Coming off an upset over No. 1 Baylor — and potentially moving into the top spot itself soon — No. 3 Kansas tries to follow it up with a home game against Oklahoma State on Monday. The Jayhawks snapped the Bears’ 23-game winning streak on Saturday for their 12th straight victory. Kansas and Baylor are now tied atop the Big 12 standings.
Oklahoma State comes into this game having won three of four to push over .500 on the season. The Cowboys topped in-state rival Oklahoma on Saturday, routing the Sooners by 17 points, but they still have some work to do if they want to get into the postseason. Kansas won the first meeting between these two teams this season in late January, winning by 15 in Stillwater.
Kansas is a 14.5-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 134.5.
While Kansas is atop the Big 12 in scoring offense, Oklahoma State is seventh in the league, averaging just 67.04 points. Part of that has to do with the team’s league-worst .412 field-goal percentage, including a .309 three-point field-goal percentage. Against the Jayhawks, the Cowboys are going to have to work for open looks, and they must make them.
Senior forward Cameron McGriff leads the Oklahoma State attack with 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He had 18 points and eight boards in the first meeting, but he’ll need to be even more of an offensive presence if the Cowboys are going to pull off the upset.
Guard Isaac Likekele ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 4.52 assists per game to go with his 10.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The problem is he also leads the Cowboys with 2.7 turnovers a game, which he must limit against an opportunistic Jayhawks defense. Oklahoma State also needs Lindy Waters III and Thomas Dziagwa to be hitting from long range, as the two have hit 35 and 62 three-pointers, respectively, this season.
Kansas has been led by guard Devon Dotson this season, as he leads the Big 12 in scoring at 18.2 points per game. The sophomore also is second in the league with 2.12 steals per game, making his presence felt on both ends of the floor.
But if Kansas is going to make a run to a national title, it must have Udoka Azubuike play like he did against Baylor on Saturday. The 7-foot senior had 23 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, dominating the paint throughout the contest. Azubuike is the Big 12’s top rebounder (10.2), tops the league with a .740 field-goal percentage and ranks second with 2.63 blocks per contest.
He’s the only player in the league averaging a double-double (13.1 points), and he’s just two points from scoring 1,000 in his career, which will make him the sixth Jayhawk to post 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 150 blocks in a career.
The Jayhawks had possibly their best performance on Saturday in upsetting the Bears on the road. The question now is, how do they follow it up against a .500 team just over 48 hours later? It is likely there will be a letdown, but how much of one?
Oklahoma State will have the determination, but I just don’t see them having enough offense to keep up with Kansas in this one. It might be close for a little while, but the Jayhawks will pull away in the end. I’m going with Kansas -14.5.