PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: The keys to tonight’s Kansas-Oklahoma game

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 2 Oklahoma at No. 1 Kansas, 9:00 p.m.

We’ve already written about the significance of this matchup, so here we’re going to take you through some of the keys to the game:

  • Which star gets it rolling?: The roster makeup of these two teams is pretty similar. They have a talented, three-guard back court with an All-American candidate on the wing, namely Wayne Selden and Buddy Hield. Both have proven to be more than capable when it comes to scoring in bunches and I’d be surprised if the two weren’t matched up against each other for much of the night (Oklahoma likes to switch all exchanges in their man-to-man defense, so it’s unknown just how long that will happen). Hield had a reputation for being a lockdown defender when he first arrived at Kansas. Does that shine through tonight, or will Selden and company be able to slow down a player that is averaging 24.7 points?
  • Transition points: Both Kansas and Oklahoma love to get out and run the floor, but the transition game is going to be more important for Oklahoma for a couple of reasons: 1. More than 23% of their offensive possessions come in transition, and, on the season, they average just 0.964 points-per-possession in half court offense, according to Synergy. Kansas, meanwhile, is seventh nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. So it will be important for Oklahoma to get easy baskets, particularly early in the game; it’s easy to dig a hole you can’t climb out of in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. They’re also going to want to prevent Kansas from getting too many transition opportunities, as the last thing they need is to deal with how frenzied Phog can get after a big dunk or a couple of easy threes. 6-0 spurts can turn into 12-0 runs really easily there.
  • Who wins the battle up front?: Perry Ellis vs. Ryan Spangler is the matchup that everyone knows about, but the interesting part about both these teams is that they’re still trying to solidify their rotation in the middle. Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin has been promising in his minutes, but he’s not going to put fear in opposing coaches. Kansas center Hunter Mickelson has seemingly grasped onto the final starting spot, but the Jayhawks basically play center by committee.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. No. 6 North Carolina will pay a visit to Tallahassee to take on Florida State in a game they absolutely can lose. The Seminoles have a really talented backcourt and the ability to play four guards. The Tar Heels better show up ready to play.
  2. No. 17 West Virginia will make one of their long road trips, as they head to TCU after playing at Kansas State over the weekend.
  3. No. 4 Virginia heads to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. The world will be a better place when/if this in-state rivalry becomes, you know, a rivalry.
  4. Youngstown State visits Oakland, meaning that it is Kahlil Felder time.