SPOKANE, Wash. — The 10-week string of brutal games against very familiar opponents haas finally ended for Oklahoma.
The loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals still stings. But it enters Thursday’s meeting with North Dakota State comforted by the knowledge it’s playing a team for the first time since facing West Virginia Feb. 5.
“I think it also got us ready for every great team in the country. We’ve faced little lineups. We’ve faced big lineups,” OU forward Ryan Spangler said. “I think it’s got us ready.”
The Bison (25-6) won’t offer a unique challenge to OU. It’s faced elite scorers, premier rebounders and dominant shot blockers multiple times this season.
However, taking North Dakota State lightly simply would be akin to slicing your finger before swimming with sharks.
Toss out the fact it won both the Summit League regular season and tournament titles. It was No. 35 in the final Ratings Percentage Index this season. Even without the conference tournament title and the automatic bid they had secured, the Bison likely did enough to land an at-large bid.
“They’re a good team, which you expect this time of year. They won their conference and are playing with a lot of confidence,” OU coach Lon Kruger said.
The Bison possess multiple traits of teams that score upsets in the NCAA tournament.
They have a legitimate scorer with forward Taylor Braun. The 6-foot-7 senior averaged 18.2 points a game during the regular season and was the Summit League Player of the Year.
“Terrific player,” Kruger said of Braun. “He can score in so many different ways. He’s good off the dribble, can shoot the three and makes plays for others. Good size. Just a very good all around player. He’s the guy you go to when you need something.”