Another week, another daunting road task for the Jayhawks.
Kansas comes in on a five-game win streak and alone atop the Big 12 standings, but it doesn’t get any easier as they take on No. 12 Oklahoma.
About Oklahoma: After finishing second to last in the Big 12 last season, Oklahoma has had a major resurgence this year, mostly thanks to freshman sensation Trae Young. He leads the nation in scoring and assists and wows every game with his ankle-breaking moves and Steph Curry range. This season, Lon Kruger’s squad has big wins over Oregon, USC, Wichita State, TCU and Texas Tech. They’ve hit a bit of skid recently as they are losers of their last two, and three of four. They already have three losses in conference and can’t afford another one with the No. 5 Jayhawks coming to town.
Game Info and Notes:
- Tuesday, January 22nd, 2018 at 6:00 pm CT
- Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, Okla.
- ESPN or WatchESPN App
- Kansas leads the all-time series 146-66
- Seven games into Big 12 play, Kansas finds itself atop the Big 12 standings at 6-1. The Jayhawks have a one game lead on West Virginia at 5-2 and a two-game advantage over Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas Tech, all 4-3.
- Kansas has won its last eight Big 12 road games with five to end the 2016- 17 season and its first three of 2017-18. That is Kansas’ longest Big 12 road winning streak since the last four road trips of the 2011-12 season and the first four in 2012-13.
- Expect a lot of 3-pointers going up as Oklahoma leads the Big 12 with 11.1 made per game, while Kansas is second at 10.6. The Sooners have attempted a league-high 503 threes, while Kansas is next at 492.
- Six of Kansas’ seven conference games this season have been decided by six points or less with the Jayhawks winning all six of those battles. Stretching back to last season, Kansas has played 17 Big 12 games that were decided by seven points or less. Kansas is 16-1 in those outcomes.
- Kansas’ win at No. 6 West Virginia on Jan. 15 marked KU’s seventhstraight win over an Associated Press top-10 team in a true road game. Kansas’ last loss to a top-10 squad on the road came at No. 4 Missouri on Feb. 2, 2012.
- Sophomore C Udoka Azubuike leads the NCAA in field goal percentage at 77.3 percent. He is 28-for-33 (84.8 percent) in his last five games.
- In Kansas’ last eight games, senior guards Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have combined to average 37.7 points per game, including 59 of Kansas’ 88 3-pointers. The Jayhawks are averaging 83.0 points in that span.
Sooners to Watch
Trae Young – 6’2″ freshman, point guard
Young, the frontrunner for National Player of the Year, is part of everything the Sooners do. He leads the nation in scoring and assists at 30.7 PPG and 9.8 APG. If those numbers hold, he’ll become the first player in the history of college basketball to lead the country in both categories. Expect Young to shoot and shoot often. He’s averaging 20.6 field goal attempts per game. Last time out against Oklahoma State, he attempted 39 shots. He can also shoot from anywhere on the court. Young is going to get his points, so it’ll be important for KU to neutralize the guys around him. Also, if Kansas could make him into more of a driver than a pure shooter, it could also slightly lessen Young’s impact.
Christian James – 6’4″ junior, guard
James is second on the team in scoring at 11.9 PPG. After scoring in double-figures in 12 of the first 13 games, he’s averaging just 9.0 PPG over his last six contests. On Saturday he scored just 8 points on 3-11 shooting and 0-6 from three. He’s due for a breakout game sooner or later, hopefully it is just not Tuesday night against the Jayhawks.
Khadeem Latitn – 6’9″ senior, forward
As some of you may remember, Lattin was the guy who missed the one-and-one at the end of regulation two years ago in that epic three overtime game. If he would have hit at least one, the Sooners would have won. Lattin is now a senior and looking for his first win over the Jayhawks. He the Sooners’ leading rebounder at 6.3 RPG and is also one of the best shot blockers in the Big 12, swatting 2.3 per game. It’ll be intriguing to see how he handles the size of Udoka Azubuike.
Oklahoma 84 – Kansas 82
AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK (go to 67:30 mark)
I think we’re in for a real good one Tuesday night and could see it going either way. I’m going with OU for three reasons. 1) The home court advantage. It’s hard to win all your road games and Kansas hasn’t lose one yet. 2) I can’t seeing OU losing three in a row. A loss here and they are most definitely out of the title race. 3) Trae Young can put the team on his back whenever he wants to. I expect him to have a huge game and also to get a little help from his teammates this time.
Bonus! Editor’s prediction!
Kansas 92 – Oklahoma 82
This is an impossible game to predict. On one hand, Kansas is due for a road loss and Oklahoma is coming home after a miserable week, bound to bounce back. But… this is just the type of game Kansas wins so much more often than they don’t. The wise thing to do here is to be content letting Trae Young get his and shut down the rest of his options. But Kansas won’t do that; these guys want to out-play Young and their competitive nature will show it. The way to beat Oklahoma is to force Young to shoot from the corners and drive to his left side. Bill Self is the best coach in college basketball at shutting down a team’s best option, so you have to think he’ll at least limit Young to a certain extent.
I think this game comes down to this: Kansas has defended very well over its last few games, and Oklahoma has been atrocious defensively all year. Additionally, the Sooners are turnover-prone, which is the last thing you want to do against a Jayhawk team that’s this lethal in transition. I’ll take experience over youth here, just because Kansas seemingly always wins these exact sort of matchups. And if they do win it, the conference race is already over.