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Oklahoma Basketball Unveils Non-Conference Schedule

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The Oklahoma men's basketball team announced its non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 season on Thursday and it is really impressive.

The Sooners could face as many as six teams in the 14-game schedule that played in last year's NCAA tournament, including two No. 1 seeds from the tournament—Villanova (in Hawaii on Dec. 7) and Wisconsin (in Norman on Nov. 29).

The Sooners begin the season at Memphis on Nov. 17 before a run of home games sandwiched around the trip to Hawaii to take on Villanova. In that stretch, Oklahoma will take on McNeese State, Incarnate Word, Wisconsin, Central Arkansas, Oral Roberts and Creighton.

Oklahoma will also participate in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii Dec. 22, 23 and 25. The Sooners will be joined in Honolulu by Auburn, BYU, Harvard, Hawaii, New Mexico, Northern Iowa and Washington State.

A road game at LSU on Jan. 30 for the Big 12-SEC Challenge rounds out the Sooners' non-conference slate.

"Without a doubt this is one of the most ambitious non-conference schedules we have ever put together," OU coach Lon Kruger said. "But given the experienced makeup of our team, we feel it is appropriate. Our guys are looking forward to the many challenges in non-conference play and have been working hard since the end of last season to give us the best chance of being successful throughout the coming year. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Analysis

Kruger's right. This is a really difficult schedule, but he has the team to face it head-on.

Four OU starters will enter next season having started every game for the past two seasons, an almost unheard of note in today's college basketball. The return of Buddy Hield gave the Sooners a huge boost and most preseason polls have the Sooners in or hovering around the top-10.

The biggest question for this bunch is how they'll handle high expectations. Having a challenging schedule will certainly help alleviate some of that pressure, as there are zero nights off on this schedule.

The Sooners start at Memphis and face Wisconsin and Villanova just eight days apart. Those three games are the headliners, but ORU and Crieghton won't be cakewalks in Norman, and LSU has one of the best recruiting classes in the country coming in. That road trip to Baton Rouge at the end of January could very well be a top-25 showdown at worst.

The Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii over Christmas boasts a quality field, but OU should easily be the favorite to win the tournament. That will be a nice test for the Sooners to see how they handle pressure in a championship-type setting.

The only complaint anyone could have against this schedule is that OU plays just two true road games, but that's been the norm under Kruger. The most road games OU has played in non-conference is three in the 2012-13 season.

Kruger knows Oklahoma City is hosting second and third round games in the 2016 tournament, and this schedule sets the Sooners up to play a pair of home games at Chesapeake Energy Arena if they can navigate it successfully. It won't be easy, but Kruger and the Sooners should be commended for taking on such a challenging—and entertaining—slate of games this season.

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