Jan 11, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats guard Will Spradling (55) passes the ball as Kansas Jayhawks guard Naadir Tharpe (10) defends during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 Basketball Preview: OU's Lon Kruger Returns To His Alma Mater

A week ago at this time Kansas State was No, 25 in the nation in the AP basketball rankings. This week Oklahoma holds that spot, tied with UCLA, and that probably doens’t sit real well in Manhattan, Kan., where the Sooners will be on Tuesday night to do battle with K-State at Bramlage Coliseum or, as the locals refer to it, the Octagon of Doom.

Oklahoma (13-3, 2-1) hits the road fresh off a huge 87-82 win on Saturday over previously unbeaten and ninth-ranked Iowa State. Kansas State (12-4, 2-1) had its 10-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, dropping an 86-60 decision to Sunflower State archrival Kansas. The Wildcats showed the weekend before that they can play with anybody in the conference this season, downing Oklahoma State, the Big 12 preseason co-favorite of the league coaches along with Kansas.

Tuesday night’s game in the Little Apple will be the 198th all-time meeting between these two longtime conference foes, and the series has been closely contested down through the years. The Sooners lead the all-time series 101-94 and are one of only two Big 12 schools to hold a series advantage over the Wildcats (Kansas is the other). K-State holds a decided advantage, however, in games played in Manhattan (56-36) and is 10-8 against the Sooners at Bramlage Coliseum.

A big story line in this game is the return to Manhattan of Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger, who both played and coached at Kansas State. Kruger was the head coach of the Wildcats from 1986-90. Kruger is in his third season at Oklahoma. He has OU off to its best basketball start since the 2009 team that featured All-American Blake Griffin, The Sooners won 11 of their first 12 games this season. Their only loss during that time was against then-No. 1 Michigan State.

Big 12 coaches projected both Kansas State and OU to finish fifth in the conference race in 2013-14.

Kansas State comes into the game with Oklahoma sporting the Big 12’s best defensive numbers. The Wildcats are holding their opponents to an average of 59.8 points per game. Oklahoma, on the other hand, leads the conference in scoring average at 87 points per game, the fifth best nationally. So when you break this game down into its smallest common denominator, it comes down to OU’s high-scoring offense against the Kansas State defense and half-court game.

Oklahoma senior forward Cameron Clark leads the Big 12 in scoring (18.3 ppg), and sophomore two guard Buddy Hield averages 16.8. Kansas State’s top scorer this season is freshman guard Marcus Foster, who carries a 13.7 average.

The Sooners, the only team in the Big 12 to feature the same starting lineup in every game this season,  like to fire up the three-ball, and they do so with 38 percent accuracy. OU made 13 threes at home against Iowa State on Satur4day. K-State is holding opponents to a league-best 26 percent three-point percentage, which could play a big factor in holding the score somewhere in 50s or 60s, where the Wildcats like to play, rather than the 80s, which plays heavily into Oklahoma’s favor.

If the game is close at the end and comes down to free throws, the Sooners are a very good free-throw-shooting teams, second in the conference at 74 percent. Kansas State struggles a bit at the charity stripe, shooting 64 percent as a team.

Three Keys To The Game

  • Kansas State’s defensive pressure vs. Oklahoma’s high-scoring offense.
  • Kansas State needs this game to be played in the 50s or 60s to win.
  • Second-chance points off of offensive rebounds. The Sooners scored 22 seconbd-chance points in their win over Iowa State.

Game Prediction

Oklahoma 67 @ Kansas State 72




Tags: Big 12 Basketball Big 12 Basketball Predictions College Basketball Kansas State Wildcats Lon Kruger Oklahoma Sooners

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