He'll have to wait another year as the second-seeded Sooners were taken out by seventh-seeded Baylor 78-73 in the Big 12 conference quarterfinals Thursday night at the Sprint Center.
OU had beaten Baylor twice during the regular season, but this was a much different Bears team the Sooners saw Thursday.
Once struggling to get onto the bubble, Baylor has won nine of its last 10 and has secured itself a spot in the field of 68 announced Sunday.
Baylor came out strong and took a 47-31 lead into halftime. The Bears eventually worked the lead up to 21 points early in the second half before the Sooners mounted their comeback.
Spurred by 3-pointers, OU was able to nibble away at the lead and got as close as 72-68 with 1:27 left but could never get within that four point margin.
A common concern voiced by OU fans this season has been its reliance on the 3-point shot. It was never more apparent than against the Bears.
Baylor center Isaiah Austin was a beast in the paint with five block shots in the first half. Because of that, OU tried to get back into the game from downtown. OU was 12-of-35 from 3-point territory, making 34 percent.
Conversely, the Sooners were 16-of-31 on their two-point field goal attempts. With so many shots coming from the outside, OU finished with a paltry seven free throw attempts compared to Baylor's 35. Baylor held a 23-5 edge in free throw conversions.
"I think it just shows us how much better we need to get," sophomore forward Ryan Spangler said. "There are a lot of things we need to work on."
With OU trailing 72-68 in the final minute, freshman guard Jordan Woodard had a wide open three-pointer but was unable to cash in. The Sooners were forced to foul, and Baylor made enough free throws to keep a comfortable margin.
Despite the loss, Kruger remained optimistic about things heading into the NCAA tournament.
"It won't affect our momentum," Kruger said. "If anything, we should have more focus on how we have to play and what we have to do."
OU won't have tired legs, either, for the tournament. The Sooners will find out their fate Sunday evening. Most bracketologists have the Sooners pegged as either a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the tournament.
Baylor had all five starters score at least 12 points and never trailed in the game.