In possibly their toughest test of the season, the Oklahoma Sooners will travel to Lawrence to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. Before we actually get to the action, Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk joined us for a Q&A segment concerning the match-up.
CCM - Kansas can usually hang their hat on defense. However, the tide seems to changing in Lawrence under Bill Self. Is that simply "my imagination running away with me" or is there some substance to that statement?
Andy Mitts - I don't think it is really defense being deemphasized in any way, but more that Bill Self just doesn't have the personnel to run the defense he wants. Self has always had a defense predicated on funneling the opponent into the middle where the talent in the frontcourt can alter or block shots. He just doesn't have that this year. Jamari Traylor is fairly good on the glass, but he is a liability on defense as a whole. Our best rim protector would be Hunter Mickelson, but he is a huge liability on offense for a team that has trouble scoring in the frontcourt. Our best hope is Cliff Alexander, but for some reason Self doesn't think he can trust him out on the floor for extended minutes.
That leaves the bulk of the defensive effort to be made in the perimeter. Frank Mason has been the only consistent one on defense, but Kelly Oubre (with his freakishly long arms), Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene have all shown the capability of making both spectacular and dumbfounding plays, sometimes on the same defensive possession.
Add it all up, and you get a team that looks lost on defense way too often. But I think that can be boiled down to inexperience for everyone involved, even the coaches.
CCM - The Jayhawks allow opponents to shoot 33.7% from beyond the arc while proving to be an elite shooting team themselves connecting on 38.9% of their own attempts. Oklahoma may not be the best 3-point shooting team but they've shown the willingness to take 30+ shots from beyond the arc before when the opportunity arises. Will this game be decided by perimeter shooting/defense?
AM - I actually don't think so. That seems to be an area of strength for both teams, but there is too much similarity that the only way I think perimeter shooting/defense makes the difference is if one team just lights it up or flames out uncharacteristically. You could also say that Selden can make a big difference by deciding to play on the perimeter as well instead of stepping inside the arc for an awful 2.
I actually think the better barometer of the game will be the FT differential. Oklahoma just doesn't get to the line very often, whereas Kansas gets there quite often. Neither team really gives up a lot of free trips though, so the real determinant of the game will likely be if Kansas can use their offensive rebounding and FT shooting to keep up with the overall efficiency of the Sooner offense.
CCM - Perry Ellis remains a familiar figure around the Big XII. Yet, the Jayhawks also have the ability to pull in big name freshman year after year. What names should Sooner fans be aware of?
AM - In the freshman class, there is Cliff Alexander, who can be absolutely dominant when Bill actually decides to release him, and Kelly Oubre can wreak havoc with his "spider arms" (7'2" wingspan).
But the guy who has been making a name for himself is Frank Mason. He's been absolutely the star of the team with his shooting percentages (50% from 2, 47.1% from 3, 82.5% from the foul line) and playing great defense (most of the time), all while playing 83% of the available minutes on the season. He even has his own (NSFW, but this link is ok) rap song (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/campus-corner/article5657358.html)
CCM - Iowa St. ranks among the nation's best in transition scoring and used it effectively on Saturday. Unfortunately for the folks in Lawrence, Oklahoma brings to the table another offense that excels in the transition game. What did the Jayhawks learn in Ames that could help them eliminate a strength of the Sooners?
AM - I don't think it will be possible to have as bad a time getting back on defense again as they did on Saturday. Self will make sure of that. But this was another puzzling part of the game, because Cliff is by far the best we have when it comes to big men running the floor, but he only played 2 minute in the second half. Its a little baffling.
I expect Oklahoma to get some points in transition, but the Jayhawks should be ready for it for the most part, especially since it's harder to play like that on the road.
CCM - Looking to rebound after a battle of heavy weights, Kansas has the opportunity to make a statement on Big Monday. Give us your score prediction.
AM -Ultimately I think the crowd plays a huge factor in this game. Kansas feeds off the energy at home, and they have been able to use that high octane play to cover up many of their shortcomings. I expect a physical game down low, but Kansas can't afford to give one up at home. Oklahoma makes a good run at it, but ultimately Kansas salts it away at the line. Kansas 78, Oklahoma 71.