How lucky can college basketball fans be? We are only in the first week of January and we are already seeing a #1 vs. #2 matchup. The #1 Kansas Jayhawks will welcome the #2 Oklahoma Sooners into Allen Fieldhouse tonight. The Jayhawks are coming off a 102-74 beatdown of Baylor, while the Sooners took down Iowa State at home 87-83 last Saturday night. Both teams are supremely talented and have legitimate shots at winning the Big 12 and making runs to the Final Four. This will be Kansas basketball’s first 1 vs. 2 matchup since 1990. This should be one heck of a game.
The Sooners are led by Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield. The senior guard is currently averaging 24.7 points per game, which is good for fourth nationally. He is shooting almost 50% from three-point range and 45% overall, so whoever Bill Self decides to put on him will have their hands full. OU also has two other stud guards in Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard. Cousins and Woodard do a great job of taking care of the ball as they both are averaging a tick under two turnovers per game. The matchup between Cousins and Woodard, and Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham of Kansas is going to be an intriguing one to watch. Both backcourt duos take care of the ball and get others involved in the play.
Ryan Spangler is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. He is one of the best rebounders in the Big 12. It’ll be imperative for the Jayhawks to keep him off the boards. The matchup between Spangler and KU big man Perry Ellis will also be an good one to watch.
Overall OU is very similar to Kansas in that the shoot the ball at very high clip. They are currently shooting 48% from the field and 45% from long range. This should be a high scoring affair.
Both of these teams are extremely even. They both score at a high and efficient rate. They both have experience and depth. I think we should be in for a treat tonight. That being said, I like the Jayhawks just a little bit more in this one. Kansas does not do a whole lot of losing in Allen Fieldhouse. In fact they have only lost nine times at home in the Bill Self era, which spans 13 seasons. Much like the last game against Baylor, KU needs to avoid the slow start. It is hard to expect them to come out firing like they did against Baylor, because what they did there is almost impossible to do night in and night out. But if the Jayhawks stay away from the slow start, they should have enough to come away with a W. Beating KU at home is a very hard thing to do, and Bill Self coached teams usually find a way to rise to the occasion in big games. Expect no different here. Lastly, look Brannen Greene to play a key role off the bench for KU. His ability to knock down threes will come into play in this one.
This may be surprising to say but KU has something to prove. Every year experts say some team, whether it be OU, Iowa State or Texas, will knock Kansas off the top of the Big 12. Kansas is out to prove those people wrong. This is still Kansas’ conference until they say otherwise.
This one will be close throughout, but the Jayhawks will make one or two more shots to put them over the top. The home court advantage of Allen Fieldhouse will also play a factor into a KU victory.
My Pick to Click
Wayne Selden Jr.
After Selden was a no-show against Denzel Valentine and Michigan State, he has been nothing short of spectacular. The matchup of him and Buddy Hield is going to be a fun one to watch. After Selden did really nothing against Valentine, I don’t think he’s going to let another opportunity against one of the nation’s best to get away from him. He is playing at such a high level and is doing a little bit of everything whether it be scoring, assisting or rebounding. One thing I will say he must do is play within himself and let the game come to him. Once he starts forcing the issue, things tend to go awry for him. Expect Selden to continue to step up for the Jayhawks and lead KU two their second Big 12 win of the year.