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February 22, 2009

Preview: Oklahoma vs. Kansas

No. 15 Kansas (22-5, 11-1) @ No. 2 Oklahoma (25-1, 11-0)

When:
Monday, Feb. 23, 2009
Tip-off: 8:05 p.m. CST
Where: Lloyd Noble Center (Norman, Okla.)
Television: ESPN (Ron Franklin, Fran Fraschilla, Holly Rowe)
Radio: KRXO FM 107.7 in OKC (Bob Barry Sr., Mike Houck)

Head Coach: Bill Self (Oklahoma State, 1985)
Career Record: 371-142
Kansas Record: 163-37 (6th season)
vs. Oklahoma: 5-1
Previous Coaching Positions:
2000-03 Illinois - Head Coach
1997-00 Tulsa - Head Coach
1993-97 Oral Roberts - Head Coach
1986-93 Oklahoma State - Assistant Coach
1985-86 Kansas - Assistant Coach

Oklahoma vs. Kansas
Series Record: KU leads 133-64
Last meeting: KU 85-55, Jan. 14, 2008 in Lawrence
Streak: KU with four in a row
Series in Norman: KU leads 45-40
Capel vs. KU: 0-3

Scouting the Matchup

Blake Griffin Predicament - The status of sophomore sensation Blake Griffin will likely not be decided until close to game time on Monday evening. He is going to be reexamined on Monday afternoon, but several things hinge on the superstars ability to play.

If Griffin is unable to go on Monday evening it will likely be Ryan Wright who steps into the role of starter for the Sooners. His ability to match up with Cole Aldrich will be incredibly important to an Oklahoma victory. Aldrich owns the defensive boards and it will be important for Oklahoma to put a body on him and not make it easy for him to pull down a double-digit rebound total. Between Ryan Wright and Juan Pattillo the Sooners are going to need a big performance in order to defeat the Jayhawks and put themselves in the drivers seat to the conference championship.

On the other hand, if Griffin is ready to take on the Jayhawks it will completely tip the scales in the Sooners favor. Oklahoma will have an intense battle in the paint, but the quickness of Griffin will cause major problems for Aldrich, especially off of the dribble.

Kansas O vs. Oklahoma D - The Kansas guards could pose a difficult matchup for the Sooners. The Sooners weakness all season has been their inability to stop guard penetration from their opponents. They may be going up against the best dribble-penetration player they have faced all year on Monday when KU brings Sherron Collins to the Lloyd Noble Center. He has a great ability to get into the lane and finish. The KU point guard of the future, Tyshawn Taylor is not too shabby at finishing, either. Both are not only great finishers, but they draw contact from defenders and finish at the free throw line.

The Oklahoma defense will have their most success by pressuring the KU guards. They have shown that, when under pressure, they are susceptible to turnovers. The Jayhawks lead the league in turnovers per game (14.9) and the Sooners will have to do something they are not particularly good at doing: force turnovers. Expect lots of half court pressure from the Sooners including more zone than we are used to seeing out of the OU defense.

Oklahoma O vs. Kansas D - The Sooners offense consists of what the opponents are giving them. They are efficient at shooting, driving, or pounding away at their opponents, which is the reason they have only lost two games this season. The KU guards will certainly be putting the pressure on the Oklahoma guards on the perimeter. OU needs the Willie Warren who showed up in Austin to make his appearance against the Jayhawks.

Blake Griffin will have an advantage over Aldrich on the offensive end of the floor, although he has great length and leads the league in blocked shots. Juan Pattillo's athleticism should be effective in this game if he can take care of the ball.


