This looks like an easy win for Kansas on paper, but nothing has come easy for the Jayhawks in Conference play this season so there’s no reason this Game will. Even at Allen Fieldhouse, they’ve scraped by wins against every opponent in the Big 12, Iowa State and Baylor included. Oklahoma State sits near the bottom of the Conference standings, but so do the teams listed in the previous sentence.
The Cowboys are in dire need for something to go their way with, although this probably isn’t the Game for that. Three of their last Four road Games have been decided by five points or less. Despite a mediocre record, this team has shown it can play with some of the best, beating Oklahoma in overtime and Florida State earlier in the season.
But taking down a giant requires a good defense and that’s not what OK State does well. The Pokes rank ninth in the Big 12 in terms of efficiency and allow 42 percent from deep, which is the opposite stat you want against Kansas. There isn’t one area they excel defensively and that’s an immediate problem. To keep tight on the scoreboard, the Cowboys need to find some consistency offensively, but that could also be a problem for a team that doesn’t have anyone that shoots better than 39 percent from three. In fact, their two guys that shoot the most, Jeffrey Carroll and Lindy Waters, are barely above 30 percent from distance.
In addition, second-leading scorer Tavarius Shine is out due to a wrist injury, which doesn’t help. That said, OK State has a deep squad with only one guy averaging more than 27 minutes per Game so it’s not as big of a factor as other teams. The Cowboys still have eight guys that will play a decent amount. It’s just hard to see where the scoring will come from. Carroll can only do so much as an inefficient scorer and Waters is really the only other guy that has stepped up in recent Games, although Kendall Smith could be in that conversation if he didn’t have the flu last weekend.
Maybe the biggest positive for OK State is that size won’t be an issue. OUtside of Udoka Azubuike down low, the Jayhawks roll with Four shooters around the perimeter and that’s how the offense works. As long as Yankuba Sima or Mitchell Solomon can keep Azubuike in check, that’ll be a good start to limiting what Kansas does. In addition, the Cowboys have plenty of size to deal with the bigger Svi Mykhailiuk on the outside. With Waters a shooting guard and listed at 6-foot-6, not many can match him.
Unfortunately for the Pokes, having size and being athletic isn’t everything in basketball. This team has failed to play good defense most of the season and that should allow Devonte’ Graham to do what he wants in addition to Mykhailiuk getting numerous open shots. Mykhailiuk is coasting at the moment with at least 22 points in each of the last three Games.
The Jayhawks have been hard to trust against the spread and that’ll probably be the case the rest of the season. If OK State can get scoring from Carroll, Smith and Waters, they should have enough to be competitive. But winning is different story. This is another Game that the Jayhawks will likely seal in the final minutes simply because they know how.
Our Pick – Kansas -13