Ah yes, the day we’ve all been waiting for since the final buzzer sounded on January 4th in Allen Fieldhouse is finally here. The #6 Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3) head to Norman,OK on today to take on the #3 Oklahoma Sooners (20-3, 8-3) in a rematch of the epic game we saw just a little over a month ago. In that 109-106 triple overtime Kansas win, OU guard Buddy Hield went off for 46 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He is clearly the front runner for Player of the Year as he is avergaing 25.7 points a game and shooting 51% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. For Hield’s standards he has been a little off shooting the three ball over his last three games. In those three games (one of which was a loss) he shot just 34% from long range. Nevertheless Kansas will have their hands full with Hield.
In the January 4th meeting Frank Mason was held most responsible for guarding Hield, and even though he scored 46 points Mason did a pretty good job at guarding him. Mason was in Hield’s grill all game long and didn’t make anything easy for him. Bill Self said earlier this week that he doesn’t know if Mason will be able to guard Hield the whole game on Saturday, so we might expect Kansas to throw a couple different defenders at Hield.
While Kansas should be focused on containing Hield, the Jayhawks should be as concerned with OU’s other two guards in Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins. In the first matchup KU did do a great job of stopping Cousins as he was held to 4 points on 2-14 shooting. Woodard on the other hand dropped 27 points. On the off chance that Hield has an off day, Woodard or Cousins could easily hurt you.
As Self pointed out in his weekly press conference Kansas does not and should not get into a running match with the Sooners. Self would much like to see a grind it out type of win. Texas had a similar game plan earlier this week as they took the Sooners down to the wire in a 63-60 OU win. On average OU takes 62 shots a game. Texas held them to just 50 field goals attempted. If Kansas can do the same, they should be in a good position to pull off a win.
Kansas has elevated their play on defense over the last two games. Kansas needs to come out with the same defensive intensity on today.
It’ll be hard to top the epic January 4th matchup, but I think fans should be in for a treat on this afternoon. These are clearly two of the top teams in college basketball this season vying for Big 12 crown. The winner will move into first place of the Big 12, while the loser will be a game behind. With so much on the line, don’t be surprised if we see another instant classic.
My pick to click
#34 Perry Ellis
Ellis has been on a tear of late. He came up huge in the previous matchup with OU as he scored 27 points and posted 13 rebounds. In his last two games he’s shot 78% from the field and an absurd 89% on two-pointers. It has been one of the most efficient stretches on Ellis’ career. Ellis has came up huge in all of Kansas’ big games this season and I don’t expect anything differently on today. The matchup between him and Ryan Spangler of OU will be an intriguing one to watch.