (short of winning the Big 12 Tournament). But a Cincinnati win in Norman followed by a probable victory at home over West Virginia in the regular-season finale on Saturday could keep them in the conversation with a chance to add to their resume in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament. That do-or-die hope is what could make conference rematch on Tuesday a tough, emotional contest.

These two teams have played each other just seven times previously, including earlier this season in a game won by Oklahoma 69-65 at Cincinnati. The Bearcats lead the all-time series 4-3 and are 1-1 in games played in Norman.

It is Senior Night at OU, which will add another bump of emotion and crowd excitement, which hopefully the Sooners will be able to feed off of. Oklahoma will recognize seniors Rivaldo Soares, Sam Godwin, Le'Tre Darthard and Maks Klanjscek. Godwin has another year of eligibility if he chooses to use it.

Tuesday night's game will not be broadcast on commercial or cable TV. The game can be viewed, however, on ESPN+.

Oklahoma closes out the regular season against Texas in Austin on Saturday.

Five things fans need to know about OU's Big 12 home finale

  • Oklahoma ranks 41st in NCAA NET rankings through games of March 3 and is eighth in the Big 12. Cincinnati is 45th in NET and 10th in the conference standings.
  • One of the big concerns of OU head coach Porter Moser in preparing for Cincinnati is their impressive size and length. The Bearcats have four players who stand 6-foot-9 or taller. They guard extremely well and make it difficult to get shots off in close to the basket. Senior Aziz Bandaogo is 7-foot, averages 7.3 points and 7,7 rebounds per game and a player to watch in this regard.
  • The Sooners are hoping to build off of the momentum from the game on Saturday, arguably their best outing of the season, in an 87-85 loss to No. 1 Houston. The 85 points by Oklahoma were the most scored against Houston this season. Moser said in a press interview session on Monday that he wants the Sooners to play like they did on Saturday, "with pace and being shot ready." If OU executes as efficiently as it did against one of the best defensive teams in the country in Houston, all should work out well.
  • Cincinnati is the best rebounding team in the Big 12, averaging 40 rebounds and 13.9 offensive boards per game. Because of that, Oklahoma will need to shoot the ball well and do its best to limit second-chance points by the Bearcats off of offensive rebounds. The Sooners will need Javian McCollum (13.6 per game), Rivaldo Soares (15.5 in last four games) and Jalon Moore (10.6) to make strong contributions on the offensive end against Cincinnati.
  • Cincinnati's major scoring threats are guards Dan Skillings Jr. (11.9 per game) and Day Day Thomas (10.4) and forward/guard Simas Lukosius (10.1), whose three-point shooting accounts for more than half of his total points. Lukosius led the Bearcats with 17 points against the Sooners in the earlier game this season.