There has been a series of firsts since this Oklahoma team came together earlier this summer. First it was their first workout, then individual work, and finally a practice. After, they played their first games together against international competition in Australia. Then came a flurry of them:
First day of class? Check.
First day of preseason practice? Yep.
First exhibition game? Absolutely.
First official game? You bet.
First game away from Norman? Done.
First road environment?
The game in Los Angeles turned out to be a neutral site game for Lon Kruger and his team with the sparseness of the USC crowd. With that, a unique opportunity awaits this young Sooners team when they travel to Wichita, Kansas as the No. 3 Ranked Wichita State Shockers have one of the more rabid fan bases in all of college basketball. Although the game is being played off-campus at Intrust Bank Arena, the backdrop will be a sea of yellow and black–making it Oklahoma’s first true road test.
“It’s great from a preparation standpoint,” Head Coach Lon Kruger said Wednesday about what this game presents. “(Some) guys kind of think they have an idea of what lies ahead on Saturday–probably some of them don’t ’cause they’ve never been in that situation–but it’s going to be very much like a tough Big 12 conference road game. And that’s good preparation for league play”
During his senior year of high school, Trae Young filled gyms up to capacity across the state of Oklahoma with people wanting to get their chance to watch him. It didn’t matter if the game was home or away, the stands would be full of those wanting a chance to see him play or opposing fans hoping he’d struggle. This time around, the fans cheering for him will definitely be in the minority at Intrust Bank Arena.
“It’s going to be fun, I know it’s going to be rocking,” Trae Young said about his first true road test. “That’s one of the toughest places to play in college basketball*, so, its going to be a good test for us. I can’t wait. I’m so anxious to get up there and get the games going.”
With Oklahoma’s 7-1 start, they’re beginning to get recognition from voters across the country. In this week’s Coaches Poll, the Sooners moved in at No. 24. Even with their omission from the AP Poll, Oklahoma received the second most votes among teams not in the poll.
Within the hot start has been unordinary play from a freshman. Trae Young is leading the country in points at 28.8 points per game while adding 8.8 assists per game (which is good for third in the country). These numbers and highlight plays have made him must-watch television early into the college basketball season. Rob Dauster of NBC Sports went as far to put him as the No. 1 player in all of college basketball in his Player of the Year Power Rankings. It’s really easy for a freshman to block it out or let it to get to them. For Young, he does neither.
“It’s not that tough to handle whenever I have the people around that keep me level-headed,” Young said. “I mean, I saw that and I was very honored to receive that and to get the recognition like that, but I know it’s just the beginning of the season. I want to be at the top of that list at the end of the season, and that’s all that matters.”
It might be Oklahoma’s first road test, but it comes in the marquee game of the weekend. The country is starting to take notice of level-headed Trae Young and this revamped Sooners team…and an opportunity to further their place in college basketball awaits them up I-35 in Wichita, Kansas.
*The game is being played off-campus at Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita. It is expected to be a home atmosphere.
Oklahoma and No. 3 Wichita State tip-off at 3:00 PM CT on ESPN 2