OU men's basketball: Lon Kruger wouldn't mind seeing Sooners' March Madness seed, despite cancelation

OU head coach Lon Kruger gives instructions to his team during the Sooners' game against Kansas, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, at Lloyd Noble Center. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

Oklahoma’s 2020-21 nonconference schedule is coming into focus.

The Sooners announced a new home-and-home series with another SEC program. OU is set to host Florida this upcoming season on Dec. 2 and visit the Gators the next for their first road game ever in Gainesville, Florida.

OU and Florida are coming off seasons with identical records. Both programs went 19-12 but were denied the opportunity to play in their conference tournaments due to the coronavirus pandemic canceling their postseasons.

The Sooners return forward Brady Manek (6-9, Sr./14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and guard Austin Reaves (6-5, Sr./14.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) from this past year’s starting lineup. Guards De’Vion Harmon (6-1, So./7.4 ppg, 2.0 apg) and Alondes Williams (6-5, Sr./6.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg) will return as well after splitting starting duties in their first OU seasons.

The Gators will bring back leading scorer Keyontae Johnson (6-5, Jr./14.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg), who considered entering the 2020 NBA Draft. Fellow Florida guard Scottie Lewis (6-5, So./8.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg) will also return to Gainesville after pondering his professional future.

The match-up also pits Lon Kruger’s Sooners against the school he coached for six seasons from 1990-96.

Kruger led the Gators to a 104-80 record during his tenure and guided the program to its first Final Four appearance ever in 1994.

Kruger left his alma mater, Kansas State, to head Florida. The Gators went 11-17 during Kruger’s first year but made back-to-back NIT appearances the next two seasons before their Final Four run.

Florida was the second school Kruger led to the NCAA Tournament. He’s led five in total to a March Madness bid, which he was the first to do so. Only Tubby Smith has since matched the accomplishment. Kruger remains the only coach, however, to win an NCAA Tournament game as the head coach of five different programs.

OU and Florida last met at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Nov. 21, 2018 in Paradise Island, Bahamas. The Sooners won 65-60 behind Christian James’ 18 points.

The programs have met just two other times — Jan. 28, 2017 in Norman for the Big 12/SEC Challenge and Dec. 30, 1995 in Oklahoma City. The Gators won both games.

OU’s 2020-21 nonconference slate will also feature a true road game at Central Florida, Washington in Las Vegas for a neutral-site event, Arkansas in Tulsa and reportedly at Xavier for the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

The Sooners will also visit Honolulu for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, which is scheduled for Dec. 22, 23, and 25.

Joe Buettner is a sports reporter for the Norman Transcript. You can contact him at (405) 366-3557 or jbuettner@normantranscript.com.

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