The Jayhawks are winners of 18-straight games and are on the verge of owning the nation’s number one ranking if the current No. 1, Michigan Wolverines, happen to slip up at the No. 3 Indiana Hoosiers.
Recently though, the Jayhawks have not performed as well as Kansas head coach Bill Self would like them to. The Jayhawks average 67 points in Big 12 play, but only once, a 97 point overtime win over the Iowa State Cyclones, have the Jayhawks eclipsed 67 points in any Big 12 contest this season. Not to mention that three of Kansas’ last four games they have won by five points or less.
Freshman phenom, Ben McLemore, has even struggled on the offensive end as of late, although he has done the little things such as keep balls alive for offensive rebounds and dive for loose balls, which has helped Kansas’ winning streak stay intact. McLemore is averaging 16.1 points per game, while shooting 50.7% from the field, including 45.1% from long distance.
Senior Jeff Withey has done his job protecting the paint by keeping Kansas’ defense ranked No. 1 in the country. The Jayhawks have held their opponents to 35% field goal percentage with Withey in the middle. Withey is averaging 13.1 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. Withey’s 4.3 blocks per game is 3rd best in the nation.
But can the Cowboys really challenge Kansas?
The Cowboys come into tomorrow’s game winners of their last two games and own a 14-5 overall record and a modest 4-3 Big 12 record. Still, the Cowboys have represented themselves well against nationally ranked opponents. Oklahoma State demolished the North Carolina State Wolfpack, 76-56, when they were ranked No. 6. The Cowboys also lost to the No. 10 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 69-68, and to the No. 25 Kansas State Wildcats, 73-67.
The Cowboys’ have a freshman sensation of their own, Marcus Smart. He leads the Big 12 with 2.8 steals per game to go along with 13.6 scoring average. In addition, Markel Brown leads the Oklahoma State in scoring at 14.8 points per game which ranks fifth in the Big 12.
However, no venue in college basketball is quite like Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks are an amazing 156-7 at Phog Allen under Self and currently own a 33-game winning streak there as well. With 191 previous sellouts at “The Phog” dating back to the 2001-02 season, the Cowboys will have to deal with over 16,300 rabid Jayhawks fans.
In order for the Cowboys to have a chance to win, they will need to keep Kansas off-balance offensively, do an excellent job on the offensive and defensive glass, limit Kansas’ transition opportunities and a little luck isn’t a bad thing either.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo