The Jayhawks travel to Stillwater to take on their nemesis Oklahoma State, who is the only team to sweep Bill Self in Big 12 play since he has been at Kansas. (Of course, Kansas went to the Final Four that year so maybe they should get swept more often.)
This year’s Cowboy team has struggled in the win-loss column in Big 12 play, but their three losses are by a total of just 7 points, so they shouldn’t be a pushover. Of course, they’re likely still reeling a bit from giving up a nearly 20-point second half lead to West Virginia in their last home game, so no doubt the Jayhawks should be on the lookout for a spirited effort tonight.
Oklahoma State is pretty middle of the pack in both offense and defense, but a couple numbers should give the Jayhawks a lot of confidence. For starters, they are the least 3-point dependent team in the Big 12, and while a lot of their offense is derived from getting to the free throw line, they don’t convert from there often. In fact, most of their offense is built around one guy, but more on that later.
Defensively, the Cowboys are middle of the pack as well, although they have been pretty stingy at 2-point defense as they allow teams to shoot just 46 percent inside the arc in Big 12 play (and under 45 percent overall). They do allow a ton of open 3-point attempts, meaning like the Oklahoma game the Jayhawks would be wise to keep firing even if they miss their first couple of threes.
It is worth noting the Cowboys do send teams to the line quite a bit, and although they are a decent shot blocking team as a whole, they don’t have that one shot blocker to avoid, so attacking the rim does have some benefits. But I just think shooting threes opens up their offense so much more in terms of not turning the ball over, misses provide more available long rebounds, and with the lack of passing on this team, it also results in fewer turnovers.
Players to Watch
Cade Cunningham, 6-8 freshman guard
Cunningham, the presumptive number 1 pick in next June’s draft, has done a bit of everything for the Cowboys this season. He is the only OSU player with a usage rate over 20 who is playing more than 20 minutes per game - as such he leads the team in 2s taken, 3s taken, and free throws taken. He also leads the team in assist rate (21 percent) and has been a capable defensive rebounder as well. If ever there were a matchup to be thankful for Marcus Garrett, it’s this one.
Isaac Likekele, 6-5 junior guard
After bursting onto the scene as a freshman, Likekele struggled quite a bit last season. He has stepped it up quite a bit as a junior, ranking 2nd in the Big 12 in eFG and true shooting percentage while also getting to the line quite a bit.
Keylan Boone, 6-8 sophomore forward
Boone is shooting 61 percent on twos this season, although he hasn’t been a major focal point of the offense. He has also taken 34 threes this year and made just 7 of them, so I suspect a 2-3 from three effort is coming. He’s been a pretty good although not great defender.
KU is a slight (4) point favorite in this one, up from a 3.5 opening line. Even with Oklahoma State’s ability to frustrate the Jayhawks over the years, the fact they are so dependent on one player and Kansas has Marcus Garrett makes me pretty confident. Kansas will need to power through some early 3-point misses (if they happen), but if they do so I like the Jayhawks 78-71 in this one.
2021 Record ATS: 9-2.