Big, big, big Big Monday: KU, OU gird for ‘ridiculous’ matchup

Oklahoma top scorer Buddy Hield, left, and Kansas University leader Wayne Selden Jr., right, will meet in Monday's likely No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between KU and Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse.

Oklahoma top scorer Buddy Hield, left, and Kansas University leader Wayne Selden Jr., right, will meet in Monday's likely No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between KU and Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Loud on Saturday for Kansas University’s Big 12 opener against No. 23-ranked Baylor, Allen Fieldhouse should be really rocking during tonight’s battle between the likely Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the land.

“It’ll be ridiculous, and it should be,” KU coach Bill Self said of an 8 p.m. tipoff between the Jayhawks (12-1, 1-0) and Oklahoma Sooners (12-0, 1-0), who along with SMU and South Carolina are one of three unbeaten teams in the country.

KU, which was No. 2 in last week’s Associated Press poll, will certainly climb to No. 1 this morning. Oklahoma, which was No. 3, should move to No. 2, all in response to No. 1 Michigan State’s loss to Iowa.

“I think it’ll be jumping. I think it’ll be great for our league,” Self said of what is expected to be the first meeting between AP’s Nos. 1 and 2 teams since No. 2 Michigan State topped No. 1 Kentucky, 78-74, on Nov. 12, 2013, in Chicago. It’ll mark just the second time Allen has hosted a No. 1 vs. 2, with the other on Feb. 13, 1990, when No. 2 Missouri upended No. 1 KU, 77-71.

“Certainly they (Sooners) deserve to be where they are, and we’ve played pretty well with the exception of just a few minutes against a great team (a 79-73 loss to Michigan State). It should be a fun night,” Self said.

Update: 12:33 p.m. Monday

Kansas takes over No. 1 spot in AP poll

The Sooners actually figure to be No. 1 in one of the country’s polls today. Last week, OU was No. 2, KU No. 3 and MSU No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The last time — likely the only time — a No. 1 in the AP poll met the No. 1 team in the coaches poll was Feb. 25, 2007, when No. 2 Ohio State (coaches) beat No. 1 Wisconsin (AP), 49-48, in Columbus, Ohio.

KU’s all-but-certain return to No. 1 in the AP poll busts a bit of a drought. The Jayhawks last were ranked No. 1 on Feb. 14, 2011. KU held the top spot for just one week, falling to Kansas State, 84-68, on Feb. 14.

“I’d rather be there at the end than now, but I think it could be nice,” Self said of being No. 1. “I think it’s fun to be part of the group or the conversation. We’ve still got to sign some kids. It makes for a good recruiting mailout, things like that.”

The players are definitely fired up. No Jayhawk has yet been No. 1 here before.

“Like coach said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in the history of college basketball. It’s the first time for me, coach Self and the program, first time we’ll have a 1 vs. 1 on this floor,” junior guard Frank Mason III said. “This will be a huge game for the program. I think everybody is excited.”

KU, which has defeated OU in 13 of the past 15 meetings, ranks third in the country in scoring (88.3 ppg), while the Sooners check in at No. 6 (87.0). KU is second in the country in three-point field-goal percentage (46.0), while OU is third (45.3). The Sooners are ninth in field-goal-percentage defense (37.0), while KU is 45th (39.1).

“We’re excited. They’re another good team. They’re another great team, actually,” said KU junior Wayne Selden Jr., who scored 24 points in Saturday’s 102-74 league-opening rout of Baylor. “We’re excited to get out there and compete against them. It’s not coming soon enough.”

OU is led by senior guard Buddy Hield, who leads the Big 12 and is fourth nationally in scoring at 24.7 ppg. He has four 30-point scoring efforts this season and is third on the team in rebounding at 5.3 per game.

“I never thought he would average 25, or we would have tried a lot harder to recruit him,” Self said of Hield, a 6-foot-4 senior from Freeport, Bahamas, who attended Sunrise Christian Academy outside of Wichita. “We recruited him, but you go back and look at it, we’ve had some pretty good players here, too.

“You say, ‘Well, Buddy’s good. Can he impact us like he impacted OU?’ The answer would probably be yes, but we probably thought at the time we’d love to get him, but OU probably pressed him more and did a better job recruiting him, and they ended up getting him.

“I don’t think Lon (Kruger, OU coach) would have told you he’d average 25 a game. I don’t think anybody would, but he’s terrific, and he’s a better kid than player,” Self added. “I love everything about him. He has so much energy and personality and is always smiling, but the guy can flat-out score.”

Junior guard Jordan Woodard averages 13.9 ppg, senior guard Isaiah Cousins 13.3 ppg (plus 4.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds) and senior forward Ryan Spangler 11.1 ppg and 10.2 rpg.

“They score so easily,” Self said. “Lon is the best at giving guys freedom offensively. They play with a free mind. They can stretch it from every spot. Their first-shot defense is exceptional. They’ve got a real experienced team.”

The key to handing OU its first loss?

“Don’t let Buddy Hield get off early, because that’s what they like to do,” junior Brannen Greene said. “Keep them out of the paint. Keep them out of their comfort zone. We’ve got to deny the ball everywhere, make it as tough on Buddy as we can. We know he’s going to score points. We have to make it as tough as possible on them, stick to our game plan, too.”

As far as playing two ranked teams in the span of three days ... “We’ve done it before, in Big 12 tournament time,” Greene said. “Coach Self is a genius at getting us prepared for games like this.”

Exciting game ahead: Kruger was asked Sunday about the teams entering the game ranked 1 and 2.

“That makes it exciting,” Kruger said in today’s Norman Transcript. “Guys know how tough it is. They know how good Kansas is. They know the environment. They’ve been there a few times. They know we’ll have to play well.”

Quite a game: Last year, OU erased a 19-point halftime deficit, ultimately falling to KU in Allen, 85-78. OU has dropped 14 straight in KU’s building (over 22 seasons), last winning, 80-77, in 1993.

“I just remember giving the game away that we had,” OU’s Hield told the Transcript. “Up by seven with three minutes left. We didn’t do a good job executing. We had a couple calls go against us. You always have calls go against you, but especially playing in Allen Fieldhouse. We have to do a better job executing and controlling the lead in the last three minutes. That’s something we’re capable of doing tomorrow.”

Hield added to the Transcript: “I enjoy it (playing in Allen). But I just don’t enjoy leaving it afterwards because I never got a win. Hopefully, I can change that around this year and sneak out a win. I think we can do it.

To the Oklahoman, Hield said: “It’s going to be fun. It’s a matchup that everybody is going to be watching. We’re going to handle our business. Kansas is a good ballclub. We’ve got to be locked in and focused. The crowd is going to be after us. We have to be ready.”

Langford’s grub: Former KU guard Keith Langford today will open his new Wingstop restaurant (2233 Louisiana Street).