necessary to find chemistry early
At least five players are newcomers (a sixth, Curtis Haywood II, is awaiting word on a waiver request) and they all will be key contributors, making this a season with an unknown ceiling. The Hurricane has an intriguing nonconference schedule that features games against Kansas State, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Boise State and Colorado State, so TU will be tested in the early going while roles are still being sorted out. How the Hurricane responds in November and December could reveal what will follow in league play.
Crashing the boards
A lack of consistent rebounding was a major weakness last season for the Hurricane, which ranked last in the American Athletic Conference with only 7.8 offensive rebounds per game. In nine out of 18 conference games, TU gave up at least 14 offensive rebounds. This season, the Hurricane will need a better collective effort to flip the script, and it has additional size in the form of reserve 7-footer Emmanuel Ugboh, 6-7 swingman Reggie Jones and 6-6 guard Brandon Rachal.
Seeking a return to the postseason
Since playing in the NCAA Tournament First Four in 2016, the Hurricane has not reached the 20-win mark or played in the postseason the past three years. The past two years, TU was more competitive in the American, but ultimately one-and-done in the conference tournament. Despite not receiving a transfer waiver for guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson, this team has the potential to be the most talented under sixth-year coach Frank Haith, and missing the postsesason again would be a disappointment.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Instead of transferring like many players have done, Igbanu stuck with the Hurricane and kept working on getting better. As a senior on a team that likes to play inside-out, he is a significant piece.
A former LSU guard who spent a year at junior college, Rachal brings a competitiveness and toughness that could be the difference for TU this season. He can do it all, including play intense defense.
A key sixth man who can provide instant scoring off the bench, Horne showed last season an ability to heat up from 3-point range. He also has slimmed down to give him more fluidity on the court.
Nov. 5: Houston Baptist, noon
Nov. 9: at UT Arlington, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12: Oral Roberts, 7 p.m.
Nov. 16: Austin Peay, 2 p.m.
Nov. 20: Southeastern Louisiana, 7 p.m.
Nov. 27: South Carolina State, 1 p.m.
Nov. 30: at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.
Dec. 4: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 7 p.m.
Dec. 7: Arkansas State, TBA
Dec. 11: Boise State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 14: at Arkansas, 12:30 p.m., ESPNU
Dec. 21: vs. Colorado State (BOK Center), 1:30 p.m.
Dec. 29: at Kansas State, 5 p.m., ESPN+
Jan. 3: Temple, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Jan. 8: at Cincinnati, 6 p.m.
Jan. 11: Houston, 3 p.m.
Jan. 15: at East Carolina, 6 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Tulane, 1 p.m.
Jan. 22: Memphis, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Jan. 26: at UConn, 11 a.m., CBSSN
Feb. 1: Wichita State, 5 p.m., ESPNU
Feb. 6: UConn, 6 p.m.
Feb. 9: at UCF, 1 p.m.
Feb. 12: East Carolina, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15: at USF, 11 a.m., ESPNU
Feb. 19: at Houston, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Feb. 22: SMU, 5 p.m., ESPNU
Feb. 25: Tulane, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Feb. 29: UCF, 5 p.m., ESPNU
March 4: at Temple, 6 p.m.
March 8: at Wichita State, 3 p.m., CBSSN
No. Player Ht. Class Hometown
0 Brandon Rachal 6-6 Jr. Natchitoches, La.
1 Martins Igbanu 6-8 Sr. Lagos, Nigeria
2 Keyshawn Embery-Simpson 6-3 So.
3 Elijah Joiner 6-3 Jr. Chicago
4 Isaiah Hil 6-0 Fr. Bakersfield, Calif.
5 Lawson Korita 6-5 Sr. Little Rock, Ark.
11 Darien Jackson 6-3 Jr. Overland Park, Kan.
12 Emmanuel Ugboh 7-0 Jr. Lagos, Nigeria
13 George Christopoulos 6-0 Fr. Athens, Greece
15 Josh Earley 6-7 Fr. Shawnee Mission,
22 Reggie Jones 6-7 Jr. Marion, Ind.
23 Ryan Gendron 6-4 Fr. Tulsa
33 Curtis Haywood II 6-5 Jr. Oklahoma City
41 Jeriah Horne 6-7 Jr. Overland Park, Kan.
Looking to replace Crystal Polk
Although the Hurricane went 13-18 last season, senior forward Crystal Polk was often dominant, averaging 13.3 points and 7.4 rebounds and shooting close to 50% from the field. Finding a replacement for her production will be a tall task, but Kendrian Elliott, a 6-foot-2 senior, is expected to shoulder much of that load. TU also brought in 6-3 freshman Emma Duerr, who could contribute off the bench.
