Oklahoma State has won their last two games. They hadn't won two games in a row since early January. They may be playing better of late, but they've only raised their level of play to mediocre. The Cowboys have a couple of significant problems when attempting to matchup with Kansas. First of all, their point guard play is terrible. Brown and Eaton struggle to make shots, hang onto the ball, and stop dribble penetration. Their offensive shortcomings increase the responsibilities of JamesOn Curry, forcing him both to create almost all of his own shots and opportunities for his teammates. The guards' defensive shortcomings lead to opponents shooting a ton of free throws. Had Iowa State not laid an egg at the free throw line last night, I'd be making disparaging comments about Curtis Stinson in this space.
Secondly, if Sean Sutton chooses to play his outstanding defender Marcus Dove extended minutes against Brandon Rush, then Oklahoma State will spend much of the game playing 4-on-5 offensively against the nation's top defense. Dove took 10 shots in the 204 minutes he played during the conference season. Last night he attempted no shots in 20 minutes. If he's in the game, Dove has to do something on the offensive end. In Stillwater, Dove defended Rush as well as one could in the half-court, but Rush still scored 12 points on 9 shots, mostly on transition buckets following Oklahoma State turnovers. Oklahoma State is simply not good enough to compensate for Dove's non-existent offensive game.
For the Cowboys to have any chance tonight, Torre Johnson will have to play well. Johnson is almost as effective an offensive player and rebounder as Mario Boggan, but Johnson only plays about 20 minutes a game. I don't know why this is.
Boggan, if left as Oklahoma State's lone frontcourt scoring option, exemplifies the type of player Kansas' revolving door of post players defend best: an undersized, back-to-the-basket player who struggles to pass out of double teams. If the Jayhawks can force Boggan into relying on his face-up jumper, they'll be part of the way toward controlling the defensive glass.
I doubt the game tonight will be pretty, though it shouldn't be quite as low-scoring as the game in Stillwater. I don't see Oklahoma State forcing Kansas to score more than a point per possession to win. As in the first meeting, expect Kansas to pull away down the stretch.
Prediction: Kansas 68 Oklahoma State 59
CLIP-N-SAVE WEEKEND PREDICTIONS (should they occur)
Kansas 67 Oklahoma 61 or Kansas 73 Nebraska 55
Finals: Texas 68 Kansas 58
or Kansas 66 Texas A&M 59 or Kansas 77 Colorado 62 or Kansas 74 Texas Tech 57