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KU Hoops Preview: Oklahoma State

The dreaded yearly return to Stillwater

Syndication: The Oklahoman Mitch Alcala for The Oklahoman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Over the years, the game in Stillwater has been an uneasy one, regardless of how good or bad these teams might be. The Cowboys haven't snagged a home win against Kansas since 2021, but it's hard not to worry at least a bit any time Bill Self's squad goes up against his alma mater. This year it really shouldn't be too much of a concern, given that OSU is the conference's 2nd worst team by KenPom rating. But as the game in Orlando last week showed, no road game in the Big 12 can be taken for granted.

This year's Oklahoma State squad, as mentioned, has not been good. KenPom ranks them 108th nationally, and they sit at 8-8 for the year, and 0-3 in league play. Like so many other Big 12 teams, they're a defense-first squad, though the defense is far from elite at 76th nationally in adjusted efficiency. The good news for Kansas is that OSU hasn't built their defense on forcing turnovers, where they rank just 232nd. They've relied largely on solid two point defense without fouling, and grabbing the other team's misses. They don't get many steals or block many shots, so if there's a team in the Big 12 Kansas can flex on offensively, it should be OSU.

When OSU has the ball, they do shoot fairly well. They're 3rd in 2 point shooting in league play so far, and though they're shooting a dreadful 29% from three against Big 12 opponents through three games, they've been very solid from behind the arc for the season at 36.2%. Against a solid Kansas defensive squad, a (positive) regression to the mean from the arc is probably the main concern. KenPom rates Oklahoma State as D1's 161st ranked offense, so if they don't get things back on track from the three point line, it's hard to see how they score enough points to win this one.

Individually, only two players average double digit scoring per game. One of them, Bryce Thompson, is of particular interest to Kansas fans. You may remember Thompson as a 5 star recruit who played his first year at Kansas, an unimpressive season for both him and the team overall. He left after just one year and while he's improved at OSU, he's not lived up to his McDonald's AA billing. He's scoring a respectable 12.6 ppg, and he's improved his three point shot to 36% on fairly high volume, attempting just over five per game. He's shooting just under 47% from two, but rarely gets to the line and has hit just 62% there. Their top scorer is East Carolina transfer Javon Small. His scoring seems to have translated to the major conference level, putting up just shy of 15 ppg. He also leads the team in assist rate, and doesn't turn it over too much for a point guard leading the team in usage rate. He's an excellent 3 point shooter at 40.5% on 84 attempts, and is adept at getting to the free throw line where he hits 87.7%. If Kansas wants to keep Oklahoma State from an uncharacteristically good offensive performance, shutting down those two primary guards will be the top priority.

Prediction

I'm never going to feel overly confident about this Kansas team going on the road and winning league games. With that said, Mike Boynton is likely on his last season in Stillwater, and this OSU squad shouldn't be good enough to pull an upset (though I think I said something similar about UCF). Their defense just hasn't really held up since getting into Big 12 play, and their offense, other than some solid outside shooting, was never very good to begin with. They have some size at center they can throw at Hunter Dickinson, but since they don't force many turnovers, Kansas will likely be able to get to their spots more often than not when they have the ball. Kansas is currently a 6.5 point favorite, and I actually like them to beat that number.

Kansas 76, Oklahoma State 67