CCM - Expectations always ride high in Lawrence during the basketball season. With the conference race continuing to become tighter and tighter between Kansas, Oklahoma, and Iowa State, what sets the Jayhawks apart from the rest of the competition?
RockChalkTalk - It's hard to define that one thing that sets them apart this year. Usually they have an edge on talent, but both Oklahoma and Iowa State are pretty much equal in that regard. I would say experience, but the Big 12 is loaded with talented teams. At this point, there really is only two things that set the Jayhawks apart from everyone else in the conference, both of which could prove crucial down the stretch.
The first is that the Jayhawks have been here before. Having won 11 straight Big 12 titles, every player on this squad that isn't in their first year has had a hand in bringing home at least one title. The experience and confidence that comes from being a prior champion is not really something that can be measured, but numerous accounts point to it at least being a calming influence when things get down to the wire.
The second is an edge that I think most Kansas fans take for granted: Head Coach Bill Self. There are other fabulous coaches in the Big 12, but Self has been in place for the longest. He has been able to shape this program to the image he has in his mind. He knows these players in and out, having had them play for him the entirety of their college careers. And ultimately, when it comes down to it, he has shown for the last 11 years that he knows how to win this league. Until someone else takes it from him, he's shown that he gets the benefit of the doubt.
CCM - Each and every year, KU recruits at a high level. However, a trend in the Big XII has occurred with players sticking around for four years. We are all familiar with names like Wayne Selden Jr., Frank Mason III, and Perry Ellis. Are there any newcomers contributing to the success of this squad so far?
RCT - Carlton Bragg has probably been the most consistent of the newcomers, but while he has played a consistent part, he's been more of a cog than a standout piece. Cheick Diallo hasn't really found his comfort zone with the team since being cleared to play. Lagerald Vick has really been an afterthought in all of this. I expect Bragg and Diallo to work into solid rotation pieces down low by the middle of conference play, but this team is so experienced and solid in the backcourt that I don't know that the freshman need to make huge impacts for the team to be successful.
CCM - Brannen Greene required off-season surgery. However, the shooter and sixth man has missed a handful of games this year. What's the status of his health? Should we expect to see Greene at 100% tonight?
RCT - Greene actually missed those games due to a discipline issue. Last I heard, he is fully healthy and should provide plenty of spot-shooting and general sixth-man type contributions. It's a bit crazy to me, but I've noticed his contributions less and less as the year has gone on, even though he pretty much single-handedly saved the Oregon State game from getting out of hand in the first half. The team is so balanced that his deadly three point shooting and tough defense are more replacement skills for other guys in the lineup instead of a unique talent that made sure he saw floor time.
CCM - These programs are very similar this season on both sides of the court. Two of the best backcourts in the country collide on the hardwood tonight. Which matchup do you see having the most significant impact on the outcome of the game?
RCT - I think the frontcourt is going to be the biggest matchup. Spangler is going to be the X-factor in the game. If he can get Ellis, Traylor and company in foul trouble and the young guys have to try and stem the bleeding, then Oklahoma will be able to rotate effectively as the perimeter guys have to cheat in a little to help. I'm not sure how good the Oklahoma interior passing is, but if the frontcourt can combine for 8-10 assists, then the Jayhawks defense is really in trouble.
CCM - Phog Allen may be the most difficult place to play in the nation. Give us your score prediction.
Allen Fieldhouse is easily in the Top 3 of College Basketball Destinations, and I still get chills when I think about the numerous times I got to watch a game in such a place. It's one of the few places left where you can't help but feel the history of the program and the building when you walk into it. Of course, it also helps when the home team is just so damn good when they play at home too. I think Oklahoma makes this a nail-biter, but we aren't in the slog of the conference yet. The big blowout of Baylor on Saturday has this team excited about it's potential this year, and I think the Jayhawks pull away late in this one. It's a lot closer than the final score will indicate, but Kansas goes perfect from the line down the stretch to win. Kansas 82, Oklahoma 73.