The Jayhawks return home to face an Oklahoma State team who managed to be one of the few teams to defeat Kansas in a game that came down to the wire. Of course, it helps when you have probably the best/most talented player in the country on your side.
After another defeat, I still feel OK about KU’s defense. They allowed West Virginia to shoot under 50 percent on twos and did well on the defensive glass, but the Mountaineers shot a whopping 52 percent from three (after averaging 35.9% on the season coming in). While it may seem like the right idea to blame Kansas for this, they’ve actually gotten pretty unlucky all season in that respect. So if we pencil in the Cowboys for shooting a few percentage points higher than they normally would, we might be in for a game tonight. Oklahoma State takes the fewest number of threes in the Big 12, however, which should help.
Last game their passing (Cunningham’s in particular) threw Kansas for a loop, especially out of high ball screens, but you know Bill Self will have something prepared for them. The Cowboys lead the Big 12 at getting to the free throw line, but don’t shoot free throws very well. They also turn it over a fair bit, which hopefully will lead to some easy KU baskets.
Defensively, Oklahoma State didn’t exactly stymie the Jayhawks last game, with Kansas shooting 56 percent on twos, but a rough shooting night from three (5-21) doomed the Jayhawks. Assuming that normalizes a bit, Kansas should be able to put up some points tonight. The Cowboys have actually done a bit better job in Big 12 play of limiting 3-point attempts, but don’t have a ton of resistance inside if Kansas decides they want to run their offense through McCormack. Assuming he can continue to shoot over 50 percent, that may not be the worst play tonight.
Players to Watch
Cade Cunningham, 6-8 freshman guard
The presumptive #1 pick (keep losing, Wolves), Cunningham has lived up to his billing this season, impacting the game in nearly every way possible. His passing has been the thing I have probably most be impressed with, but he’s been a complete player for the Cowboys.
Isaac Likekele, 6-5 junior guard
One of my favorite opposing players in the league, Likekele is a tremendous slashing guard. He can get to the rim seemingly at will, and I was impressed by his defense in the first matchup.
Bryce Williams, 6-2 senior guard
Williams hasn’t lit it up so far this season, but was 3-7 from three and 4-5 from the line against the Jayhawks in the last meeting. He’s also been (probably) the team’s best defender.
At the risk of looking like an idiot, I like the Jayhawks tonight. In a vacuum, I think they’re the better team, and I like how they matchup with the Cowboys specifically. They should be able to get inside and score inside relatively well, and assuming their and Oklahoma State’s 3-point shooting regresses from last game (which they should), I like the Jayhawks 75-70 in hopefully the start of a bit of a winning streak.
2021 ATS: 13-5