In their first meeting, Kansas ended up defeating the Cowboys by double digits in Allen Fieldhouse, but it was a much tougher game than Jayhawks fans had prepared for. Neither team scored a point per possession, a trend which I expect to continue today.
Kansas and Oklahoma State are the only two teams to hold Iowa State, the league's leading offense, under a point per possession in conference play, and the two sit at second and third in the league respectively in defensive efficiency (it is worth pointing out, however, that they are separated by just .001 of a point, so they are virtually even).
The first matchup was won by the Jayhawks allowing Oklahoma State to shoot just 37 percent on twos, and rebound just 11 percent of its misses. I am no mathematician, but forcing teams into bad shots and not letting them have any second shots seems like a good way to win.
On the flip side, Kansas shot just 48 percent at the rim against Oklahoma State, but on the positive side of that they only took six mid range jumpers, and that was one of the last games where Kansas really struggled inside. They still aren't great, but there is a big difference between 48 percent and 53-55 percent, where Kansas has lived for the last month or so.
The Cowboys rank 226th nationally at allowing opponents to get to the rim, though they are 23rd nationally in shooting percentage at the rim, allowing opponents to make just 50.6 percent of their shots there. (both via hoop-math). However, given how well teams get to the rim against them, and how well Kansas has done in that area as of late, all they really need to do is shoot 50 percent or so and they should score enough to win.
The Cowboys have been mostly middle of the road in Big 12 play, except for a couple of areas: they lead the league in defensive rebounding, and are second in blocks, steals, and turnovers forced, while ranking last in offensive rebounding. It's worth noting that Kansas is second in turnovers, so that should be an interesting strength on strength matchup to watch. The rest, given that Kansas isn't a very good offensive rebounding team and they get a lot of shots blocked, should be advantage Cowboys, but if Kansas decides to crash the boards a bit I think they can get some putbacks (someone just turned on the "Cliff" alert)
Individually, the key guy to stop is Phil Forte, who leads the Big 12 in true shooting percentage. The good news is, if you can do this (and Kansas did a really good job on him in the first meeting) you can keep the offense down for the most part, the bad news is it's pretty tough to shut him down, and having to face guard him all the time doesn't let you help off and guard anyone else. I suspect Kansas will continue to run him off the 3-point line, and if Forte happens to make off balanced runners, or floaters over big guys, they'll live with that.
Speaking of anyone else, LeBryan Nash leads the league in usage and shots taken, and is shooting 45 percent on twos. He is also taking fully half of his shots in the mid range area. While he's hitting a not bad 41.2 percent there, Kansas will obviously live with long twos from Nash all day, especially considering it takes another offensive rebounder out of the game.
The big concern, for me, is big man Michael Cobbins. Cobbins isn't much of an offensive power, but currently ranks second in the Big 12 in block percentage and 6th in defensive rebounding. The Jayhawks will want to get him into foul trouble as soon as possible, which they fortunately were able to do in the first meeting as Cobbins was able to play just 20 minutes.
You won't hear me complain about it, but I'm now 12-9-1 ATS after Kansas blew out Iowa State. Kansas is actually favored by 1.5 on the road here, but given how tough Stillwater has been for us, how poorly Kansas has played on the road at times this season, and the fact that Oklahoma State is much better than people think (basically even with Iowa State in efficiency margin), I am taking the Cowboys to win a close one, 63-59.