The Oklahoma Sooners did not have sky-high expectations going into the season, however those expectations have managed to drop. Lon Kruger has done what he can with a very young squad, but the absence of Jordan Woodard has been too much to overcome. With the Big 12 looking as dangerous as ever, the Sooners’ drop-off year is looking very problematic for their chances of making the NCAA tournament. With only 17 regular season games left, the Sooners would need to win nearly 75 percent of their games to have a chance at making the tournament. This does not seem likely, but if anyone could do it, Kruger would be that man. How do the Sooners stack up against the Kansas State Wildcats?
How to watch
The Sooners and Wildcats meet in the Little Apple, and tip-off will be at 2:00 PM CT. This game will be televised on ESPNEWS. The game thread will be in the comment section below.
Oklahoma and Kansas State have a very intriguing relationship, especially since Kruger has arrived. Kruger used to be a Wildcat himself, and collected many accolades, such as Big Eight Sophomore of the Year in 1972, Big Eight Player of the Year in 1973-1974 and was given the title "Mr. Hustle" all time in the Big Eight. These are some of the many reasons why you will find Kruger's name hung in the rafters and a picture of him as a player hung in a local bar in "Aggieville" on KSU's campus. Kruger also once returned to coach the Wildcats, leading them to the NCAA tournament each year and to the Elite Eight in 1988. Perhaps this sort of pressure is why Kruger has historically struggled coaching against the Wildcats since arriving at OU.
Kruger has faced the Wildcats 10 times as the Sooners' head coach and has only managed to win four games. Since Kruger has been coaching, a ranked OU team has faced an unranked K-State five times, while a ranked K-State team has faced an unranked OU team four times. Only one time have both teams been unranked, but we also haven’t seen a matchup of two ranked teams since Kruger's arrival. Kruger has also only beaten Kansas State once in Manhattan with Oklahoma, giving him a 1-4 record against his alma mater at Bramlage Coliseum.
Strengths and Weaknesses
It was the "travel heard 'round the world" in Kansas State's epic last game versus the Kansas Jayhawks. The Wildcats threatened to shatter the imposing Jayhawk home winning streak. As only a few seconds stood on the clock, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk traveled the length of the floor (literally) and banked in a shot with a controversial non-call on a travel to win the game. What did Kansas State do to be in the game for that long?
KSU managed to grab 10 steals in this matchup and limited KU to only obtaining two steals. Kansas State has been very successful this season so far in getting steals, averaging 8.6 per game and ranking 16th in the country in that department. The Sooners aren't too far behind, averaging 8.2 steals per game and ranking 22nd in the country. The Wildcats also shot extremely well from the field for the game, putting up an impressive 50.8 field goal percentage against the Jayhawks. This holds true with the rest of their season as well, as they are currently 28th in the country in shooting percentage, making 48.3 percent of their shots. Most of their production is occurring inside the 3-point line, making 54.6 percent of their 2-pointers (30th in the country). Oklahoma's shooting has gone downhill from last season, shooting 2 percent worse from the field this season. They are shooting well statistically from the 3-point line, but that is due to limited shots from downtown.
OU needs to dial it up from long-distance this game, as Kansas State is below average at guarding the 3-point line. KU was able to swing the ball and get Wildcat defenders out of position, allowing them to knock down wide open 3-pointers. This is why Kansas was able to shoot 11-22 from the 3-point line on KSU. Kansas State is currently 173rd in opponent 3-point shooting percentage, while they are 12th in the country in opponent 2-point shooting percentage. Attacking from the perimeter may be OU's best bet for the game.
Who to stop
Unfortunately, Oklahoma is going to face many balanced teams throughout Big 12 play. Oklahoma's scouting report better be extensive because this Wildcat team can attack in a multitude of ways. Wesley Iwundu leads the cats with 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Barry Brown is contributing with 12.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game. The presence under the rim for KSU is D.J. Johnson, who is averaging 11.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per matchup. Kamau Stokes is playing well, averaging 10.9 points and 4.6 assists, with Dean Wade adding 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. This could be a nightmare scenario for Oklahoma, as the Sooners are relying on the play of many young and inexperienced players. Woodard has not been readily available, and Dante Buford has seen very little time this season so far. Besides Woodard, Christian James is the only player averaging double-digits scoring, putting up 11.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Scoring down the stretch of close games has been the massive obstacle that Kruger and his crew cannot seem to hurdle. Let's hope they can get the ball rolling this time, or else we may see a similar result.
History tends to repeat itself, and this year we really have no reason to question why it wouldn't. With Kruger only accumulating one win in Manhattan as the Sooners' coach, the odds do not seem to be in the Crimson and Cream's favor. However, let's hope they prove us all wrong and show up ready to play 40 minutes of basketball.
Kansas State 79, Oklahoma 74