NORMAN — The buzz was different on the floor of Lloyd Noble Center late Sunday afternoon. No. 17 Oklahoma had just wrapped up its team banquet a few minutes earlier. When and where it was playing next was the only issue remaining.
The announcement came relatively quick. The Sooners (23-9) received the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament’s west region. They face No. 12 seed North Dakota State (25-6) at 6:27 p.m. Thursday at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Wash. The game will be televised on truTV.
A roar went over the crowd when OU’s slot was announced, but it wasn’t the sense of joyous relief OU experienced a year ago on Selection Sunday.
Even the players were subdued.
“This year, we kind of knew we were going to make the tournament,” OU forward Cameron Clark said. “We’re trying to take the next step. We’ll focus on the first game and do what we need to do to get this win.”
OU’s mindset was on display even on a celebratory day like Sunday.
College basketball teams around the country gather in front of television screens as the field of 68 is revealed.
Most know whether they’re not getting in. Others are praying somehow, someway, the NCAA tournament selection committee bought their arguments. Those are the teams — the ones on the “bubble” — that experience true agony on a day like Sunday. OU experienced it a year ago.
A select group of about 30 or so were in the Sooners’ shoes Sunday. There was not anything to sweat. Just a lot of waiting around to see where and when and against which team.
The lack of stress was noticeable.
“It was much better sitting there and waiting to see who the opponent is going to be and the location as opposed to wondering if your name is going to be called,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “That’s a credit to these guys. They’ve earned this and they’ve made the progress necessary. I know they’ll be excited about lining up and working to get a better result than we did a year ago.”