Kansas - Oklahoma State Preview

#9 KANSAS SEEKS REVENGE AT #14 OKIE STATE IN BIGGEST BIG 12 GAME THIS SEASON

When Oklahoma State knocked Kansas off its pedestal in Lawrence a few weeks ago, it caused a chain reaction of events that surprised many fans and sports bettors. In its first bounce-back spot against TCU, Kansas was upset AGAIN, but one of the worst teams in the country. Off that loss, the Jayhawks lost to Oklahoma before righting the ship against Kansas State.

Kansas was supposed to be one of the best eight teams in the country. They were on the short list of potential #1 seeds...and were thought to be no worse than a #2. Suddenly, they were dropping home games to good teams, and a road game to a horrible team. How good...exactly...were the Kansas Jayhawks?

They'll get a chance to answer that question Wednesday Night in what is likely to be the most important regular season game this year in the Big 12. If Kansas can't get the job done with this level of revenge on their minds, then they can't be taken seriously as a National Championship threat. Sure, they can still play spoiler in the Dance. They can get hot at the right time and become a chapter in the eventual title stories of Indiana or Florida. But, going 0-2 against Oklahoma State means they aren't the best team in the Big 12. If you're not the best in the Big 12, how can you be best in the nation?

Let's run this much anticipated game through our gauntlet of indicators. 

WON-LOST RECORDS
Kansas: 21-4 (9-3 in the Big 12)
Oklahoma State: 19-5 (9-3 in the Big 12)

There will be a total of 18 games in the double round-robin schedule...so it's a bit early to say this is the "championship" game of the regular season. But, you have to assume it's pretty close! Should Oklahoma State win, they would have a one-game lead on the Jayhawks while also holding the tie-breaker because of the series sweep. Should Kansas get its revenge, they'd have a one-game lead, and would be poised to ride the best talent in the league the rest of the way. It's the "game of the year" in the Big 12 because these two teams are at the top, and lurking Kansas State has already been swept by Kansas.

COMPUTER RANKINGS
Kansas: #5 with Sagarin, #11 with Pomeroy
Oklahoma State: #15 with Sagarin, #16 with Pomeroy

The computers (Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy) focus on full season results. Kansas had a great pre-conference campaign that included a win at Ohio State. If this game were being played the week before Christmas, Kansas would be the prohibitive favorite. It's not. It's getting played the week after Valentine's. Right now, both teams are playing at a level that's more around where Okie State sits in those numbers rather than Kansas.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Kansas: #24 with Sagarin, #39 with Pomeroy
Oklahoma State: #54 with Sagarin, #79 with Pomeroy

Kansas is more battle tested...and what the kids learned in those big pre-conference games should serve them well in the Dance. But, that may just mean losing a close game to a Big 10 or Big East team after surviving an upset bid by a mid-major (and we all know that Kansas is far from a sure thing to survive an upset bid by a mid-major!). Oklahoma State may not be well-suited to big game pressure. We'll see about that tonight. It's one thing to catch a power program napping after they've gotten overconfident. It's another to take care of business on your home court when you're expected to. We may be at the point where tonight's loser should be continued a probable Dance contender given the context.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN'S TOP 50
Kansas: 8-3
Oklahoma State: 5-4

You've got to respect those results, even if Kansas was frontloaded. Should Okie State lose tonight, they fall back to the .500 mark. That would mean they clearly belong in the Dance, but shouldn't be feared in the Dance. You can't assume you'll catch all the breaks in all the close games in March.

JOE LUNARDI'S BRACKETOLOGY
Kansas: projected #3 seed
Oklahoma State: projected #4 seed

Right now, both of these teams are getting respect. Hey, they're co-leaders of a respected conference...and you can't stick them down any further than this based on the evidence to this point. What handicappers have to remember is that the #1 and #2 rungs are going to be pretty loaded this year...and there could be a meaningful drop off down to #3 and #4. You've been watching a lot of games. You would probably agree that Kansas and Oklahoma State aren't passing the eye test the way the Big 10 powers and Florida have been through the bulk of league action. You don't lose to TCU and beat Indiana!

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Kansas: #24
Oklahoma State: #35

Moving now to the chess match...both of these teams are pretty good nationally, but become much less scary within a field of the 50 best teams and other invited guests. Kansas in particularly has had trouble finding consistency from three-point range. What's going to happen when you stick these offenses on a neutral court against a top 10 defense? They'll run into that caliber if they advance in March.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
Kansas: #7
Oklahoma State: #16

Both teams are better on defense than offense. That's been hidden from the media who tends to look at final scores without adjusting for tempo. Kansas is like Kentucky in that they play better defense than everyone realizes because too many people look at scoring volme and not two-point shooting percentage defense. Kentucky does have edges on both sides of the ball according to Pomeroy's numbers that adjust for both pace and quality of opposition. If you assume the Kansas numbers are frontloaded, and they're not as good now as they were in December...then this is basically a toss-up.

POMEROY'S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Kansas: #96
Oklahoma State: #116

Not necessarily a track meet...but, if you're used to watching a lot of Big 10 and Big East games lately, it's going to feel line one! Both teams are well above average in pace factor, and that tends to magnify when teams like this are matched up. Look for aggressiveness and intensity from both teams. That would only slow down late in a close game when head coaches get paranoid about maximizing each possession (which, ironically tends to kill a team's natural flow and ruin those possessions!)

BEST EXPECTATION
This really depends on Kansas. If their mini-slump was just a bump in the road, then they'll come back tonight and re-establish order in the conference they were supposed to own. That's what happened vs. Kansas State. It could surely happen here. But, if Kansas has lost its confidence on the road, then they're going to be in big trouble against a team that's better than the TCU and Oklahoma squads that just took the Jayhawks out. We wouldn't be shocked if this game missed the Vegas line by at least seven points in either direction.

JIM HURLEY has been working with his Big 12 sources to pin down the right side. Kansas/Oklahoma State could surely be in the mix for tonight's BEST BETS. NETWORK is also considering these games:

Providence at #8 Syracuse
Minnesota at #18 Ohio State
#19 Wisconsin at Northwestern
#22 Colorado State at UNLV
New York at Indiana in the NBA (playoff preview?)
Miami at Atlanta
Oklahoma City at Houston
Boston at the LA Lakers

Wow...what a great night in the baskets! You can purchase tonight's final ticket right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow to talk more basketball. We might make a one-day digression into the NBA to look at the Miami Heat as they get ready for a big TV game in Chicago. It's WALL-TO-WALL BASKETBALL and major stories are breaking daily! Stick with us in the NOTEBOOK for handicapping tips and info...then link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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