Point: OSU will beat KU in GIA, again
The Oklahoma State men’s basketball team has a knack for upsetting Kansas in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Although Kansas jumped to No. 1 in the latest Associated Press poll and has sealed its 13th straight regular season Big 12 championship, the Cowboys will look to continue their streak of storming the court Saturday against the Jayhawks on Eddie Sutton Court.
OSU (20-10 overall, 9-8 Big 12) has beaten the Jayhawks three years in a row in Stillwater, and the fans filled the GIA floor in celebration. Saturday, the Cowboys will upend Kansas once again and there are a couple of key factors why.
The improved attitude and motivation for OSU is the first element in its favor against the Jayhawks (27-3, 15-2). With Brad Underwood running the show, the Cowboys have changed their style of play. OSU has a stifling defense, a more fluid offense and playmakers with Jawun Evans, Jeffrey Carroll and Phil Forte III as its puppet masters.
At the beginning of the Underwood era, the Cowboys started well but fell off as conference play got underway. As the season continued, players brought into the new system and things began to flow. Since its loss to Kansas State on Jan. 18, OSU has won 10 of its past 12 games. The Cowboys’ only losses in the stretch came in Stillwater to a top-10 Baylor team, 72-69, and No. 24 Iowa State on the road, 86-83.
The Cowboys’ role players are the second variable for their possible success. OSU has players who complement Evans, Carroll and Forte, including a deep bench. However, the X-factors for the Kansas game will be senior forward Leyton Hammonds and junior center Mitchell Solomon.
Hammonds struggled early in the season as he tried to fit into the Underwood system. In many games, he got into first-half foul trouble and shot poorly. But recently, with an assist from Evans finding him more often, Hammonds has found his groove, having his best offensive and defensive performances of the year. Hammonds has scored in double-figures in four of the previous six games for the Cowboys.
OSU lacks size in the post in most matchups, but against the Jayhawks it will be even or have an advantage thanks to Solomon. Solomon seems to play his best whenever the Cowboys play Kansas, which adds an extra boost to the team. In the first meeting this season, he didn’t miss a shot and scored 16 points.
The home atmosphere of GIA is the biggest and final factor. When the Cowboys traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, for the first meeting, the Jayhawks had the advantage. The Allen Fieldhouse crowd along with the home calls aided Kansas in its 87-80 victory.
The Jayhawks’ trio of Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson combined for 63 points in the game. The foul discrepancy was the biggest difference; Kansas had 14 fouls called against them while OSU had 30. The Jayhawks shot an absurd 45 free throws and made 30 while OSU made 11 of its 14 attempts. Although Kansas draws fouls well, don’t expect the same result in Stillwater.
Emotions will be high and the motivation to defeat Kansas on Saturday will be even higher for the Cowboys and their fans. Underwood has brought “The Rowdy” back to GIA, and the game has been sold out for two weeks; it will be deafening in the arena. Not to mention, it is the final regular season game of the season and senior night for OSU.
For these reasons, I anticipate a narrow Cowboy victory and a fourth straight court-storming for OSU against the Jayhawks.
Counterpoint: Kansas will avoid fourth straight GIA upse
The Kansas Jayhawks will be flocking to Stillwater on Saturday with a vote of confidence. The 27-3 Jayhawks became the new No. 1 team after Gonzaga was defeated by BYU on Saturday. After clinching their 13th straight Big 12 title and an impressive win against Oklahoma, the Jayhawks will look to break their losing streak in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The Jayhawks have lost OSU the past three years in GIA. There are three key variables that are different for this team then the past teams that will make the Jayhawks’ outcome different.
The first variable is freshman sensation Josh Jackson. Jackson averages 16.3 points per game, as well as 7.2 rebounds and three assists. Alongside his ability to score, Jackson is arguably the best two-way player in the nation, averaging 1.7 steals per game and 1.1 blocks. Jackson has also recorded 11 double-doubles this season, one of which was against the Cowboys earlier this season.
The second variable is the veteran duo of junior Devonte’ Graham and senior Frank Mason III. Graham averages 13.2 points per game and Mason averages 20.3. The two also average a combined 9.2 assists per game and steal the ball 3.2 times. Mason is also in conversation for the John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation’s best player.
The third factor is on the side of the Cowboys, Brad Underwood. Those losses KU suffered from OSU came from Travis Ford, OSU’s former coach. Ford seemed to have the right formula for KU and found ways to get under the Jayhawks and Bill Self’s skin. Underwood may not know what makes KU tick the way Ford did.
OSU has been hot as of late. The Cowboys are 8-2 in their past 10 games, but the Jayhawks have been hotter. The Jayhawks are 9-1 in their past 10 games.
OSU is coming off a loss to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday, while KU is coming off an impress comeback victory against Oklahoma. KU went on a 31-9 run in the last 9:44 of the second half, shooting 13-of-15 from the field and 5-of-5 from the 3-point line.
I think KU has shown what it’s made of this season, proving it can come back from a large deficit, such as the OU game, keep its foot on the gas like against TCU and come up clutch in a close victory like against Baylor. Because of this, I believe KU will defeat OSU on Saturday.