Kansas hosts Oklahoma State in a marquee matchup in the Big-12 Saturday. The Cowboys and Jayhawks were picked to finish 1-2 in the conference. Well, that’s where they sit right now. KU is 3-0 and ranked number 15 in the nation after beginning conference play with wins at Oklahoma, vs. Kansas State and at Iowa State. Oklahoma State ranks number 9 in the country despite dropping a Big-12 matchup in its first game at Kansas State. The Jayhawks sit at six-point favorites for now when they will host the ‘Boys at Phog Allen Fieldhouse,
After some real relative struggles to begin this season and right into Big-12 play, KU seems to have turned the corner. Three losses in four games followed by the team’s first loss to a non-conference opponent at Phog Allen had Kansas fans skeptical as to whether this team was really national championship caliber. KU’s young core has responded well thus far in their absolutely brutally difficult start to Big-12 play. The biggest difference for KU has simply been how all the young talents have meshed together. The team seems to be running a lot more like a well-oiled machine featuring Joel Embiid on the inside and letting Naadir Tharpe dominate the ball. With Tharpe playing better, Wiggins and Wayne Selden Jr. have become more efficient with each of their game’s. The challenge for Kansas will be scoring the basketball, I believe. While Embiid is great, he isn’t yet polished enough to be a dependable post scorer. This means KU still relies very heavily on penetration to the basket – primarily from Tharpe, Wiggins and Selden. All three will find themselves manned by one of Oklahoma State’s professional-quality guards on the perimeter. With strong isolated perimeter defenders and shot-erasers on the inside roaming the paint, Oklahoma State is well-equipped to force Kansas into jump shots, which appears to be the blueprint to taking down the ‘Hawks.
It comes down to outside shooting for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has many multi-talented scoring guards but Phog Allen rarely ever becomes a place for layup lines for the other team. San Diego State doesn’t rely nearly at all on the three-point basket and won a grind-it-out game in Laurence. Oklahoma State will take a good number of three-pointers, which means they will have to be efficient from deep in an atmosphere with no room for error. If Oklahoma State comes out and hits some three-points with acceptable consistency it will have a great shot to pull off the upset with a more battle-tested team that is simply more experienced with as much talent.
Free Pick: Oklahoma State +6