The Oklahoma Sooners enter Big 12 play with an 11-1 record and a No. 23 ranking, but they will now face their toughest test to date — and perhaps all season — when they tip off against this Kansas Jayhawks this evening at Allen Fieldhouse.
No. 23 Oklahoma (11-1) vs. No. 5 Kansas (11-1): 8 p.m. CT at Allen Fieldhouse (Lawrence, Kan.)
Commentary: Bob Wischusen and Fran Fraschilla
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: Sooner Radio Network (KRXO 107.7 FM “The Franchise” in Oklahoma City; KTBZ 1430 AM in Tulsa), Toby Rowland and Kevin Henry announcing
Line: Kansas -8.5 (as of 3:45 p.m. CT)
- The Jayhawks opened the 2018-19 season as the No. 1 team in the AP Poll before Duke’s freshmen took the college basketball world by storm. Once Gonzaga defeated the Blue Devils, KU then had to wait for the Zags to fall before finally retaking their preseason spot. That No. 1 ranking was short-lived however, as KU eventually fell at Arizona State.
- KU picked up wins over Michigan State, Marquette, Tennessee and Villanova during the non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule rank is 17th (KenPom) entering this evening’s game.
- Kansas is 15th in KenPom’s adjusted offense rating and 8th in adjusted defense. By comparison, Oklahoma is 61st in adjusted offense in 7th in adjusted defense.
- Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson leads the Jayhawks in both scoring (19.6 PPG) and rebounding (10.8) through 12 games.
How bout this bucket from Dedric Lawson tonight? pic.twitter.com/7zr674LLaT— Jayhawk Video (@JayhawkVideo) November 17, 2018
- Junior center Udoka Azubuike returned to the lineup against Eastern Michigan after missing four straight games due to an ankle sprain. He’s averaging 14.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 1.5 BPG.
- Hack-a-Buike? - Speaking of Azubuike, he’s 11-31 (.355) from the free-throw line this year, which is somehow down from where he was a year ago. The sample size is obviously smaller at this point, but it’s quite obvious that the strategy of fouling him to stifle a KU run is still very much in play. It helped OU top the Jayhawks in Norman last season, and you could absolutely see it again if KU has a narrow lead down the stretch.
- Absence of Jamuni McNeace - Unfortunately, the person most capable of combatting Azubuike straight-up is considered doubtful for tonight’s game. The Sooners have been able to grab wins against Notre Dame, Wichita State, USC, Creighton and Northwestern with McNeace either out of the game or hobbled by his ankle, but Kansas in Lawrence is obviously a different animal. Finding a way to get Azubuike into foul trouble trouble will be crucial to mitigating the issue. UPDATE: Lon Kruger is now calling it a game-time decision.
McNeace doesn’t look to be limited in warmups. pic.twitter.com/idB3EurdrT— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) January 3, 2019
- Group effort - Christian James has been the alpha this team needed on the offensive end, but the biggest key to this seven-game win streak has been the ability of several players to step up and carry a chunk of the scoring load when need be. In Oklahoma’s overtime win over Northwestern, it was Rashard Odomes who carried the torch when outside shots weren’t falling in the early going, and it was Kristian Doolittle who carried the team late with six overtime points. Brady Manek, Miles Reynolds, Aaron Calixte and Matt Freeman are also capable of contributing double-figures when when the heroics of Christian James aren’t enough. OU will likely need James to have one of his best game if they want to pull off the upset, but two or three role players are also going to need to step up on the offense end if it’s going to happen.
- The Phog - OU hasn’t won in Allen Fieldhouse since February 1993, back when Billy Tubbs was still leading the Sooners. OU has come close during that 17-game stretch, most notably in January of 2016 when Buddy Hield & Co. took Bill Self’s team to triple overtime. The streak will have to end eventually, and when it happens, I will be over the moon. However, that building is probably the loudest I’ve ever been inside of, and Big 12 officiating in Lawrence can best be described as ‘ludicrous’. Oh, and the Jayhawks are usually pretty good. When the day finally comes, it’ll certainly be unexpected.