• WHEN/ WHERE: 3 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
• TV/RADIO: CBS (Chs. 5, 13); KCSP (610 AM)
• ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE (15-2, 3-1 Big 12): In the preseason, the Cowboys were picked with Kansas as Big 12 co-favorites. But nobody expected Oklahoma State to lose big man Michael Cobbins to a torn Achilles’ tendon in late December. Led by sophomore Marcus Smart, the guard-heavy Cowboys are 3-1 since Cobbins’ injury, the only loss coming at Kansas State. Sophomore forward Kamari Murphy has filled in nicely for Cobbins, but the injury certainly makes the Cowboys thin up front. Will they be able to contain KU freshman center Joel Embiid? Oklahoma State certainly has enough offense to match up. The Cowboys are in the top 50 nationally in three-point shooting (39 percent) and rank in the top 20 inside the three-point line (54 percent). As a result, Oklahoma State ranks sixth in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. Even after last year’s upset in Allen Fieldhouse, the Cowboys have won just three of seven against KU.
• ABOUT KANSAS (12-4, 3-0 Big 12): Kansas didn’t have much confidence while suffering through four nonconference losses. That changed on Monday at Iowa State, when the Jayhawks handled a top 10 team in a hostile road environment. “I think we needed the confidence,” KU coach Bill Self said. So here comes Kansas, 3-0 in the Big 12 with No. 9 Oklahoma State returning to Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since the Cowboys’ victory in the Phog last year. One difference this year: Kansas has Embiid, who dominated a smaller Iowa State frontcourt with 16 points and five blocks. He is averaging 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 22 minutes per game. And his potential appears to be growing by the day. “I think that Joel has a chance to be an NBA All-Star,” Self said this week. … Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe is also trending upward, averaging 14.6 points and 5.3 assists in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks will play host to No. 12 Baylor on Monday.
• BOTTOM LINE: Kansas hasn’t lost two home games in one season since 2006-07. With Andrew Wiggins and Embiid coming into their own, Kansas is positioned to start 4-0 in the Big 12 and move two games ahead of another title contender.
| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org