News, notes and quotes on the biggest Kansas/Oklahoma game tonight at 8 in Allen Fieldhouse on ESPN Big Monday since the two teams met in the Big Eight Tournament semifinals on March 10, 1990, when No. 1 Oklahoma beat No. 2 Kansas, 95-77, at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.
Now, 26 years later, it will be No. 1 KU (12-1) against No. 2 Oklahoma (12-0) in the AP poll, and a battle of No. 1 OU versus No. 2 KU in the USA Today coaches' poll.
“What will be very cool, it doesn’t happen very often when one plays one,” KU coach Bill Self said. “One versus two happens, but one versus one, how often does that happen? I think that makes for an interesting storyline.”
There has been at least one other time when No. 1 played No. 1 as Wisconsin (AP) matched up against Ohio State (USA Today) on Feb. 25, 2007.
Baylor coach Scott Drew believes it’s clear who the true top team in the country is after his Bears lost to Kansas, 102-74, Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
"I think there's no doubt who the No. 1 team in the nation is,” Drew said about the Jayhawks, who were led by junior guard Wayne Selden Jr.’s game-high 24 points.
“I'm very impressed with them.”
The high-powered Sooners, who are one of three teams in NCAA Division I that are undefeated (along with SMU and South Carolina), moved to 12-0 with an 87-83 home victory over No. 11 Iowa State on Saturday. They average 87.0 points per game (No. 6 nationally) and boast a +19.5 scoring margin (No. 6 in nation) while leading the country in defensive rebounds at 32.3 (OU’s 43.6 rebounds per game rank No. 6 nationally). In addition, Oklahoma averages 15.8 assists, 6.3 steals, 5.2 blocks and 10.1 made three-pointers per game (No. 1 in Big 12).
OU shoots 48.1 percent from the field, 45.3 percent from beyond the arc (No. 3 nationally) and 71.7 percent at the free throw line, while leading the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense at 37.0 and also holding opponents to just 29.0 percent from three-point range.
Senior guard and national player of the year candidate Buddy Hield leads the attack averaging 24.7 points (No. 4 nationally) and 5.3 rebounds per game, while pacing the Big 12 with 3.3 three-pointers made per game. His 49.4 three-point field goal percentage is No. 6 nationally, while also shooting a scorching 90.5 percent at the free throw line (No. 2 in Big 12). Junior guard Jordan Woodard is next in scoring (13.9 ppg, team-high 21 steals), followed by senior guard Isaiah Cousins (13.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, team-best 58 assists) and senior forward Ryan Spangler (11.1 ppg, No. 2 in Big 12 and No. 19 nationally with 10.2 rpg, No. 3 in league with 60.5 field goal percentage), one of four Big 12 players averaging a double-double. Sophomore forward Khadeem Lattin (5.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 19 blocks) is the fifth starter.
Oklahoma is coached by Lon Kruger, who is 94-49 in his fifth season at OU and 573-353 in his 30th season overall.
Self has great respect for Oklahoma.
“OU has a terrific team. They are playing so well together and are well-coached and well-drilled,” Self said after KU beat Baylor. “We had some great games with them last year and certainly I hope Monday night is one of those type of games, but we need to be ready and focused.
“They score so easy,” Self added. “Lon is the best at giving guys freedom offensively. They play with a free mind. We talk about Wayne having 24 today, which is great, but Buddy is averaging more than 24, so that tells you what kind of year he’s having. They can stretch it from just about every spot. Their first shot defense is excellent. They’re maybe in the top five or 10 in the country in field goal percentage defense. We got an experienced team but we're not near as experienced as they probably are, as far as minutes played. I could be wrong, but Buddy has started most every game since he’s been there, Cousins has started three years now, Woodard’s started every game since he’s been there, Spangler’s started every game since he’s been there. They got a really experienced team.”
Hield can’t wait for the game.
"It's going to be fun," Hield told the Associated Press Saturday after the Sooners beat ISU. "It's going to be a matchup that everybody's going to be watching. We're going there to handle our business."
KU sophomore point guard Devonte’ Graham is also ready for battle.
“Oklahoma is a good team and they are going to be very competitive like they were last year,” Graham said. “They almost knocked us off from the 11 consecutive Big 12 titles last season, so playing them at home this early, hopefully with a win, will be a good start to the Big 12 title race.”
SELF ON BEING NO. 1.
“I think it’s fun to be part of the conversation,” Self said about being ranked No. 1. “We still got to sign some kids, so it makes a good recruiting mail out and some things like that, but I’d rather be there at the end than now.”
MORE RANKINGS TALK
The last time a No. 1 in the AP poll met a No. 2 was on Nov. 12, 2013 when No. 2 Michigan State beat No. 1 Kentucky, 78-74. There have been nine No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups with teams from the same conference.
KU was ranked No. 1 last by the AP on Feb. 14, 2011. In the Self era, KU has been ranked No. 1 20 times overall. The Jayhawks kept the No. 1 ranking from the start of the 2009-10 season for nine straight weeks.
In addition, KU is 15-9 as an AP No. 1 team against ranked foes, including 5-2 under Self. Tonight's game will be just the second time Allen Fieldhouse has hosted a No. 1 vs. No. 2; that other contest happened on Feb. 13, 1990 when No. 2 Missouri beat No. 1 Kansas, 77-71.