Twitter exploded Sunday when @FansofKU shared its “fun fact of the day”: Baylor head basketball coach Scott Drew has as many losses (nine) in Allen Fieldhouse as 13th-year Kansas University coach Bill Self.
Considering that Drew has done a terrific job of building the program from scratch to perennial NCAA Tournament participant, that is as mind-blowing a statistic as there is anywhere.
And it makes it all the more difficult to give tonight’s Big Monday matchup that will pit the nation’s Nos. 1 and No. 2 schools, if the Associated Press college basketball poll looks as expected when released this afternoon, the hype it deserves. Dick Vitale will be on hand to compensate for that deficit.
Sure, a comparison of what the teams have done this season, a study of the personnel, etc., should make it easy to believe that Oklahoma, a 6.5-point underdog, could head out of town with its undefeated record intact.
So why am I having a difficult time convincing myself of that? Probably because after a while it becomes difficult to believe that Kansas ever will either win a football game on the road or lose a basketball game at home. The Jayhawks have lost 38 in a row outside of Memorial Stadium and won 31 consecutive games played in the fieldhouse.
Neither one of those streaks will last forever. Eventually, the football team will have a happy flight or bus ride home, and the basketball team will watch another team celebrate on its court.
Here’s the best material I could come up with in trying to convince myself that the Sooners could establish themselves as the early favorites to win the Big 12 by winning tonight:
1). Kansas won’t have the best player on the floor. That distinction belongs to the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, OU senior guard Buddy Hield, who is averaging 24.7 points per game and with a .495 long-distance accuracy rate is one of four Sooners starters shooting .448 or better from three. Jordan Woodard tops the team with a .531 three-point percentage.
KU has played just one other game in which the best player on the floor was not playing on its side, and it didn’t go well. Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine’s triple-double (29 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists) led the Spartans back from a 13-point deficit to victory.
2). A stunning 80 percent of OU’s starting lineup has been the same for the past 80 games. Seniors Isaiah Cousins, Hield and Ryan Spangler and junior Woodard know how to play together and been through too much together to let the daunting Allen Fieldhouse environment make them wilt.
3). The bigger the name of the opposing school, the better it seems Spangler plays. Four of his five double-doubles this season have come against Memphis, Wisconsin, Villanova and Iowa State (20 points, 12 rebounds Saturday). He has averaged 15.5 points and 12 rebounds in those four games.
At 6-foot-8, 234 pounds, Spangler will test any team’s strength in the paint.
4). Oklahoma defends the three (.290) better than Kansas (.321) and shoots it with similar accuracy (.453) as does Kansas (.452).
5). In all methods of measuring a team’s rebounding ability, Oklahoma ranks higher than Kansas.
Statistics are nice and do illustrate what an efficient team Oklahoma is in many areas, but one number — 16,300 — still gives Kansas the decided advantage.