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Oklahoma Preview

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Iowa State vs Oklahoma Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Fortunately nothing much has happened this week in KU Athletics, so we can all focus on the Big 12 tournament, where for the seemingly 10th year in a row Kansas will be without its starting center for the tournament run. However, they have rebounded from that before of course.

Oklahoma narrowly defeated Iowa State yesterday and now has a quick turnaround in its attempt to win the season series over the Jayhawks. The Sooners ended the year 5th in the league in offense, scoring about 1.04 points per possession. They also lost their last four regular season games, however (although the defense was more of the issue there).

The Sooners have a bit of an interesting offensive profile, combining a bunch of 3-point attempts (roughly 40 percent of their shots) with almost no turnovers (under 15 percent of their possessions). They don’t make a ton of threes, just 32 percent of attempts, but if they get hot they can put up points against anyone.

It stands to reason, then, that the big key tonight will be whether they make more of those 3-point attempts than they usually do. One bit of good news is that the Sooners rarely pursue the offensive glass, so even with McCormack’s absence, the Jayhawks probably should be able to hold their own in the rebounding department.

Defensively, Oklahoma finished Big 12 play allowing just under 1 point per trip, good for 4th in the league, although they allowed more than a point per possession in their final three games. They held Kansas to under a point per possession in both matchups, but KU was still able to shoot well on twos on both meetings, so if that continues they should be able to score a bit more in this one (and it’s worth noting McCormack was still struggling during those prior matchups).

The Sooners have a pretty average defensive profile across the board, but they are the best team in the Big 12 at avoiding sending teams to the line. For a KU team that may be searching for a go-to play or go-to guy on offense, that could be an issue. Still, that usually means a team doesn’t offer a ton of resistance at the rim, and that is certainly true here: Oklahoma ranks 281st in FG% allowed at the rim according to Hoop-math.com. So, if the Jayhawks can get inside, they should be able to score.

Players to Watch

Austin Reaves, 6-5 senior guard

An All-Big 12 first teamer, Reaves shot under 30 percent from 3 in Big 12 play and just under 50 percent from two, but his value came from ranking 3rd in the league in assist rate and 4th in free throw rate, where he shot 86.6 percent from the line.

Umoja Gibson, 6-1 junior guard

Gibson is Oklahoma’s best shooter, shooting 42 percent from deep on the season on more than 130 attempts, and he’s a pretty good perimeter defender as well, ranking 8th in the league in steal rate.

De’Vion Harmon, 6-2 senior guard

Harmon dominated in the Sooners’ win over KU in Norman, putting up 22 points on just 14 shots. For the season, he’s shooting just under 33 percent from deep but has the ability to get hot, and he’s shooting around 58 percent on twos which is incredible for a small guard.

The Pick

Without McCormack I think the teams are fairly equal, and the betting line is true to that with the Jayhawks favored by 3. With Marcus Garrett making more of an impact on defense over the last month or so I think he can take Reaves somewhat out of the game (as much as one can, anyway), and assuming the Jayhawks don’t turn the ball over a ton (and the Sooners don’t go insane from 3), I like the Jayhawks to win a close one, 68-64.

2021 ATS: 17-9