The Oklahoma Sooners took a hard fall in the conference opener against the Missouri Tigers. Next up are the Kansas Jayhawks, a powerhouse of the basketball community. While looking from the outside, it is easy to write this Jayhawk team off as not as good as advertised. However, a second look reveals respectable losses to the #5 Duke Blue Devils and the #2 Kentucky Wildcats (both in the Maui Invitational) along with handing the only loss of the season to the now #9 Georgetown Hoyas (also in the Maui Invitational) and defeating the #6 Ohio St. Buckeyes but most recently the #22 Kansas St. Wildcats. The single puzzling loss comes to Davidson Wildcats (has the mascot "Wildcats" been used enough already?) who had no business beating a team with this much talent but such is the game of basketball.
The Sooners are set to host their first conference match-up of the season tomorrow afternoon with yet another tall task. The game is set to tip-off at 1:05 pm CT. Will Oklahoma be able to tarnish the record of the Jayhawks even further?
Bill Self is going to employ a three guard set, something that helps yet hurts the Sooners. As we saw against Missouri, it is impossible for OU to put Tyler Neal or Romero Osby outside on a smaller more agile guard. That is a mismatch that every team and any team will take advantage of all day long. So, the fact that it will be guards on guards and bigs on bigs is a good thing.
The biggest challenge is going to be matching the power and size of Kansas inside. Oklahoma will likely be under-sized from here on out in conference play and tomorrow will be no different as forward Thomas Robinson is 6-9 while center Jeff Withey is a true 7-footer. Both Robinson and Withey will be going against 6-8 players unless Kruger chooses to sacrifice offense for size and inserting Casey Arent into the starting line-up.
Regardless of who is on him, Robinson is going to get his numbers. He is a very athletic for his size and currently averages 17.5 pts per game and 12.3 rebounds while leading the Big XII in double-doubles with seven. With this kind of player at their disposal, look for Kansas to play a traditional inside-out game.
The one saving grace that could keep the Sooners close in this one is Steven Pledger. Pledger will have a one-on-one matchup with Tyshawn Taylor who averages 15.1 pts per game and 5 assists which could break out into a shooting contest which I give the upper hand to Pledger on.
All in all, the Kansas Jayhawks are a very talented team with a couple of NBA caliber players. If KU has their way with Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald, it is going to be a tough one for the Sooners. The guards will need to double down on the entry pass hoping to come up with a turnover and a few fast break points.