LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 16: Thomas Robinson #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks hugs Kevin Young #40 as Tyshawn Taylor #10 screams as the Jayhawks defeat the Baylor Bears 92-74 to win the game on January 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
It is very obvious that National Signing Day is going to dominate the conversation today. Basketball is very much so going to have to take a backseat to everything happening concerning the Sooner Football Program. With that said, I will keep this short.
The last time these two teams met, it was in Norman. What many thought would be quick work for the Kansas Jayhawks turned into a bit more of a challenge. Lon Kruger had a few things up his sleeve the Bill Self and Co. were not prepared for and the Oklahoma Sooners took a one point lead into the half. If the game would have ended there, Sooner Nation would have been ecstatic but this was a tale of two halves. After the break, the Jayhawks pouring it the Sooners early in the second half and never looked as they ran away with the victory.
The Sooners have proven that they can play with the Jayhawks. However, Allen Fieldhouse is by far the toughest place to play in the Big XII and the 17 game win streak in the arena backs that up. The challenge has definitely been set, but will this squad be able to take it on? We previewed the Jayhawks last go around so this time let's look at the keys to victory for the Sooners.
1 - Steven Pledger must find a rhythm and find it early. It is always tough to follow up a great performance with another one as Pledger had 30 points at Kansas St. If Oklahoma wants to see some of the pressure come off the big men, the answer is Pledger getting the hot hand. Last time out, Steven lead OU in scoring with 14 points while shooting very poorly. He will need to be aggressive to get to the free throw line as well as hit a few outside shots to help Oklahoma keep this one close and hopefully keep the edge.
2 - The players around Pledger must support his play. As the season has progressed Pledger has drawn more and more attention. It is easy to shut down one player if the rest aren't doing much in terms of what is on the score board. Cameron Clark will need to step it up as he has been doing as well as Carl Blair. The weight of the scoring must become a team effort in this game. Sam Grooms continues to protect the ball very well and had a 7/1 assist to turnover ratio against the Wildcats.
3 - The bench players must come in energetic and ready to play. Time and time again, this bench has produced very little and had no impact on the outcome of the game. The three leading scorers, Pledger, Romero Osby, and Andrew Fitzgerald all rank in the top of the Big XII in scoring. They are in fact the only trio from a Big XII team to do so this season. With 67% of the scoring coming from these three, Oklahoma could run into some trouble if any of them get into foul trouble.
4 - Coach Kruger will need to implement a zone defense a little more often. Oklahoma had much success with mixing up a man defense with a zone defense against Kansas. It was a large part of why they took a half time lead into the locker room. Kansas may be a bit more well prepared for it, but with the athleticism and talent, it is a much to throw the Jayhawks out of sync and negate any mismatches.
5 - This one is very simple...Oklahoma cannot let this game turn into a dunk fest. Osby has the ups and athleticism to be in a jam fest but that's it. Tyrus Thomas and Thomas Robinson are a duo to be reckoned with. With these players getting out in transition as well as after turnovers, OU could get themselves into some trouble and it will begin to look like the second half of round one. Limiting these players will be key.