Five things to know before KU-Oklahoma State

03/13/2014 10:44 PM

03/13/2014 10:44 PM

It’s Kansas and Oklahoma State in the second quarterfinal of the Big 12 Tournament (2 p.m. on ESPN2). While we wait for the tip, here are five things to know before No. 1 seed Kansas faces No. 8 Oklahoma State.

1. Kansas must limit the turnovers

In two games against Oklahoma State, Kansas has averaged 20.5 turnovers per game. Naadir Tharpe has 12 turnovers over the two contests, and a bulk of the credit goes to Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, who has eight steals against Kansas. The Jayhawks are averaging 19.1 turnovers per 100 possessions, which ranks 235th nationally. They have to protect the ball better against Smart and Oklahoma State’s athletic guards.

2. Marcus Smart can live at the free-throw line

In two games against Kansas, Smart is 19 of 24 from the free-throw line. He shot 14 free throws in the Cowboys’ victory over Kansas in Stillwater, but it wasn’t just the quick home whistle. He also went to the line 10 times at Allen Fieldhouse.

We’ll preface the next stat with a caveat: The new foul rules have led to more free throws across college basketball this season. But still, Kansas has allowed opponents to shoot 811 free throws in 31 games this season. That’s after Kansas opponents shot just 699 free throws in 37 games last year.

The Jayhawks have also benefited, of course. Last year, KU shot 809 free throws in 37 games. This year, the Jayhawks have shot 838 free throws in 31 games.

3. If the season ended today, Oklahoma State would probably project as an No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament

The Cowboys are 21-11 and finished 8-10 in the Big 12, but three of those losses came with Marcus Smart serving a three-game suspension after shoving a fan in Lubbock. Oklahoma State has won five of six since Smart’s return, the only loss coming in overtime at Iowa State.

They look even better in the various computer rankings. According to the algorithms at KenPom.com, Oklahoma State rates as the 18th best in the country, while Kansas began the day at No. 8. That would mean Thursday’s quarterfinal is closer to a No. 2 seed facing a No. 5 in the NCAA Tournament.

If the Cowboys beat Kansas, they could shoot up the NCAA’s S-curve and boost their seeding. But if they lose, some No. 1 seed could be very unhappy to see Oklahoma State as the No. 8 seed in their region.

4. Kansas in Kansas City

The Jayhawks have won nine straight at the Sprint Center, including a perfect 8-0 record last season. Entering Thursday, KU is 208-78 all-time in games played in Kansas City.

5. Wiggins watch

After scoring 41 points against West Virginia, KU’s Andrew Wiggins became the second KU freshman to score 500 points in a season. Wiggins has 522 points, while Ben McLemore set the Kansas freshman record with 589 points last season. To catch McLemore, Wiggins needs two things to happen: He needs to keep scoring, of course, but he also needs Kansas to keep winning. If the Jayhawks play six more games — let’s say reach the finals of the Big 12 tourney and advance to the Sweet 16 — he’d need to average 12 points a game to break the record. If the Jayhawks go further, it becomes easier.

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