Kansas heads to Norman for their first game with Oklahoma in the 2017-18 campaign, and to help us understand our opponent a bit better, I asked Jack Shields at Crimson and Cream Machine to answer a few questions for us.
I tell you what, Trae Young would sure look good in a Kansas uniform, wouldn’t he? Were Oklahoma fans surprised he stayed in Norman? I’m not much of a recruitnik, but knowing Frank Mason was a senior last year, I really wanted Young in Lawrence this year.
If you asked Oklahoma fans about it two months before his announcement, you would get, “Ugh, probably Kansas”. However, the chatter started to shift in Oklahoma’s direction during the weeks leading up to the big day. Pessimism turned into to hope and hope turned into confidence. By the day of his announcement, Oklahoma looked like the pick. But I think it’s fair to say that OU fans were surprised that their school pulled that off. Kansas has come into Central Oklahoma and taken top recruits before (Xavier Henry and J.R. Giddens), and programs such as Duke (Sheldon Williams) and Kentucky (Kelenna Azubuike and Daniel Orton) had invaded in the past, as well. The one notable player that did stay -- Blake Griffin -- had the family connection, so that was considered to be sort of an outlier.
Let’s talk preseason expectations for Oklahoma. The Sooners were unranked in the AP Poll to begin the season. There weren’t a lot of opportunities for marquee victories, but they did pick up wins over top-10 Wichita State and then-top 25 USC. Outside of a loss to a questionable Arkansas team, did non-conference play go as planned?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it went as planned. I don’t think too many were expecting a win in Wichita even after we all knew how well Trae Young was adjusting to college ball. The loss to Arkansas looked a bit better at the time, but if would’ve told me before the season that OU would get through that stretch with one loss I would’ve been more than satisfied.
Oklahoma was picked to finish 6th in the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll. Was that a realistic expectation for the Sooners entering conference play?
I thought it was pretty fair at the time considering that Young’s teammates were fairly talented but largely unproven. Kameron McGusty, Kristian Doolittle and Rashard Odomes did some really good things in conference play last season, but the youth showed. They were really competitive but just couldn’t finish games. I thought an improvement was a sure thing, but I didn’t think they’d be quite this impressive (last week notwithstanding).
OU had a solid start to conference play - until last week, that is. A blowout loss at K-State followed by a road loss to an in-state rival has knocked the Sooners out of the top-10, down to #12 this week. A lot has been made of Trae Young’s shot selection during these last two games - he took a third of OU’s shots against the Wildcats and nearly half of OU’s shots against the Cowboys. I don’t mean this question to sound harsh, but, is OU that much of a one-man show?
I think a lot of what happened last week can be chalked up to the simple fact that he’s a freshman. Yes, he’s the man that makes this team go, but his teammates aren’t scrubs. And as you mentioned, OU was solid in conference play until last week, and that was due to the fact that Young was facilitating ball movement and getting his teammates involved. Guys like Manek, James and McGusty are good enough to take advantage of the opportunities that arise, but I think Young has sort of gone into hero mode when things have broken down lately. Sometimes it works, but it’s not exactly efficient. I think coming home will help him find his center.
Has there been any talk about why Young was looking for a three on Saturday near the end of overtime vs Oklahoma State when they were only down 2? Why didn’t he drive to the lane?
Not a ton on that in particular. There was just a whole lot to unpack from that one and I think that probably got lost in the shuffle. He was pretty good about getting into the lane in the second half, but he wanted to give his team the lead and he thought he could make it. Shooters shoot.
Young has been forced into 19 turnovers over OU’s last two games. Can Kansas duplicate the success KSU and OSU had against Young?
Perhaps. The defensive talent is obviously there for Kansas, but as I mentioned, I think Young will settle down a bit in front of the home crowd. One other thing to keep in mind is Young’s usage rate. His 12-turnover game at K-State was objectively bad, but turning it over seven times in 43 minutes at Oklahoma State with his usage rate really isn’t that terrible.
Yes, he should’ve shared the ball more and taken fewer 30-footers, but he really wasn’t particularly sloppy in Stillwater. Maybe watching Russell Westbrook for so long has warped my mind, but that’s just the way I see it. As far as Kansas is concerned, I’m sure Self and his staff will do everything they can to make it uncomfortable for him. Will Kruger make the proper adjustments? We’ll see. It’s happened before -- particularly against Texas Tech when he went off in the second half after shooting 1-12 before the break.
Other than Young and Lattin, who is a player for Oklahoma that Kansas fans will need to keep an eye out for?
It’s freshman Brady Manek for sure. He has such a quick release and can knock ‘em down with anyone in the conference. He’s also 6’9” and lanky, so pretty much all of his looks are decent looks. If he bulks up expands his game a bit, we could definitely see him in the NBA in a few years.
Does OU have anyone that can match up with Udoka Azubuike down low?
Well, Khadeem Lattin is probably strong enough to at least hold his own for the most, but he’s also a bit prone to foul trouble. Jamuni McNeace is definitely long and athletic enough to hang with him, but he’s not quite as polished as a defender. That’s definitely a matchup that worries me as an OU fan.
Who is going to win the Big 12 this year?
Give us a prediction for the game on Saturday!
Oklahoma 85, Kansas 81
BONUS QUESTION: What was/is your favorite video game of all-time (any platform)?
Either GTA V or Red Dead Redemption. I’m a really big fan of the open-world games like that. You also get to lock on to targets, which makes things a bit less stressful.
Big thanks to Jack for joining us today! Feel free to head over to CCM to check out their pregame coverage, including the questions I answered for him.