Men’s basketball

Three storylines

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

Martins Igbanu

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.

Brandon Rachal

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.

Jeriah Horne

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.

SCHEDULE

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

ROSTER

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.

Midwest City

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,

Kan.

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.

Women’s basketball

THREE STORYLINES

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.

Seeking consistency

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

Kendrian Elliott

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.

Alexis Gaulden

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).

Desiree Lewis

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.

SCHEDULE

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.

ROSTER

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

Kelly Hines

918-581-8452

kelly.hines@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @KellyHinesTW

Sports Writer

Kelly has been the University of Tulsa football and basketball beat writer since 2014. She grew up in Moore, was valedictorian at Christian Heritage Academy and graduated from Oklahoma State University. Phone: 918-581-8452