According to USA Today, it’s been 22 years since we last saw Lon Kruger coaching in the Final Four. After his Elite Eight victory over Oregon, Kruger and the Oklahoma Sooners punched their ticket to the final weekend in Houston. Naturally, there were questions about the last time Kruger made the Final Four.
Back in 1994, Kruger led the Florida Gators to a Final Four run. Since then, he’s made stops at Illinois, and UNLV, before making the Sooners his current home. Kruger took over the program in the 2011-12 season, and he’s led the Sooners to the NCAA Tournament the past four seasons. Overall, Kruger is (20-16) in 17 NCAA Tournament appearances.
However, postseason success did not come right away. In 2013-14, the Sooners lost a pair of first round games to San Diego State, and North Dakota State. Last season, the Sooners advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to Michigan State by four points. Now the Sooners are making their fourth appearance Final Four appearance.
With the return of Buddy Hield, the Sooners had high expectations this season, and they’ve been as impressive as any team in college basketball. Coming into the Final Four, Hield is the most explosive offensive player, and he can single-handedly shoot Oklahoma to a national title.
During the regular season, Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for three weeks. They currently have a (29-7, 12-6) record, and earned a No. 2 seed in the West region. The Sooners finished third in the Big 12.
West Region Recap:
First Round: Oklahoma 82 vs. Cal State Bakersfield 68
The Sooners had a thorough victory over Cal State Bakersfield. Although they weren’t dynamic by any stretch, Oklahoma won each half by seven points. They even score 41 points in each half. Buddy Hield opened the tournament with 27 points. Along with Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard each made three 3-pointers. As a team, the Sooners shot 55 percent from 3-point range.
Second Round: Oklahoma 85 vs. VCU 81
Due to Hield’s foul trouble, the Sooners had to rely on Cousins and Woodard to pace the scoring in the first half. The Sooners raced out to a 44-31 halftime lead. However, VCU’s comeback in the second half made it a thrilling contest. However, Hield scored 29 of his 36 points to fend off the Rams. Hield also made 6 of the 8 3-pointers by the Sooners.
Sweet 16: Oklahoma 77 vs. Texas A&M 63
For the first time all tournament, Hield wasn’t the leading scorer. Texas A&M did a good job of limiting Hield to 13 shot attempts, but they let Woodard and Christian James connect on 9 of 12 3-pointers. The Sooners dominated for a full 40 minutes, and advanced to the Elite 8.
Elite 8: Oklahoma 80 vs. Oregon 68
With the Sooners one game away from the Final Four, and Kobe Bryant in the audience, the Oregon Ducks never had a chance. Hield exploded for 37 points, making 8 of 13 3-pointers in the decisive victory. Once the Sooners jumped out to the double digit lead, they never relinquished it. The Sooners had their most impressive performance of the tournament.
The Sooners face the Villanova Wildcats in a game that will be dominated by guard play. Oklahoma also defeated the Wildcats by 23 earlier in the season.