Other than the final game of the regular season and then first game of the Big 12 tournament in 2018 when they played Oklahoma State twice in a row, I can’t remember Kansas playing two primarily orange teams back to back, but that’s the situation presented tonight when the Jayhawks travel to Stillwater in the final game of David McCormack’s suspension.
To say it’s been a frustrating season for the Cowboys would be an understatement. I was loudly optimistic about them this season, but that faith has not been rewarded. The Cowboys haven’t won a conference game yet, and after starting out 7-0, sit 10-9 overall.
Offensively, one of the big problems is Isaac Likekele has not taken the step forward in his sophomore year that I expected him to take, and their shooting hasn’t been as good as I thought. The Cowboys are shooting under 31 percent from three and under 48 percent from two, which are two big problems.
Likekele still does a good job of getting into the lane, but with only one Oklahoma State player shooting even over 35 percent from three, they have struggled to convert those drives into assists. They have, however, been relatively good at taking care of the ball so a hot shooting night could leave Kansas in trouble, and if Udoka Azubuike has foul troubles similar to those on Saturday, that will increase scoring at the rim as well.
Defensively the Cowboys have been good but maybe are due for a little regression. They allow teams to take over 45 percent of their shots from three (like Kansas, a lot of that is due to having an elite defensive big man deterring shots at the rim), but teams are making just 30.2 percent of their shots from three. With Kansas playing 4 (and sometimes 5) guards all night, there should be a lot of open threes available, and tonight could come down to who makes more of them.
Players to Watch
Isaac Likekele, 6-4 sophomore guard
Likekele still sports an assist rate near 30 percent and a turnover rate under 20 percent, so it’s not as though he’s been bad, but he’s only attempted 10 threes and has been abysmal outside of 4 feet or so. Devon Dotson is one of the few guys quick enough to stay in front of him, and Udoka Azubuike will be waiting at the rim, which should suffocate him a little bit.
Lindy Waters, 6-6 senior wing
One of my favorite players in the Big 12 for reasons that go beyond what he does on the court, Waters has struggled from three a bit this season but is still a 40 percent shooter from three for his career so I suspect he will be picking things up shortly.
Yor Anei, 6-10 sophomore center
Anei has played fewer 20 minutes per game this season due to foul trouble, but he’s been effective when he’s been in. His 13.7 percent block rate is among the best in the country, and he’s been an effective offensive rebounder as well. He also shoots 73.6 percent from the line.
Bill Self has mentioned a few times that Kansas was fatigued on Saturday, and with another game 52 or so hours later, they will be even more tired. I especially worry about Udoka Azubuike, who needs to stay on the floor, but also might be too tired to stay on the floor.
Because Kansas has better versions of Oklahoma State’s best two players, I like Kansas to win, but the fatigue and this being Oklahoma State’s super bowl will make it difficult. I’ll say Kansas wins but doesn’t cover, 67-64.
2019-20 record ATS: 9-8