The perfect storm that is the Oklahoma Sooners basketball season crescendos to an all-time high as the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks visit the Sooners in Norman. With six straight losses under their belts and eight total, Oklahoma is officially last in the Big 12 standings. As OU experiences downward spiral, the Jayhawks’ momentum is moving in the complete opposite direction. Despite a four-point loss to commence their season, KU has managed to go on a tear of 14 straight wins. The streaks for both of these teams don’t seem to be in trouble, for the Sooners should not be much of a matchup for the highly-touted Jayhawks tonight. However, Lon Kruger is a man who has been counted out his whole career. Should we second-guess our assuredness in the outcome of this one?
How to watch
The game tips at 8:00 PM CT in Norman, OK and will be televised on ESPN2 and WatchESPN. Tune in or show up to support the Sooners, or contribute to the game thread in the comment section below.
Oklahoma has historically struggled against Kansas. 66-144 to be exact. In other words, we get a taste of what Oklahoma State football feels like every year going into Bedlam. Kruger's record against the Jayhawks has not helped either. With ten matchups against Kansas under his belt as OU's head coach, Kruger has only two wins to his name. Both of these wins occurred in Norman, and that is about the only glimpse of hope that Oklahoma can hold onto. However, this game may not be a route. Here's why:
In the last five games against the Jayhawks, the Sooners are 1-4. In those five games, Oklahoma has lost by less than five points in the three of those games. All of those contests were decided by less than 10 points. Kruger only has one blowout loss to KU at OU, and that was in his second contest against them. They lost by 22 points in that matchup.
The Sooners’ Final Four team was swept by the Jayhawks last season, but one of those games is considered to be one of the greatest in the history of college basketball. A triple overtime thriller in Lawrence ended with an OU defeat. Kruger has been swept by KU three times since being at OU, and has split the series in the other two seasons. Oklahoma will need to grab a win at home in order to avoid being swept two seasons in a row. This would be the first time Kruger's team would be swept two seasons in a row since being at OU, if they cannot steal a win this season.
It is obvious that Oklahoma and Kansas are on completely different tracks this season. The Jayhawks find themselves in the national title race once again, while the Oklahoma Sooners will need to fight to just to secure an NIT bid. How did these teams get to this point?
Kansas does many things correctly. This is the reason why they have rattled off 14 straight wins, one of those being a win over then-No. 1 Duke. They are executing efficiently, sitting at 3rd in the country in shooting percentage (51.2 percent), 4th in the country in 3-point shooting (42 percent) and 5th in the country in field goals made per game. However, what do they do wrong? KU is known for fouling quite a bit during games, averaging 20 per game. The Jayhawk defense has also been suspect, allowing their opponents to shoot decently from the 3-point line (35.6 percent).
The Sooners need to attack the bigs of KU to get them into foul trouble, as that is where they are most vulnerable. Oklahoma is 22nd in the country from beyond the 3-point line, shooting 39.7 percent from deep. If OU can move the ball and knock down open 3-pointers, they may keep it closer than most think. Ultimately, OU will need to make KU not play like KU. They will need to force them to turn the ball over and take contested shots. The Sooners could disrupt the offensive flow of the Jayhawks, as Oklahoma is averaging 8.1 steals per game.
Unfortunately, the Sooners will be without their best player, Jordan Woodard, against KU. However, some players shined in the matchup against Kansas State, and will get a chance to take a swing at Goliath tonight. One of these players is Kameron McGusty, who will be making a start tonight for Oklahoma. McGusty came off the bench to assemble a team and game-high point total with 20 points. This showed OU a glimpse of their future and the type of talent and fire that McGusty possesses. His contribution will be pivotal in any type of Oklahoma success tonight. Another player to keep an eye out for is Rashard Odomes. Odomes is the third leading scorer for the Sooners this season, but he has recently been showing the passion and fight we have been waiting for from this team all season. He was seen yelling at his teammates in the Kansas State game, trying to wake them up from the terrible start to the game. These two will need to continue to fight and carry their teammates.
The Jayhawks have four players averaging double digits in points. Frank Mason III leads this team with 19.9 points, 5.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds. This type of consistent play is very rare, but this isn't the only threat on the roster. The potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Josh Jackson, has shown some real flashes of his talent. He is averaging 15.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists. This duo will most likely cause many problems for the Sooners’ young team. Hopefully Mason and Jackson will have an off day, but even that may not be enough.
Oklahoma does not have what it takes this season to upend a giant like Kansas. It is sad, but true. Bill Self's Jayhawks will overwhelm the Sooners and run away with this one.
Kansas 86, Oklahoma 62