Kansas Basketball: 3 Remaining Opponents Jayhawks Must Not Overlook
The Jayhawks under Bill Self have too often learned the hard way when potentially overlooking an opponent, with upset losses in the NCAA Tournament to the likes of Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa, and VCU.
Regular season losses to Oral Roberts and DePaul (2006) along with Texas Tech (2009) combined with a Big 12 tournament exit at the hands of Baylor in 2009 also has occasionally left Self searching for answers in game preparation.
We all know Kansas is the heavy favorite for a ninth-straight conference title and they likely can afford at least one slip-up during their remaining conference slate, a slate that features only one currently ranked team in Kansas State.
However, a couple new opponents and a tricky travel schedule leaves the door open for KU to overlook a few upcoming contests.
February 9th at Oklahoma
Aside from an 11th-ranked Kansas State team under first-year coach Bruce Weber, the Oklahoma Sooners are the Big 12's most pleasant surprise as they continue to build from a post-Blake Griffin meltdown.
While offensively challenged (178th in the nation in field-goal percentage and 148th in points scored), the Lon Kruger-led Sooners have won six of seven following a confusing loss to Stephen F. Austin at home and sit just a game behind the Jayhawks in the Big 12 standings at 4-1.
With one of the most versatile and complete rosters in the league, Oklahoma does not feature a player averaging over 26 minutes per game but have nine averaging over 15 minutes. Romero Osby, Steven Pledger and Amath M'Baye are amongst those nine who could cause matchup issues for Kansas.
KU must pressure freshman guards Buddy Hield and Je'lon Hornbeak, continuing a disturbing season-long trend of poor ball movement, and not allow their versatile forwards to penetrate the lane unchallenged.
January 28th at West Virginia
Projected by many as an outside Big 12 contender, Bob Huggins and West Virginia were quickly humbled with 84-50 pummeling at Gonzaga to open the season and never seemed to recover after dropping two of their next three to start 1-3.
Transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten along with 6'3" guard Terry Henderson have easily been the most consistent trio on a horrendously inefficient offensive team (321st in the nation in field-goal percentage). Like Oklahoma, West Virginia struggles with efficient ball movement and averages a paltry 12.2 assists per game.
Kansas will be leaving those Sooners in Norman late on January 26th prior to their matchup in Morgantown on the 28th, easily making it the longest trip with the least rest of the Jayhawks' season. The good news? West Virginia will be departing nearby Stillwater the same evening as KU leaves Norman.
Despite what appears to be a lost season for the Mountaineers, a home win vs. TCU followed by a resume-building road win at Oklahoma State could leave the feisty bunch seeking a season-defining victory over the highly ranked Jayhawks.
February 16th vs. Texas
Texas might be the best 0-5 team in the conference's 20-year history, with the Jayhawks fully aware of the dangerous Longhorns' defense following their 64-59 comeback victory last weekend.
Rick Barnes' squad has struggled from the field all season but nailed enough perimeter shots (7 of 18) to complement advantageous defense in building a double-digit lead in search of their first conference win.
The problem? Texas does not have a floor leader, nor do they have a seasoned upperclassmen averaging more than two minutes per game.
The young group of Sheldon McClellan, Jevan Felix and Julian Lewis know they blew an opportunity to turn their Chaminade-defining season around and should have plenty of confidence for their mid-February rematch at Allen Fieldhouse.
This is a vastly different Texas team than the one that ended KU's 69-game home winning streak in 2011, but the veteran Barnes remains the only coach to successfully defeat Kansas in their last 102 home games.
The Jayhawks will be finishing up a two-game road trip before facing in-state rival Kansas State five days before Texas arrives. Overlooking the last place Longhorns is certainly possible after another high-energy rivalry game.