KU last faced Oklahoma on January 8th. At the time KU had just lost 4 of 8 and was headed on the road to take on a better-than-expected Sooner squad. KU won that game and played fairly well doing it, at least offensively. That was the start of a 7 game conference win streak and since the OU game KU has won 12 of 14 conference games and is poised to capture their 10th straight conference title with a win tonight. That would make Bill Self the only coach in college history to win 10 straight conference titles in a major conference in the modern era. It is one of the most remarkable runs in the history of the game.
But, OU is not going to come in and hand it to the Jayhawks. The Sooners have a lot to gain still from a win tonight in Allen Fieldhouse. They sit in 2nd place tied with Texas and Iowa State. They just got done beating their rival OSU and manhandling Kansas State at home 73-86. Here are some things to watch for on this Big Monday.
1. Rebounding. Kansas dominated OU on the boards in Norman. They rebounded 42.3% of available offensive rebounds and outrebounded OU 35-22. This limited a fairly good rebounding team from getting to many extra chances. KU will need to focus on this again because they looked like they got worn down by Texas on the glass in the second half.
2. Defense. KU had its best defesive half by a long shot against Texas on Saturday. When the Jayhawks took on OU in Norman their defense was still in shambles. If Kansas hopes to make a deep run the defense has to be at the level it was against Texas. They can show signs of progress by stringing together some good performances starting with OU tonight. KU gave up an effective field goal percentage of 50.9% to OU which equates to an average defensive performance based on how prolific OU’s offense can be. Against Texas KU held the Longhorns to an eFG% of 37.7% which is way below their average. I would like to see two consecutive defensive performances like this out of Kansas. Maybe seeing how bad they can make a team look if they work at it and how fun that can be will get an extra level of “buy-in” from here on out on the defensive end.
3. Seize the Moment. This a pressure game. We have a young team coming off a big win with a conference title at stake. I am interested to see how KU responds. Some teams would be a little tight coming into this one. Others may overlook it because of the way they handled Texas. What we need is a team that is locked in on what is important with just the right amount of energy. If we get that out of KU, we will get a 10th trophy in as many years.
Prediction: I think KU is locked in and ready to make a run. I will take the Jayhawks 85-75 over OU.