OU puts Big 12 behind them

Sooners forget the good and the bad from a weekend in Kansas City

Never one to speak off the cuff or ramble, Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler made his words very deliberate Sunday afternoon.

He didn’t want to talk about the final play against Iowa State in the aftermath of the semifinals loss – and who could blame him.

Spangler knew the question would be coming, though.

“I was upset about letting my teammates down,” Spangler said. “That’s past me. I know I can’t do anything about it. I’m going to be ready for my teammates this week. I’m gonna make sure they work hard this week in practice, and we’re gonna be ready to go.”

The good and the bad from the Big 12 Conference Tournament seems to be behind Oklahoma. There was no talk of finally winning a postseason game, only preparing to win more than one in the NCAA tournament.

Spangler seems to have put his miss in the past.

Oklahoma, which earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament after its third-straight, 20-win season, prepares for its opening round game against No. 14 Albany (24-8) at 6:27 p.m. Friday with the intention of making history for Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger and winning more than just one game – even though the Sooners still haven’t won once under Kruger.

“I would like to get a lot more than one (win),” Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield said. “This is a hungry team. The best is yet to come for us.”

The odds would have Oklahoma winning its first NCAA Tournament game under Kruger. During the past 15 years, only five No. 3 seeds have lost in 60 games. Although, No. 3 Duke lost last year to Mercer.

While the Sooners will look to leave behind the emotions of the Big 12 Tournament, they won’t have the option of leaving behind the Big 12 and the grueling schedule that forged them.

The Big 12 had a nation-leading seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, five teams ranked with a No. 5 seed or higher and four teams will at least a No. 3 seed.

“Even though we were arguably the best conference in the country, we need to validate that with some wins and team advancing,” Kruger said.

The Sooners played a nation-high 14 games against ranked teams during its schedule and won a program record seven games against ranked teams.

“I feel like guys will come with a chip on their shoulders and be ready to get after this team,” Hield said.

Oklahoma (22-10) had plenty to celebrate Sunday afternoon. It awarded three player-voted honors before the Selection show to Isaiah Cousins (Most Improved), Ryan Spanger (Most Inspirational) and Buddy Hield (Most Valuable).

And then, Oklahoma celebrated its highest seed under Kruger. The Sooners will have a chance to stay close to home – heading to the second-closest site in the first two rounds.

“It’s a compliment to our guys’ performance in the toughest league in the country,” Kruger said. “When you battle day in, day out in the Big 12 and come away one game back in second place, it means you’ve had a good year.”

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