The Kansas Jayhawks head out on the road for only the second time in conference play when they travel to Normal, OK. To help prepare is for tonight's opponent, I chatted with Jack Shields from Crimson & Cream Machine, the SB Nation site that covers the Oklahoma Sooners. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: Oklahoma obviously misses Buddy Hield this year. With all the pieces that Oklahoma lost off of last year’s Final Four team, what were the realistic expectations for this year amongst the fanbase?
C&CM: I don’t think anyone was expecting a trip back to the Final Four, but it was reasonable to expect Oklahoma to contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Everyone knew there would be growing pains with this inexperienced roster, but it’s been a bit tougher than many expected. Late-game woes have been a serious issue for this squad, as they’ve lost after holding a second-half lead on five occasions already. Couple that with the injury to Jordan Woodard, and OU’s NCAA Tournament hopes are pretty much dashed.
RCT: Who are the main contributors for this team? Is there anyone on the roster that has you excited for the next couple seasons?
C&CM: Oklahoma’s offensive leader is Woodard when he’s healthy, but sophomore Christian James is someone who should ideally be Oklahoma’s primary offensive threat. However, he’s been cold as ice during OU’s losing streak. Freshmen Kameron McGusty, Kristian Doolittle and Jordan Shepherd have all shown flashes of brilliance this season, and they form a pretty solid foundation for the future. If OU can convince Trae Young to stay in Norman as opposed to attending Kansas or Kentucky, the Sooners could be a force in the future.
RCT: I don’t think it is anyway fair given how well he did last year, but what are your thoughts on the rumors that coach Lon Kruger could be on the hot seat with the dismal record so far this year?
C&CM: I don’t think he’s on the hot seat whatsoever. I think people recognize the circumstances that are holding this team back, and I think everyone's just looking forward to 2017-18. Lon’s a phenomenal coach who was able to quickly clean up the mess left by Jeff Capel, so I think he has a pretty long leash at this point.
RCT: How do you see the conference shaking out this year? Is Baylor for real, and will they challenge the Jayhawks for the conference crown this year?
C&CM: I think Baylor is definitely for real this season. I think it would be awfully bold to pick anyone other than Kansas to win the Big 12, but I think that race will go down to the wire. I predict Kansas wins the regular season title by a game or two in the end.
RCT: I know it’s hard to imagine, but let’s say Oklahoma pulls the monumental upset and gets the victory against the Jayhawks. How does something like that actually happen?
C&CM: 1. Freshman Kameron McGusty, who is making his first career start this evening, has to have a solid performance. 2. Christian James, who has the ability to fill up the stat sheet, needs to play up to his potential. 3. Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace need to stay out of foul trouble. 4. Jordan Shepherd and Darrion Strong-Moore need to play under control. If all of this happens, the Sooners may be able to cover the spread and make things exciting.
RCT: Prediction Time! What’s the latest time in the game where the outcome will be in doubt? Who are the leading scorers for each team? And just for consistency sake, what do you see the final score being?
C&CM: Unfortunately, I don’t think the outcome will be in doubt past the first media timeout (or at any point leading up to the game). I think Kameron McGusty will lead OU in scoring, and Frank Mason will lead the way for KU. Kansas wins this one by a score of 85-68.
RCT: BONUS - Help us settle a big debate. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Defend your position.
C&CM: A hot dog is a sandwich. It’s a piece of meat between bread. Some will say it isn’t because it uses only one piece of bread, but other sandwiches aren’t really held up to that standard.
A big thanks to Jack for helping us out today. Don't forget to check out the questions I i answered for him as well.