Take out your No. 2 pencils and get ready; it's test time. Since the nailbiter at Texas A&M, the Jayhawks have played back to back games in which they were hardly challenged - playing host to Colorado and Oklahoma, who both currently reside in the bottom one-third of the Big 12 conference standings. Well, that is about to change in a real hurry beginning on Saturday when Kansas travels to Stillwater, Ok. to take on the alma mater of head coach Bill Self, the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Then, the ensuing week will be Rivalry Week Version 2.0 for the season with a home game against the Kansas State Wildcats and a trip to Columbia, Mo. to take on the Missouri Tigers. If the Jayhawks are to become the second team ever to run the table in Big 12 play and finish 16-0, (they were the other to do so in 2002) they will have done so by earning it with a tough finish to the season.
Stillwater Series. Kansas hasn't defeated OSU in Stillwater since 2006. While that may sound like a while, keep in mind that they only play their every two years, so it's really one a one game streak. Beyond that, the Cowboys took the decade series in Stillwater 3-2 from 2000-2008. So, it hasn't exactly been the easiest of places to get a victory for KU. For the record, Bill Self-coached Kansas teams are 1-2 in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Since Big 12 play started, OSU has been a team of extreme streaks. They started out 1-0 after beating Texas Tech, lost two straight, won three straight, lost three straight and won three straight - all in succession. Their last game, a loss to Texas on Wednesday night, can only bode well for Kansas given the recent pattern of results for OSU. According to most expert Bracketologists, the Cowboys are safely in the NCAA tournament at the moment, thanks to their 19-8 overall record. (7-6 in conference) The big upset win in Manhattan looms large on their tournament résumé. As do wins against Texas A&M and Baylor at home - both of which are top 20 RPI teams and shoo-ins for the tournament. OSU's RPI currently sits at number 31, by the way. They did, however, play a weak non-conference schedule, playing only three current RPI top 100 teams and beating only one of them - number 100 Bradley.
A few numbers, a little bit of incorrect analysis and some colorful visuals after the jump...
James Anderson is absolutely insane. He's the best pure scorer in the league by about a mile and a half. It's not even up for debate. He has eclipsed the 30 point total five times this season; the 25 point total fourteen times. Without looking it up, I'd guess the last Big 12 player to do that was Kevin Durant; maybe Michael Beasley. The Cowboys are 12-2 when Anderson scored 25 points or more. When OSU loses, Anderson averages 17.6 points per game - five points lower than his season average. Coincidence? Probably not.
As far as the other guards go. Keiton Page is listed as 5'9" by the official OSU website and everywhere else I looked. Haven't we heard the announcers say all year that he is 5'5" or 5'7"? He somehow still manages to scoring over ten points per game. When freshman point guard Ray Penn was ruled out for the season on February 13, they not only lost their starting point guard, but nearly eight points and three assists per game. It goes without saying that limiting (not stopping, because only he can do that) Anderson is the key to the entire game. This will be a major test for Xavier to show where his defensive progress is at - at least to start the game.
Pound. The. Paint. It's as simple as that. When 6'5" Obi Muonelo is forced to play the four position more often than head coach Travis Ford would likely prefer, it is obvious this is where the major advantage for Kansas lies. OSU's defensive strategy in the Wednesday game against Texas was to trap the hell out of the inexperienced Texas "point guard(s)" at the halfcourt line and force a timeout or turnover. That will be far tougher to do against Sherron and Tyshawn. Once they get it past halfcourt and into an offensive set, the ball will go inside. Again and again and again. The biggest of the three regular bigs is the 6'8" Calipari refugee Matt Pilgrim. He sat out the Texas game mid-week after earning himself a one game suspension for an unspecified "minor" team rule. If Cole, Marcus and Markieff do not total 25 shots together in this game, that is an epic fail on their part and a real recipe for success for OSU.
Best Win(s): Bradley, Texas Tech, @Kansas State, Texas A&M, Baylor
Worst Loss(es): @Tulsa, @Oklahoma
Informative Oklahoma State Links
Player rotation from their Yahoo! team page:
Player Rotation: Usual Starters—F Matt Pilgrim, F Obi Muonelo, G Fred Gulley, G James Anderson, G Keiton Page. Key Subs—G Nick Sidorakis, F Marshall Moses.
Random Stat Musings about the Cowboys
- If you can steal the ball from them, kudos to your defense. They only give up 5.4 steals per game - 29th fewest in the nation.
- Live by the three, die by the three. 32nd nationally in three point attempts, 43rd in makes and 44th in percentage. (32.6 percent) Up to 36.3 percent in conference play - 19th in the nation.
- For being as small as they are, OSU rebounds opponents' misses exceptionally well. They are first in the conference in offensive rebound percentage allowed, allowing only 28.5 percent to be turned into another chance.
- As you would imagine, their lack of size means blocks come few and far in between. In fact, Cole Aldrich averages more than a block per game more than OSU.
- Don't let them get a lead late and have to foul. They shoot north of 73 percent in conference play, which somewhat sadly is third in the conference. Kansas is sixth.
|NCAA Tourney Champions||1||0|
|Conf Tourney Champions||4||1|
|Overall Record||401-145 (0.734)||222-174 (0.561)|
|Conference Record||177-52 (0.773)||79-86 (0.479)|
|NCAA Tourney Record||24-10 (0.706)||1-2 (0.333)|
|Close Record||63-56 (0.529)||37-29 (0.561)|
|Blowout Record||153-21 (0.879)||46-22 (0.676)|
|Overtime Record||15-10 (0.6)||7-8 (0.467)|
|Career Team Stats|
|Field Goal Pct||0.472||0.450|
|Free Throw Pct||0.693||0.671|
|3-pt Field Goal Pct||0.366||0.346|
|Points per game||76.0||75.3|
|Rebounds per game||38.3||37.1|
|Assists per game||16.7||14.8|
|Turnovers per game||15.2||15.2|
|Fouls per game||19.4||20.7|
Denver's gameday preview to come tomorrow morning...