NORMAN — For the first time in three seasons, Oklahoma is going dancing.
And the Sooners' dance partner, No. 7 seed San Diego State (22-10, 9-7) is quite familiar to Sooners' coach Lon Kruger.
Kruger faced SDSU seven straight years while he was at the helm of UNLV, where he coached from 2004-2011, before joining the Sooners.
“San Diego State is a tough team,” Kruger said. “Steve Fisher does a great job. We battled him a lot of years at UNLV. He's got a very talented, athletic basketball team.”
Kruger's Running Rebels compiled a 5-13 record against the Aztecs. In three seasons, Kruger's team lost three different times to SDSU — twice in the regular season and once in the league tournament.
Kruger's last meeting against Fisher came a little over two years ago. UNLV lost 74-72 in the second round of the Mountain West Conference tournament. The loss marked their third of the 2010-11 season to the Aztecs.
But OU's coach was firm on his stance that his experience “won't make a big difference.”
“I didn't see them play that much this year,” he said. “I know they're very talented, very athletic. Steve Fisher does a terrific job. As far as knowing exactly about this team, we'll learn more the next couple days watching film.”
The Sooners' players didn't know much about the Aztecs either.
They didn't know junior guard Jamaal Franklin earned first-team All-Mountain West honors, that the Aztecs (after losing their season opener to then No. 9 Syracuse) went on an 11-game winning streak to open the season, that they recently lost to New Mexico in the semifinals of the league tournament or that SDSU's RPI and strength-of-schedule are better than OU's.
OU senior guard Steven Pledger did know a little, though, from watch the Aztecs on TV.
“I've seen them a little bit every once in a while,” Pledger said. “Some good guards. Good wingmen. It will be a good matchup.”
What they did know was that they were “headed east.”
The Sooners raised their hands into the air and began shaking hands and hugging after the announcement was made that they were in the tournament. Three seniors — Pledger, Andrew Fitzgerald and Sam Grooms — are from the east coast and were already discussing which of their extended family members they were excited about coming to Friday's dance-off.
OU players were hoping they could follow the footsteps of Philadelphia's iconic underdog story.
“Before the game, we need to go on the Rocky run and put on our sweats and everything,” OU senior Romero Osby said referring to the famous movie of the boxer who went from rags to riches.
“He had his back against the wall and people didn't believe he could do what he did,” Osby said. “Hopefully, we can do the same thing.”