No. 13 Kansas Jayhawks (17-6 overall, 6-4 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-13 overall, 2-7 Big 12)
Time: 11 a.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: ESPN | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
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1. Supporting cast must deliver
Everyone knows that Devon Dotson and Dedric Lawson and even Ochai Agbaji have been consistent weapons for this Kansas basketball team of late.
But with Marcus Garrett still out with an ankle injury and Lagerald Vick on a leave of absence, the Jayhawks need someone from their bench to step up.
While there are a number of different options, in the backcourt and up front, none of them have enjoyed the kind of consistency this season that can identify an obvious candidate as the guy to do it.
That’s not to say those players in KU’s starting lineup won’t have to do their share. They will, too. And KU coach Bill Self said Friday that he likely would go big in the starting lineup, which could mean Mitch Lightfoot’s return to the starting lineup.
But Charlie Moore, who started the second half of Tuesday’s loss in place of Vick, and K.J. Lawson both could see increased opportunities to help this team. The best chance for both would be through 3-point shooting and activity on the defensive end.
As for Garrett, Self said Friday that the best-case scenario for his return to the lineup was probably Feb. 16 vs. West Virginia, which would mean Garrett will miss today and Monday night’s game at TCU.
“Marcus will be out,” Self said. “So we’re going to be down, at least some men. But we’ve still got to go out and play and just step up and play better than what we played on Tuesday.
Garrett's injury and the recent leave of absence taken by senior guard Lagerald Vick leaves the Jayhawks with just eight healthy and eligible scholarship players for Saturday's game.
2. Defend the 3
While this area has been a constant emphasis for this Kansas team, which has given up some big 3-point shooting nights to past opponents, it appears to be even more important this weekend because of the Cowboys’ strength behind the arc.
OSU ranks second in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, at 37.7 percent, and gets a whopping 40 percent of its points from behind the arc, which ranks first in the conference.
A big reason for that is the presence of junior guard Lindy Waters, who is the Big 12 leader in 3-point shooting at 56.4 percent, knocking in 22 of 39 attempts so far this season.
The Cowboys don’t have a ton of strengths, and they, like Kansas, come into this one more than a little shorthanded in terms of personnel. But if there’s one way that the Cowboys could compete in Allen Fieldhouse it’s if they get hot from distance.
Outside of its 3-point shooting, OSU ranks last in the Big 12 in 2-point percentage (42.9 percent), which lines up perfectly with one of KU’s strengths — 2-point defense. KU is allowing a Big 12 best 45.5 percent shooting on 2-point field goals and the Jayhawks’ defense should be focused on running the Cowboys off the 3-point line and making OSU take long, contested 2-pointers.
3. Bring energy, avoid deja vu
Although the Jayhawks, even in their depleted state, are expected to win this one, there exists a cautionary tale in their not-too-distant past that might be worth looking at.
Specifically, last year’s home game against Oklahoma State. Although many of the players in today’s game were not on the floor for that one, the circumstances are at least worth noting as a reminder that anything can happen.
In that one, the Jayhawks entered with a 13-point advantage in the KenPom.com prediction, had a win probability of 88 percent and also tipped off before noon.
In this one? KU is 13 points better according to the KenPom projections, has an 89 percent win probability and also will be tipping off before noon.
Despite the odds stacked against them, it was the Cowboys who came out with more energy and played more aggressive basketball from start to finish, emerging with an improbable upset in Allen Fieldhouse.
If KU brings the same energy today that it brought last week against Texas Tech, it’s hard to see history repeating itself.
Roster Depth vs. Roster Depth
It’s not Oklahoma State’s starting lineup that puts the Cowboys in a tough position in this one, rather their lack of depth behind it.
Because of injuries and suspensions, OSU finished a recent game with just six scholarship players and the Cowboys feature just nine players total on their roster page on the team’s official web site.
Kansas, with its injury and eligibility situation, is not in much better shape, but the Jayhawks do have three scholarship players ready and waiting on the bench, along with walk-ons Chris Teahan and Garrett Luinstra if they really got into a bind.
The starting fives will go a long way toward deciding this one, but if either group finds foul trouble of can’t play big minutes for some other reason, the Jayhawks appear to have the better options on the bench.
“I like their team,” Self said of the Cowboys. “They’re young. And they’re not beat up, but they’re depleted. Our teams are pretty similar. Maybe (OSU coach) Mike (Boynton) and I should get together and just have officials stay on one end and play 3-on-3, at least that way we’d have enough guys to have a sub.”
While not residing too high on the list of marquee games for the Jayhawks this season, the matchup with Oklahoma State still matters.
For one, OSU, as everyone knows, is Self’s alma mater and that always drums up a little extra interest in this game. Beyond that, the Cowboys swept Kansas in the regular season a year ago during head coach Mike Boynton’s first season in charge of the program.
KU got revenge for that with a convincing victory in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, but it’s rare for a team to sweep a Bill Self-coached Kansas squad during any given season and the feat was not that long ago for people to have forgotten.
Kansas leads the all-time series with OSU 114-59, including 62-12 mark in games played in Lawrence and a 47-10 record inside Allen Fieldhouse.
The Cowboys are vying to become the first team since Iowa State in 2000 and 2001 to win back-to-back games in KU’s home arena.
Kansas is listed as a 12-point favorite in the eyes of Las Vegas.
No. 13 Kansas
G – Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, Fr.
G – Quentin Grimes, 6-5, 210, Fr.
G – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5, 210, Fr.
F – Mitch Lightfoot, 6-8, 225, Jr.
F – Dedric Lawson, 6-9, 235, Jr.
G – Thomas Dziagwa, 6-4, 180, Jr.
G – Isaac Likekele, 6-4, 210, Jr.
G – Lindy Waters, 6-6, 210, Jr.
F – Cameron McGriff, 6-7, 220, Jr.
F – Yor Anei, 6-10, 225, Fr.