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Hoops Preview: OSU vs Kansas Round Two

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Bill Self and the Jayhawks have walked into a quieter GIA in the past against less-talented Cowboy teams and walked out with a loss.

The no. 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks (27-3, 15-2 in league play) have clinched their 13th straight title, the number one seed in Kansas City and the best shot of every team they play.

And apparently the numbers bear out that this should be a pretty good game.

Viewing Info

Time: 5:00 p.m.
Location: Gallagher-Iba Arena
TV: ESPN
Line: OSU -1

Season Trend

The undisputed reigning kings of the league have some jewels in their crown: Duke, Kentucky and 15 Big 12 wins.

OU was up 12 on Kansas at the Phog with ten minutes to go earlier this week. Through 75 percent of the game, OU held a double-digit lead on senior night in Lawrence. What a world.

KU was struggling mightily on the offensive end, playing turnover-prone and impacted by the solid Sooner rim protection. The Jayhawks were on pace to score a meager 56 points (42 points through 30 minutes of play) until guard Devonte Graham nailed some crucial threes and the Jayhawks finished the game on a 31-11 run.

Senior guard and national player of the year candidate Frank Mason led all scorers with 23 points and received high praise from head coach Bill Self before the game as he was called “the best guard (Self) ever coached.” It was another painful late game fade for the young Sooners who somehow built up their lead shooting only 25 percent in an ugly turnover-laden first half.

Three Things to Watch

1. ____ River Rivals

In the last 10 games against Kansas, OSU is 4-6. Average point differential? 18 points *total* in those 10 games. 1.8 points per game difference. It’s been wildly swing games (big 20 point margins in 2016) and single digit wins (like the 87-80 KU win Jan 14th that’s not in the graphic).

It’s Marcus Smart backflips. It’s Ostertag-Big Country. John Lucas and the 04′ team blowing out KU on Big Monday and making runs in Kansas City. This year it’s elite, undersized point guards throwing down while Dillard and Solomon take on a diaper dandy headed for the lottery. Two of KenPom’s top five offenses and four of the five leading scorers in the conference make for must-see TV.

The Phog and Gallagher-Iba are two of college basketball’s most storied venues. James Naismith invented basketball and Henry Iba the man defense. Eddie Sutton and Roy Williams facing off in the Big Eight were classics. Travis Ford was Bill Self’s kryptonite but the broad-shouldered K-State grad at the helm seems like an apt addition to the rivalry.

I’d be all for playing the game in Wichita (midpoint), maybe calling it the Arkansas River Rivalry? Neosho Showdown? (both are rivers between Lawrence and Stillwater). KU has more national prominence, but you can’t convince me it’s not a rivalry.

2.  King Solomon and Country Strong

The last time they met, the Pokes were a wounded dog bearing the baggage of a four-game losing streak. It’s a different story in Stillwater nowadays and a big reason for that is the production from role players. Mitchell Solomon played beautifully in Lawrence, unafraid of the the plethora of five-star talent roaming the paint and punishing defenders who dare defy him.

Even more surprising on January 14th was the emergence of Davon Dillard. It just didn’t feel like things were working out with the talented sophomore … then Kansas happened. Six points, eight boards, three assists and one block on a lottery pick that should have been.

He found all the confidence in the world after that, throwing down windmills and put-back slams, getting some iso action on offense and all while playing solid defense.

The pair has shown more than capable to provide offense, specifically that day in Lawrence when Jawun and Phil were cold. But their primary service to the team is what they bring defensively. 6’10” Landen Lucas and 6’8″ Josh Jackson are difference makers inside and making sure they don’t run wild is an important task. Solomon and Dillard will have to play smart help-defense on penetrating Jayhawks – a 45 to 14 free throw number was impossible to overcome in the first meeting.

You can count on Phil building on his three-point record on Saturday and let’s enjoy every moment with Jawun like it’s our last, but keeping Solomon in the game and Dillard with a cool head will be crucial for a win on Saturday.

3. Phil GIA for Senior Night

Leyton Hammonds, Phil Forte and (possibly) Jawun Evans are suiting up for the last time in Gallagher-Iba Arena and the place will be lit. The game has been sold out since Underwood shocked the program with defibrillators for a couple of weeks and that 5 p.m. tip should lend to a fiery environment.

What’s most worth highlighting was something that Larry Reece mentioned this week on the podcast, that Eddie and the Cowboy faithful willed the Pokes to a win over Mizzou after the 2001 plane crash.

Granted the conditions were significantly different but the capability is there. It’s teased itself at times this year against OU, Arkansas and a ferocious four minute stretch against Baylor. She’s done it before, it’ll be fun to see if it happens again.

Statistical Comparison

Other Notes

  • Oklahoma State will pay tribute to a pair of seniors, Phil Forte III and Leyton Hammonds, who have combined to play 249 career games at OSU.
  • As a team, OSU had made 35 consecutive free throws before missing at Iowa State, which broke the school record and tied the Big 12 record. Jawun connected on 22 straight while Forte has made 20 consecutively.
  • Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology report has the Cowboys as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Oklahoma State has taken five of the last seven from Kansas in Gallagher-Iba Arena, including the last three meetings. Overall, OSU is 34-32 inside GIA against the Jayhawks.
  • All-time, the Cowboys are 3-6 against teams ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, with the most recent win coming in OSU’s last meeting with a top-ranked team – Feb. 27, 2010 against Kansas (85-77).
  • Former Cowboy Bill Self is facing his alma mater for the 28th time as a head coach, including four meetings in his time at Oral Roberts and 23 at Kansas. Self’s record against OSU is 16-11 (15-8 with KU, 1-3 with ORU), but he is 3-8 inside Gallagher-Iba Arena (3-6 with KU, 0-2 with ORU).

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