Oklahoma's next five basketball games will test true mettle of this year's Sooner team.
What could be the worst thing to happen to Oklahoma men's basketball right now, you ask? It's spelled K-A-N-S-A-S, the Sooners next opponent on the Big 12 schedule.
It's difficult enough to go up against Kansas in hoops anywhere, anytime, but to have to go on the road and play them on their home court in Allen Fieldhouse, one of the true meccas in all of college basketball...well, best of luck
Think that's an exaggeration? Consider that the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks, who are 17-1 at this point in the season and could very well be ranked No. 1 in one or both the USA Today and AP polls when the new rankings come out early next week, have only lost 26 games out of 390 total played at 58-year-old Allen Fieldhouse in the past 25 seasons and have won 101 of the last 102 played there.
The good news is that the Sooners have won at Kansas, but only three times in the past 25 years and not since 1993, when Jeff Webster, Bryatt Vann and Company pulled out an 80-77 victory. The hard fact is, Kansas has owned Oklahoma in basketball, as it has every other team in the Big 12 and all of the conference's past iterations.
"The Jayhawks are very good; a top two or three team in the country right now," said Sooner head coach Lon Kruger. "(They've got) a lot of very good players, and Allen Fieldhouse is a great atmosphere. We'll have to do things better on both ends of the floor."
The two teams first met in 1920, and the Jayhawks proceeded to win the first nine games between the two schools, just as they have the last nine times the two schools have played. Oklahoma's last basketball victory over KU came in 2005, when the Sooners won 71-63 in Norman. All-time, Kansas owns a 138-64 series record against the Sooners, and a giant 70-16 edge when the two teams do battle in Lawrence. Since Allen Fieldhouse opened in 1955, Oklahoma has won seven and lost 42 times in games played there.
Perhaps the most memorable of the meetings on the hardwood between Oklahoma and Kansas was at a neutral site (if you want to call Kemper Arena in Kansas City - approximately a half-hour drive from the KU campus in Lawrence, a neutral venue - in the 1988 NCAA National Championship. No one in the Sooner Nation will ever forget that game, in which heavily favored and No. 1-seeded OU fell to Danny Manning and the No. 6-seeded Jayhawks. Just one more in the long string of Kansas wins over Oklahoma.
After losing the NCAA basketball title in Kansas City, the Sooners, led by All-Americans Stacy King and Mookie Blaylock, earned a minor measure of redemption by sweeping the two games between the two schools the following season (1988-89). Since then, however, Oklahoma has gone 12-27 in 24 seasons against Kansas.
At 13-4 overall and 4-1 and tied for second place in the Big 12, the Sooners are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season, when Blake Griffin led the Sooners to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Three of OU's four conference wins this season, though, have been against teams with a combined Big 12 record of 4-12
Next up come successive games against Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State and then a rematch with Kansas. Those four teams combined have an overall record of 58-14 and are currently 16-4 in conference play. As if that isn't ominous enough, of the next four games, only the game with Kansas State is in Norman.
Over the next two weeks, we are going to get an excellent measure of how far the Sooners have come this season under second-year head coach Lon Krugeer and exactly what this year's team is made of. And it all starts this Saturday when OU makes a second successive weekend trip to the Sunflower State.
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