It's that time of year. March Madness is breathing down our necks. With the expansion of the field to 68 and historical parity, the NCAA bubble looms larger than ever. In the Big 12 Kansas State, Colorado, Baylor and Nebraska all still have a lot of work to do before Selection Sunday. But the front-runners in the conference aren't off the hook either. Texas and Kansas are in a logjam at the top looking for one seeds. Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Duke, San Diego State (or BYU if they can beat the Aztecs this week), Texas and Kansas all have legitimate claims to the top line so far, but only four open spots mean two of those teams will fall to at least a two seed.
That urgency is why this game is so important to Kansas. A home loss to a team on the outside of the bubble would be disastrous for the Jayhawks' seeding hopes--not to mention Big 12 title hopes after Texas opened the door a crack with its loss at Nebraska. The bottom line is, this is a game that an elite team should win. I was going to say that Oklahoma State could join the Big 12 bubble with a win, but a team that only has one true road win (Lasalle in double overtime) isn't sniffing the bubble or a win at Allen Field House.
The most concerning part of Kansas' beatdown in Manhattan last week was the lack of fire from most of team. The Morris brothers played fairly apathetically, looking a step slow against far less talented players on defense (which led to their foul struggles) and downright apathetic (read: willing to settle for long jumpers) on offense. The crowd and physical defense clearly rattled Tyshawn Taylor, and only Tyrel Reed looked ready to play. Obviously, you don't want to look too deeply into one bad game--especially one that took place in the Octagon of Doom. But Bill Self seemed unable to light the fire under his team despite using timeouts with great haste.
Oklahoma State cannot win on the road. As I pointed out above, the Cowboys are a smooth one and seven in their true road games so far this season. Winning at Kansas is going to be a monumental task. The only real chance takes shape in Marshall Moses and Keiton Page. Moses can be an absolute monster on the interior (despite only being listed at 6'6), and Page is capable of scoring in bunches.
Obviously, bigger upsets have happened but I expect this one to finish with a big Jayhawk win.
Update: With the news of Tyshawn Taylor's suspension, this game prognosis changes dramatically. While I predicted a blowout, I now think the game will be much closer but still end in Kansas' favor. That said, this will be a very interesting game to see how Self changes the offense to reflect Taylor's absence. On first glance, Josh Selby seems like the way to go, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Tyrel Reed or Brady Morningstar do some of the ball-handling. After the game, look for a recap on how Taylor's absence affected the Jayhawk offense.
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