Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma will put their three-game winning streak on the line Saturday afternoon when they host the Oklahoma State Cowboys in this season's first edition of Bedlam Basketball. A 2-0 start to the conference season would be huge for the Sooners, who are gunning for an return to the NCAA Tournament, which ultimately means protecting the home court is the most important thing for OU on Saturday.
The Sooners already have one road win on the conference season, which ties their total from last season. Winning at home in the Big 12 is an absolute must because every home loss means that its just another game that you have to pick up on the road. With the win at West Virginia last Saturday Oklahoma is a road win ahead on the season, which is a nice place to be. To maintain that position, OU will need to make the most of a few advantages while finding a way to overcome some disadvantages.
Home Court - Granted, it has been a little while since the LNC has been labeled as a hostile environment but it is still home for the Sooners. This should be the largest crowd of the season and the arena can get loud. Beyond that, the Cowboys have only played two road games this season with an 0-2 record in those games. The Sooners have won eight games in a row against OSU in Norman.
Rebounding - The Sooners aren't fantastic on the boards this season, but they are ranked 85th nationally. What, you're not impressed with that number? Compare it to Oklahoma State's 125th ranking and then talk to me. Romero Osby and Amath M'Baye combine for an average of 12.3 boards per game and rebounds were huge in OU's win over West Virginia last week.
Coaching - One thing that Lon Kruger has done since coming to Norman is prove that he knows what he's doing. He is putting the pieces of the puzzle together for a winning program and the results are showing in year number two. With a proven track record for winning at every stop, how can you not give him the advantage on the sideline in this game?
Scoring - Yep, this one is pretty important. OSU is averaging 70.8 points per game, which is slightly ahead of Oklahoma's 67.8. Romero Osby is OU's leading scorer with an average of 13.2 points per game. OSU has three players averaging more than Osby, led by Markel Brown's 14.5 points per contest.
Shooting Percentage - One thing obviously leads to another and the Cowboys' shooting nearly 45% from the floor explains why they are scoring three more points per game than OU. The Sooners are shooting 42% from the floor.
Defense - OSU is third in the Big 12 in points allowed (56.9 PPG) while the Sooners are fifth (61 PPG). The Cowboys are also holding opponents to 37% shooting from the floor while OU's opponents are good for 40%. Oklahoma State is also third in the conference in blocked shots per game with an average of 5.2 per game.
In most categories the Sooners and Cowboys are extremely close. Neither team has a large advantage in any category which means that this game could very well come down to intangibles like fouls and free throw attempts. As much as I'd like to say that playing at home gives OU an advantage there as well, I just can't because there's no telling what you're going to get with Big 12 officiating on any given night.