The Hurricane has several young, talented players but doesn’t always receive predictable performances from them, creating instability that has plagued Tulsa in recent seasons. The Hurricane’s five sophomores gained valuable experience as freshmen last year and they now need to be counted upon on an every-game basis, particularly in the fourth quarter, when TU has often crumbled in the past.
Trying to change the culture
Since joining the American Athletic Conference, TU has finished above .500 once, and that was in its first season five years ago. It has been a struggle to compete with more successful programs in the league, but coach Matilda Mossman said her team has embraced a culture change that should result in more victories this season. If it doesn’t, a coaching change could be on the horizon.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
As a senior forward, Elliott moves back into the starting lineup and should find more success after getting into better shape. She totaled 27 points and 12 rebounds as a matchup nightmare in TU’s exhibition.
A savvy senior guard from Broken Arrow, Gaulden is the Hurricane’s top returning scorer after averaging 11.8 points last season. She ranks fifth in program history in 3-pointers (143).
Lewis showed as a freshman she can be a rebounding machine, with a natural knack for tracking down the ball despite being undersized at 5-10. She is on her way to becoming a four-year starter.
Nov. 5: Stephen F. Austin, 7 p.m.
Nov. 9: Arkansas State, 2 p.m.
Nov. 13: Oklahoma State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 21: Oral Roberts, 7 p.m.
Nov. 25: Loyola Marymount, noon
Nov. 29: vs. Western Kentucky (Moraga, Calif.), 2 p.m.
Nov. 30: vs. Marquette (Moraga, Calif.), 2 p.m.
Dec. 5: at Abilene Christian, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 7: at Little Rock, 2 p.m.
Dec. 11: at Arkansas, 6 p.m., SECN
Dec. 15: at Stetson, noon
Dec. 21: Colorado State, 6 p.m.
Dec. 29: at UTEP, 2 p.m.
Jan. 4: Temple, 2 p.m.
Jan. 8: at Tulane, 7 p.m.
Jan. 12: USF, 5 p.m., CBSSN
Jan. 15: at Wichita State, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: at UConn, 11 a.m.
Jan. 21: East Carolina, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25: at SMU, 2 p.m.
Jan. 29: Tulane, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1: at Memphis, 3 p.m.
Feb. 5: UCF, 7 p.m.
Feb. 12: at Cincinnati, 10 a.m.
Feb. 15: SMU, 2 p.m.
Feb. 19: at East Carolina, 6 p.m.
Feb. 23: Wichita State, 2 p.m.
Feb. 29: at Temple, 1 p.m.
March 2: Houston, 7 p.m.
No. Player Ht. Class Hometown
00 Kendrian Elliott 6-2 Sr. Wichita, Kan.
1 Destiny Johnson 5-8 Fr. Sand Springs
4 Addison Richards 6-2 Sr. Bixby
10 Alexis Gaulden 5-8 Sr. Broken Arrow
11 Maddie Bittle 5-8 So. Bixby
15 KK Rodriguez 5-6 So. St. Louis
20 Elin Hrafnkelsdottir 6-1 So. Kopavogur, Iceland
21 Rebecca Lescay 5-8 Jr. Plano, Texas
22 Morgan Brady 5-7 Jr. Little Rock, Ark.
23 Kayla Moutry 5-9 So. McKinney, Texas
24 Madi Washington 5-9 Jr. Red Oak, Texas
25 Emma Duerr 6-3 Fr. Long Valley, N.J.
32 Desiree Lewis 5-10 So. Converse, Texas