In a key match up of two top 15 teams, the Kansas Jayhawks (12-4, 3-0) welcome in the 9th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (15-2, 3-1) to Allen Fieldhouse at 3 p.m. CST.
The Cowboys handed the Jayhawks their only home loss last season, and sent Kansas into a brutal 3-game losing streak that almost cost the Jayhawks a piece of the Big 12 regular season championship.
Though it is early in the season, this game has much riding on it as both teams jockey for a position of dominance in the Big 12. A win by Kansas will create some distance between the Jayhawks and their primary competition for this season’s league crown.
A victory by the Cowboys will put Kansas and Oklahoma State on even ground record-wise in conference, with the Cowboys gaining a slight edge due to the fact the Jayhawks still have to play in Stillwater.
The Jayhawks are lead by their improving freshman phenom, Andrew Wiggins, who is putting up 15.8 points a game. He is complimented by Perry Ellis, who tallies 13.9 points a game, but has been wildly inconsistent thus far. Two other frosh, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden, Jr., also score in double figures with 10.9 and 10.1 points an outing respectively.
Embiid also leads the team in rebounds (7.4 a game), blocked shots (41 total), and turnovers (tied with Selden with 34). Naadir Tharpe records a team high 5.3 assists a contest, while Wiggins has 16 steals on the season to pace the Jayhawks.
The Cowboys feature First Team All-American and National Player of the Year candidate Marcus Smart. The talented guard, who passed on the NBA for another year in college (a decision I applaud), leads the team in scoring with 17.9 points a game, assists with 4.2 an outing, steals with 43, and turnovers with 44.
Smart is also third on the team to Le’Bryan Nash (5.9) and Kamri Murphy (5.9) in rebounds, pulling in 5.5 caroms a contest.
Oklahoma State is missing key role player Michael Cobbins, who is out for the rest of the season with an injury. Cobbins was a solid piece who averaged nearly 20 minutes a game.
Oklahoma State offers some match up problems for Kansas. The Jayhawks do not have a guard talented enough defensively to contain Smart, one of the toughest player around.
Look for Wayne Selden to take on Smart first defensively, as Selden maybe the lone back court player for Kansas that can match up with Smart physically.
Selden is not the best defender in the world so he may have trouble keeping up with the cagey Smart. The Jayhawks need Selden to play his best defensive game of the season today.
Wiggins will probably be given the task of chasing Markel Brown around. Brown is an athletic guard who is an excellent shooter, nailing 50% of his field goals. Hopefully, Wiggins length and improving defensive prowess will bother Brown.
When he is on the floor, the Jayhawks must account for Phil Forte. The scrappy sharpshooter has hit 46 of 96 three-point field goal attempts for 47.9%. Naadir Tharpe will most likely be charged with keeping track of Forte.
Tharpe isn’t the most accomplished defender on the team, so this match up could end up being huge if the Kansas guard isn’t aware of Forte at all times.
It will be interesting to see how Smart and Wiggins perform in this game. Smart seemed to be a bit miffed at the preseason attention given to Wiggins by local and national media before the freshman even stepped on the court.
If Smart as a chip on his shoulder, and is motivated to make a statement, he may be very difficult to restrain. He is nearly impossible to stop anyway, but if he still feels slighted, he may be in for a huge day.
This game will decide which school has the early advantage in the Big 12 Conference race, and it should be a fantastic game with a fantastic college game atmosphere.