Kansas opens up the Big 12 season against a surprising Oklahoma team, which has just one loss thus far this season. And, they have done it against the 9th toughest nonconference schedule according to KenPom.
There are probably equal reasons to be encouraged and discouraged by the Sooners. From a KU centric point of view, it’s worth pointing out the Sooners barely attempt threes. They rank 310th nationally in attempts, although they shoot them rather well.
Secondly, it looks like Kansas will have a huge edge in the backcourt. Oklahoma is led by two seniors, but they are grad transfers from Pacific and Maine, respectively. It’s worth noting neither player was particularly great in the WCC or America East.
On the flipside, Oklahoma’s defense has been excellent. They rank 5th nationally in 2-point defense and 5th nationally in avoiding sending teams to the free throw line. The 2-point defense allowed may be a bit of a mirage: Oklahoma ranks 293rd nationally in allowing shots at the rim, which probably means their allowing teams to shoot just 48.5 percent at the rim, good for 5th nationally, is probably due to regress.
One thing is for sure: if Kansas gets Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson that many shots at the rim, they aren’t shooting under 50 percent.
Players to Watch
Brady Manek, 6-9 sophomore forward
I was really impressed with Manek’s shooting ability last season. This year his percentage has dropped to just 32.7 percent, but in fairness it is probably tough to get the same quality of looks without Trae Young to draw a ton of attention away from him. He’s been a little more 2-point focused this year, but he’s still someone Kansas needs to stay attached to on the perimeter.
Christian James, 6-4 senior guard
James has taken the mantle of go to guy after the loss of Trae Young, and he’s handled it well. He’s shooting an impressive 36.7 percent from deep and 56.6 percent inside. He also does a really good job of either getting to the rim or taking a three, and avoiding settling for those midrange jumpers.
Jamuni McNeace, 6-10 senior forward
McNeace may not play tonight, but if he does he’s someone to watch inside. He’s the team’s best shot blocker, although he’s not a great rebounder and not a go-to scorer.
It’s tough to know just how legit Oklahoma’s defense is given the shocking number of attempts they give up at the rim, but I am inclined to believe their defense is somewhat legitimate until regression happens. Although Kansas isn’t very good at getting to the free throw line as a team, they have an elite foul drawer in Dedric Lawson. I also think this will be a nice chance for Devon Dotson to assert his will over the game a bit. I’ll take Kansas in a closer-than-we-might-expect game, 76-71.