NORMAN — There were no wild celebrations at Lloyd Noble Center about 5:15 p.m. Sunday when Oklahoma’s initial matchup for the NCAA Tournament popped onto the large screen in front of where the team was seated.
“It’s a little bit different,” senior Cam Clark said. “Last year, we were just waiting for our name to see if we made the tournament. This year, we kind of knew we were going to make the tournament. We’re trying to take the next step.”
A year after being bounced in the “second round” by San Diego State, the Sooners’ path looks much better this time around.
Oklahoma is a No. 5 seed in the West region, where the Sooners will take on No. 12 seed North Dakota State at 6:27 p.m. on Thursday.
With a win, OU would face the winner of No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 New Mexico State.
After the announcement, Sooners coach Lon Kruger said he didn’t know much about North Dakota State outside of casually catching a couple of Bison games on television.
“Coach (Saul) Phillips does a great job,” Kruger said. “I’ve watched his teams over the years. We know that’ll be a big challenge on Thursday.”
The North Dakota State athletic program has been primarily known for its football team, which has won three consecutive Football Championship Subdivision national titles and has beaten FBS schools in each of the last four seasons, including last year over Kansas State.
Phillips’ team won the Summit League regular-season and tournament titles with an offense that is one of the nation’s most efficient. The Bison lead the nation with a 50.9 shooting percentage.