OKLAHOMA SOONERS
EDGE
KANSAS JAYHAWKS
23 | BLAKE GRIFFIN
45 | COLE ALDRICH
PPG: 22.0 RPG: 13.8 FG%: 63.2%
6-10, 251, So.
As A Recruit:

There is no better player in college basketball than Blake Griffin. Griffin is a tough matchup for anyone because of his physicality and quickness. The question is whether or not he will be healthy on Monday night. After taking a pair of shots to the head, Griffin appeared to be vegetable sitting on the Sooners bench. Griffin playing will be absolutely essential to a Sooners victory. Matching up with Aldrich defensively is a tough task and Griffin is likely the only Sooner big man who is up to the task, especially on the boards.
PPG: 15.0 RPG: 10.3 BPG: 2.5
6-11, 235, So.
As A Recruit:

Many expected Cole Aldrich to have a solid season, but few expected him to have the type of success he has sustained thus far into the season. Against big men who match up with him physically, his statistics have been much more human. His length allows him to block shots without getting himself into foul trouble. Griffin thrives on attacking post players who physically match up with him and forcing them into foul trouble. Aldrich has the ability to block shots and hold his ground without becoming too physical. Griffin will have a huge advantage in space.
32 | TAYLOR GRIFFIN
PUSH
22 | MARCUS MORRIS
PPG: 8.9 RPG: 5.9 BPG: 1.1
6-7, 238, Sr.
As A Recruit:

There may be no bigger leader for the 2008-09 Sooners than Taylor Griffin. Griffin does not get near the credit he deserves for his effect on this years team, but his strength and agility in the paint have been huge for the Sooners on both ends of the floor. He has physically matched up against players with more height than him in the post and does not give an inch. His athleticism is extremely underrated, but he has great feet and great strength. He could have success in one-on-one situations against an average defensive frontcourt at the 4-position.
PPG: 7.6 RPG: 5.0 FT%: 62.2%
6-8, 225, Fr.
As A Recruit:

Freshman Marcus Morris may lose his starting job when the Jayhawks travel to Norman. And the irony of it all is his brother, Markieff Morris is the one who may take it. Marcus Morris has had a typical freshman season. He has shown flashes of greatness, but has been terribly inconsistent for the Jayhawks. He has good range offensively, but handles the ball very poorly when he is pressured defensively. He and his brother seem to trade off having quality games and it seems to be Marcus's turn for a solid outing after Markieff came up big on Saturday.
05 | TONY CROCKER
12 | BRADY MORNINGSTAR
PPG: 10.2 RPG: 3.4 3pt: 37.9%
6-6, 206, Jr.
As A Recruit:

There may be no Sooner more overlooked than Tony Crocker, but he has had three games this season where he has carried Oklahoma to victory. He has been a defensive rock most of the year for the Sooners. Crocker played a solid game for the Sooners in Austin, but missed his final two three-point attempts in the closing minutes of the game. Despite starting the year poorly, Crocker has hit 42% of his three-point attempts since conference play began.
PPG: 7.3 3pt: 47.8% SPG: 1.3
6-3, 187, So.
As A Recruit:

Brady Morningstar may be one of the most underrated players in the Big 12 Conference. He doesn't do anything flashy or impressive, but he is incredibly efficient and God forbid you leave him open for a three-point shot. He has been deadly from behind the perimeter since conference play began, shooting 50%. He has trouble creating his own shot offensively, but has cashed in on being left open as defenders plug the lane to stop Collins. He is also a very active, solid defensive player.
13 | WILLIE WARREN
23 | TYSHAWN TAYLOR
PPG: 15.4 APG: 3.0 3pt: 38.2%
6-4, 207, Fr.
As A Recruit:

Aggressiveness is the key for Willie Warren. When he decides he is going to take the ball to the basket, there are few players in the country who can stop him. He has great strength and athleticism for a true freshman and his long wingspan helps him on the defensive end. His ability to change speeds and finish in traffic with his strength is rare. He single handidly brought the Sooners back in Austin with his terrific perimeter shooting. If he maintains the mentality he had in the second half, it could be the difference between Oklahoma playing in Detroit in April.
PPG: 9.1 FT%: 73.6% FG%: 49.4%
6-3, 180, Fr.
As A Recruit:

