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Oklahoma Preview

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NCAA Basketball: Texas at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma comes to Allen Fieldhouse on Sherron Collins jersey retirement night looking for its first win in six games, and a win to make sure the once top 5 team doesn’t slip into bubble talk.

Offense hasn’t been a huge problem with the Sooners, with Oklahoma ranking 4th in the league, scoring 1.07 PPP and ranking 4th in 3-point shooting and 5th in 2-point shooting. However, they have been held under 1 point per trip in three of the five games in their five game losing streak. The chief concern is turnovers, with Oklahoma ranking 7th in the league in turnover rate and dead last in possessions ending in a steal. They also, fortunately for Kansas, don’t hit the offensive glass well, although they rebounded a tad over their season average in the first matchup.

Defense has been a bigger problem for Oklahoma. They rank 7th in the league and haven’t held an opponent under 1 PPP since January 9. Oklahoma ranks last in the league at forcing turnovers, and middle of the pack in both 2-point defense and allowing threes. The Sooners allow quite a few shots at the rim, but do a decent job at defending those shots. They don’t really have the personnel to handle Udoka Azubuike inside, but probably won’t give the guards many open looks at the rim.

Players to Watch

Trae Young, 6-2 freshman guard

Young still leads the nation in both usage and assist rate, but he is just 10-51 from three in Oklahoma’s last five games, and has an assist to turnover ratio of just 1.5 to 1. It’s a small sample of course, and Young has gotten to the free throw line quite a bit during that streak and has only missed one free throw in his last five games, but I think it’s fair to say he has been tiring. Kansas needs to keep him off the line, but also do its best to force him to take tough shots. It’s a tough line to walk.

Brady Manek, 6-9 freshman forward

Manek has been struggling a bit lately as well, but he has one of the smoother shots in the Big 12. He’s shooting roughly 40 percent from deep, and with all of the attention paid to Young, Manek has been able to get some wide open looks. He was 4-6 from three in the first meeting.

Keys to the Game

  1. Threes - These teams shoot more threes than anyone else in the league, so if one team can limit the other’s looks it will be a huge advantage, as well as if one team shoots much higher or lower than usual.
  2. Transition defense - Oklahoma takes about 30 percent of their shots in transition, which is one of the highest in college basketball. Kansas can get up and down as well, but probably wants to limit Oklahoma’s transition looks.
  3. Fouls - As I mentioned, Trae Young has taken an average of almost 8 free throws over his last five games, and has missed just once. Not per game, total. Oklahoma also ranks 2nd in the league in free throw shooting overall, so Kansas will want to err on the side of giving up a somewhat open 2-point jumper rather than sending the Sooners to the line.

The Pick

I am guessing everyone on the team still has a sour taste in their mouth over the first meeting, and they matchup semi-well against Oklahoma. Kansas hasn’t shot it lights out from deep lately, but they can still get rolling with the best of them, and Udoka Azubuike has a pretty big advantage inside. If Oklahoma doesn’t grab too many extra possessions via offensive rebounds, and Trae Young doesn’t go 8-10 from three or something, I think the Jayhawks have enough to win. Plus they can’t lose on Sherron Collins jersey retirement night. Maybe we can drag Willie Warren out there for good measure. I’ll say Jayhawks 84-80.