It probably works out best for Kansas that the Jayhawks get back to business less than 48 hours from their emotional, blowout win over Texas. Much like you want a team to get right back on the horse after a tough loss, it’s probably equally good therapy not to have much celebration time after a win of high emotional impact.
That’s the situation Kansas finds itself in as it gets set for its fourth ‘Big Monday’ appearance of the season. The league-leading Jayhawks (21-6, 12-20 are 2-1 in Monday night games this season, defeating Iowa State away from Allen Fieldhouse and beating Baylor at home. The lone Monday loss for coach Bill Self’s crew was at Kansas State earlier this month.Oklahoma is the Jayhawks’ Monday night opponent this time. The Sooners (20-7, 9-5), ranked 25th in this week’s USA Today/ESPN poll, come to town fresh off a dominating 13-point win over Kansas State on Saturday. Kansas also is coming off of a big win, avenging an earlier loss at Texas in which the Jayhawks were completely outplayed in all phases of the game. On Saturday night, it looked like a mirrored image of that earlier game, but in reverse as Kansas jumped on the Longhorns early and often, winning by 31 points.
The Jayhawks have now opened upo a three-game lead in the Big 12 standings over second-place Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas. A win over Oklahoma on Monday would clinch no worse than a share of the conference championship for Kansas, a position the fifth-ranked Jayhawks have held for nine consecutive seasons before this one.
In the all-time series with the Sooners, Kansas holds a huge advantage (140-65), and the disparity is even greater when the two teams play in Lawrence, where the Jayhawks have won 71 of the 87 games played at the place they call “The Phog.” OU certainly has been in a fog when playing at Kansas. The Sooners have lost 12 straight games playing the Jayhawks on their home floor. The last Oklahoma victory at Kansas was in 1993, when All-Big Eight player Ryan Minor was a freshman.
Kansas is the only Big 12 team with a winning record over the Sooners in basketball. Oklahoma owns the best record in the Big 12 playing away from home this season. The Sooners have won four road contests in seven conference games away from Lloyd Noble Center. That may not mean much on Monday night, however, as the Jayhawks are an impressive 7-o in the conference and 13-1 this season in games at Allen Fieldhouse.
Oklahoma is the second-highest scoring team in the conference, averaging 82.8 points a game. Like Iowa State, however, which leads the Big 12 in scoring but also gives up a lot of points on defense, OU is at the bottom of the league in scoring defense. That will pose a big problem for the Sooners, who will be taxed on defense trying to contain or at least slow down a balanced Kansas offense that collectively shoots better than 50 percent from the field.
Kansas has been very good this season limiting the number of times it puts opponents on the free-throw line. That will be doubly imprtant against Oklahoma because the Sooners are the best free-throw shooting team in the conference, shooting 74 percent as a team.
Both teams feature young starting lineups. Three of Kansas’ top four scorers are freshman (led by Andrew Wiggins’ 16.4 ppg), and the fourth (Perry Ellis) is a sophomore. The Sooners have started the same lineup in all 27 of their games this season. OU’s starting five features three sophomores, a fresham and one senior). All five Oklahoma starters average in double figures in scoring.
Three Things To Know About This Game
- Since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996-97, Kansas is 51-17 all-time on ESPN “Big Monday” telecasts and 32-9 under head coach Bill Self.
- Oklahoma leads the Big 12 with an average of almost nine made three-point shots per game. Guard Buddy Hield, the Sooners’ top scorer, is also the team’s best three-point shooter, averaging nearly three a game at 38 percent accuracy. Kansas ranks ninth in the conference in defending the three-point shot. The Jayhawks’ opponents this season are shooting 35 percent behind the three-point line. The Sooners’ shoot 37 percent as a team on three-point shots. If Oklahoma is able to pull the upset over Kansas, it will have to shoot well from the perimeter because of the Jayhawks’ huge size advantange on the inside.
- Kansas is 17-4 this season when it holds opponents bel0w 80 points for the game. Oklahoma is 14-3 in 2013-14 when it scores more than 80 points
My pick: Kansas 75, Oklahoma 65 – The Jayhawks can see the finish line, and they aren’t about to let up now. The one thing that might save Oklahoma from a potential blowout is the emotional energy and determination expended in KU’s redemptive victory Saturday over Texas.
Other Big 12 Big Monday Pick
Oklahoma State 79 at TCU 68 – Marcus Smart is back. The Cowboys are 20-2 all-time vs. TCU, have won the last nine games between the two teams and have never lost at Ft. Worth (where OSU is 7-0). That pretty well sums it up.