Freshman Tyshawn Taylor has shown he will be a great player for the Jayhawks in time. In the meantime, he's a great penetrator similar to Collins, but without the ability to hit a three-point shot. Taylor has shown he is prone to turnovers when under pressure so the Sooners will likely play some major pressure defense on him when he has the ball in his hands. Defensively he can provide the pressure himself. His lateral quickness is outstanding and he has an incredibly bright future with the Jayhawks as he develops a perimeter shot.
20 | AUSTIN JOHNSON
04 | SHERRON COLLINS
PPG: 8.7 FT%: 75.0% APG: 4.4
6-3, 176, Sr.
As A Recruit:

There has been no more important glue-man sticking this Oklahoma team together than Austin Johnson this season. His leadership on both ends of the court has been the reason Oklahoma has not lost a game in nearly two months. His shot has not been overly consistent, but it has fallen when the Sooners needed it the most. Johnson was not himself in Austin offensively, but did a tremendous job shutting down A.J. Abrams completely for 35 minutes. He'll have the tough task of slowing down Collins on Monday night. He will be relied upon to knock down some perimeter shots, as well, which he has not done particularly well as of late.
PPG: 18.0 3pt: 38.0% APG: 5.0
5-11, 200, Jr.
As A Recruit:

There may be no better guard in the Big 12 than Sherron Collins. His ability to penetrate into the lane combined with his outstanding defense has made him quite possibly the most complete player in the conference. Considering how frequently the Sooners allowed Dogus Balbay, of Texas, to get into the lane the Sooners should certainly be concerned about stopping Collins from having the same type of success. Unlike Balbay, Collins can finish in the lane and convert from the free throw line (82.0%). Not to mention how well he has shot from three-point range over the past three Jayhawk victories (8-for-15, 53.3%).
OKLAHOMA BENCH
KANSAS BENCH
The play of Ryan Wright in the paint in Austin showed a great sense of urgency. The Sooners will need the same type of intensity from Wright if Blake Griffin is limited on Monday. Wright will likely get the start if Griffin is not ready to go. Juan Pattillo perhaps played his worst game of the season in Austin, but he has still added a tremendous asset off of the bench. The Sooners need him to be a positive contributor on Monday if they hope to take care of the Jayhawks. Omar Leary and Cade Davis provide relief to the Sooners perimeter players. Freshman Markieff Morris has already been discussed, but he will be an imporant part to slowing down the Sooners post presence. Mario Little has battled injury problems since arriving in Lawrence and it has kept him from reaching his full potential on the court. He is still a major offensive threat off of the bench. Tyrel Reed has been inconsistent off of the bench for Kansas. He is very much a hustle player who can deliver streaky three-point shooting. Travis Releford receives a few minutes each game to give the perimeter players some rest.
OKLAHOMA INTANGIBLES
KANSAS INTANGIBLES
The Sooners suffered their first conference loss of the season at Austin, yet still looked incredibly impressive without their best player on the court for 30 minutes. Oklahoma now returns home, where there will be a rowdy sellout crowd in attendance to welcome the Jayhawks to Norman. The Sooners will be fired up wth the Big 12 Championships driver seat up for grabs on their home floor. The Jayhawks lead the league in turnovers. When they take care of the ball, they are one of the toughest teams to beat in the country with their deadly combination of Aldrich and Collins. On the other hand, when they are forced into turnovers they become very beatable. They will be on the road, where they have not been overly impressive this season.

PREDICTION

OKLAHOMA 71, KANSAS 69
There is no easy call when the two best teams in the Big 12 are going up against one another. Add to the mix that the best player in the country is questionable and we have a toss-up. Still, I expect Griffin to make an appearance and make his impact felt. I expect the Sooners to have some problems with the KU dribble-penetration, but I believe the OU guards will step up in a big way from the perimeter led by Austin Johnson and Willie Warren. The Sooners hit their free throws down the stretch and inch out a victory behind a loud Lloyd Noble Center.


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