Sad about our college football season ending? Me too. But thankfully we have a good basketball team to numb the pain. The Sooners are 11-1, ranked 23rd in the AP and are incredibly fun to watch. This is a team that is red hot entertaining conference play.
Unfortunately, if you are looking for comfort following last Saturday’s Orange Bowl, you probably won’t find it on ESPN 2 tonight at 8 central. In the Big 12 opener Sooners are facing Basketball’s Bama, the Kansas Jayhawks, the team allergic to not winning the Big 12. This team is big, disciplined and in the top five yet again.
Oh, and did I mention the game is in Allen Fieldhouse, one of the most impossible places in win in any sport? Starting off conference play is always hard, but starting it with the hardest game on your schedule is just insanity.
As we know from last season, we’ll see just how good this OU team is through conference play. This is a legit team that can pull off the upset if things fall in place correctly. Here are my big three keys for the Sooners tonight.
1. Stay Composed
Oklahoma has played tough teams in a variety of environments all season, but this is the first one I could call a snake-pit. They have road game experience in a win at Northwestern late last month, but Lawrence is a different animal. If the Sooners can weather the storm early, get good looks despite the score and not let the building beat them, they can hang with this Jayhawk team.
2. Lock Down Dedric Lawson
Among many surprises with this Oklahoma team is their staunch team defense, something missing last season. The Sooners are good on the wings, a skill that will be useful in defending Kansas forward Dedric Lawson. Forcing Lawson into uncomfortable positions and shutting off options will be key to defensive success against the Jayhawks.
3. Don’t Force The Three Ball
This ties into keeping your composure a bit, but relying on threes for this team to survive is just not a good strategy. Forcing them is an even worse one. The Sooners aren’t a particularly effluent three point shooting team, so keeping the shot selection good will be crucial for a win.
When we look back at this season in March, I think this game will end up being pretty impactful. Either it will be a pivotal game in the conference championship hunt or the moment we began to see that this team just wasn’t cut out for the Big 12 gauntlet.
Win or lose, let’s hope for the former.