Last year Oklahoma made it all the way to the Final Four, and came into its first matchup with Kansas ranked 4th in KenPom. This year, the Sooners come into their matchup with Kansas on a 6-game losing streak and are 6-8 with just 1 top-100 win.
The prime two culprits for this are youth and an injury to their best player, but it is another data point to suggest losing your best player and the guy the offense revolves around is maybe even a bigger killer than we previously thought.
Offensively, the Sooners are shooting well from three (39.7 percent), but that’s about where it ends. They take fewer than 30 percent of their shots from three, so like Tech last week, Oklahoma will have to go outside its comfort zone to pull the upset. They turn it over on almost 20 percent of their possessions, are about average at offensive rebounding, and make just 46 percent of their twos.
Defensively, the Sooners aren’t bad, but the way they defend might spell danger for them anyway. They allow opponents to shoot right around 47 percent from two and force quite a few turnovers. However, Oklahoma allows opponents to take over 38 percent of their shots from three. They haven’t faced a ton of three happy teams, and they don’t have the interior size that would tend to turn drivers back, so that leads me to believe the Sooners are giving up way too many open threes. Obviously giving up open threes to Kansas doesn’t tend to work out for teams this year.
Also of note, Oklahoma goes to its bench as much as anyone in the country, as its leading minutes guy, Christian James, has played in just 64 percent of the team’s minutes. As a contrast, Kansas has 5 guys over that mark this year, including 2 over 80 percent.
Players to Watch
Jordan Woodard, senior guard
Woodard hasn’t played in the team’s last four games, but if he does play he’s undoubtedly the guy to watch for. He’s miscast as a go-to guy, but still has been good this year. He’s drawing 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes, shooting 42.6 percent from deep, and has just a 14.2 percent turnover rate. He’s not very good inside the arc, but he knows his strengths and doesn’t attempt many twos either.
Khadeem Lattin, junior forward
Lattin is the Sooners’ best rim protector, finishing 2nd in the Big 12 in block percentage last season. He fouls a lot, and given his size he probably should be shooting higher than 51 percent on twos, but he’s also the Sooners’ best rebounder.
Matt Freeman, freshman forward
Freeman plays just under 30 percent of the team’s minutes, but he’s a 6-10 forward who is shooting 41 percent on threes (though just 32 attempts). He’s not a great rebounder or defender, but he’s going to be an interesting guy for KU’s big men to try to guard.
Things to Watch For
- 3-pointers: With Oklahoma shooting them well, and probably needing to shoot a lot of them to pull the upset, there should be quite a few flying tonight. Obviously you have to favor Kansas in a 3-point shooting contest, but Oklahoma is one of the few teams that can keep up with them.
- Interior defense: Oklahoma hasn’t scored inside very well this year (although their schedule has been semi difficult) so the pressure of sorts is on to see whether KU’s interior defense is improved. Mason and Graham should be able to stifle penetration, and Oklahoma doesn’t have the interior scoring to kill Kansas inside.
- Rest: Kansas has three of its next four games against teams that will press anywhere from some to all of the time, and the next 6 games after OU are probably the toughest or 2nd toughest 6 game stretch of the season. Any extra playing time Kansas can give to its bench will be helpful.
Obviously you should never be 100 percent confident in any road game in the Big 12. Iowa State almost won at Baylor, West Virginia lost at Texas Tech, and Kansas was in a much closer game than they’d like at TCU. It’s hard to win on the road. Still, Oklahoma isn’t very good, might be missing its best player, and Kansas should be able to get the shots it wants offensively. That’s as close to 100 percent confident as I’ll get. I’ll take Kansas to win 86-76.