A massive January output on the court has officially raised the expectations for Oklahoma basketball.
Becoming only the second team to beat three top-10 opponents in a row in the last 25 years, the No. 12-ranked Sooners ended the month taking down four top 10 teams in total.
Taking the court on Saturday against the No. 14 West Virginia Mountaineers, OU now has its sights set on bigger goals than simply making the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s very exciting because we have a chance to go really far,” forward Jalen Hill said during a video press conference on Thursday. “I feel like with this team, we can go to the (Big 12) Championship game, go to the Final Four, to the (NCAA) championship game.
“Everybody on this team is bought in to work, bought into the coaches and we’re just one big family.”
Transfer guard and defensive spark plug Elijah Harkless agreed with Hill’s goals.
“You can't put a ceiling on it when you’ve got a coach like coach Lon Kruger,” Harkless said. “He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer well known in the community, well known in college basketball. There’s no telling what his team can do. I just wanted to go somewhere where I can help.”
The chance to achieve those lofty goals could start in the Big 12 Tournament, which is still scheduled to take place. Harkless said the tournament was a key piece of what the Sooners are trying to build on this season.
“It’s a very important opportunity we get up there to go and play the best in the best conference, in the country,” he said. “If could go and win that, I think our odds go up a lot in March Madness.
“It prepares us well enough to be able to play back-to-back tough games. You know, we did that kind of two months ago and last month, played back-to-back-to-back-to-back great teams. I think the Big 12 prepares us the most.”
Kruger said if the Big 12 Tournament is still able to go on, the Sooners will be there.
“That’s not a choice many coaches have,” he said. “That’s gonna be a conference decision and we’re going to do whatever the conference deems we do. We’re all in on that.”
After a rare week off due to Wednesday’s matchup with the No. 2 Baylor Bears getting postponed, OU should be fresh heading into Morgantown.
“They’ve had a really good week of practice,” Kruger said about his team. “To their credit, they’ve locked in and tried to get better during this week that we didn’t have a ballgame.”
The Sooners won the first meeting against the Mountaineers on Jan. 2 in Lloyd Noble Center 75-71, sparking the recent streak of elevated play.
The game will be carried exclusively by Big 12 Now on ESPN+, tipping off at noon CT Saturday.