The Oklahoma Sooners enter Saturday’s matchup riding a six-game losing streak, and the Kansas State Wildcats are more than capable of helping OU extend that skid on Saturday at the Lloyd Noble Center. At 16-11 overall and 6-9 in Big 12 play, the Sooners are firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble and desperately need to turn things around.
Oklahoma (16-11, 6-9) vs. Kansas State (20-8, 9-6): 5 p.m. CT, Lloyd Noble Center (11,562)
Commentary: Rich Hollenberg and Fran Fraschilla
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa)
Line: Oklahoma -6 (as of 10 a.m. CT)
About Kansas State
- Since trouncing Oklahoma in Manhattan on Jan. 16, the Wildcats have gone 7-3 and have basically become a lock for an NCAA Tournament berth. During that stretch, they’ve won road games at Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State but have struggled against the teams at the top of the Big 12 standings.
- Guard Barry Brown and forward Dean Wade lead the Wildcats offensively with 16.2 PPG apiece. Wade has been one of the Big 12’s best three-points shooters with an average of .432, while Brown is as adept at attacking the basket as just about anyone in the league. Both had fantastic performances against the Sooners in the first meeting, as each eclipsed the 20-point mark and were efficient from the field.
- Kansas State is 6th in the Big 12 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating while ranking 5th in the offensive efficiency category.
- The new lineup - On Monday in Lawrence, Lon Kruger decided to shake up the starting lineup by replacing Khadeem Lattin, Brady Manek and Rashard Odomes with Jamuni McNeace, Kristian Doolittle and Kameron McGusty. In spite of how poorly things went at Kansas, I’m a fan of the move. McNeace brings far more upside at the center position, Doolittle adds physicality down low and McGusty (hopefully) provides a bit more of a punch offensively.
- Bubble watch - In ESPN’s latest bracketology (updated 2/22), Joe Lunardi has the Sooners as a 10-seed. He’s obviously not on the committee, but that seems pretty reasonable when taking all things into account, as the quality wins obviously have to count for something. However, it goes without saying that OU has to turn things around right now in order to earn a bid. The last school to earn an at-large bid with a conference record that was at least four games under .500 was Iowa State all the way back in 1992. OU has some nice wins on the resume, but I don’t think anyone wants to play a game that dangerous.
- Trae Young - I’m a huge Trae Young fan (as all of us should be), but this season has clearly worn him down both mentally and physically. He’s a college freshman who has been the primary focus of both ESPN’s coverage and the defensive game plans of tough Big 12 squads. There aren’t a whole lot of teenagers who are going to withstand that type of stress without it substantially impacting their performance on the court. In the month of February, Young has connected on only 11 of his 56 three-point attempts and is struggling to recapture the magic he created early in the season.
It’s just tough to pick OU to beat any Big 12 team at this point, much less a team that’s in the top half of the standings. The LNC used to have a calming influence on this team when returning from tough road games, but the home-court advantage hasn’t been able to keep them from coming out with lackadaisical defense and sloppy offense as of late. I really hope I’m wrong, but this shapes up to be the death knell for a season that once looked so, so promising.
Kansas State 86, Oklahoma 78