Chance For KU To Take Control

There is no more worrying about overlooking opponents. The matchup of the Big 12 season is upon us. takes you through some of the Big Monday's keys for KU.

Oklahoma was poised to take over the number one spot in the nation in the latest poll, but something happened on the way through Austin, Texas. A rejuvenated Longhorn squad fired just enough threes and kept the Sooners at bay winning (73-68) and kept them from their first number one ranking since 1990.

Head coach Jeff Capel was forced to watch his Sooners compete without their star, Blake Griffin. Griffin took a shot to the nose in the first half and left the game dazed and confused, reportedly with a concussion. Griffin spent the second half watching from the bench which according to Capel was a doctor's decision. Sunday the Oklahoman reported Griffin's MRI was "clear" but his status for Monday's game with KU is still in doubt.

Maybe it is a bit of déjà vu for the McDonald's High School All-American and the nation's leading rebounder. Last season in Lawrence, Griffin injured his knee and played just five minutes going 0-2 in a rout by KU on Big Monday. You can be sure if he can play Griffin wants a crack at the four-time Big 12 champs.

In that situation you never want to see a good player come out of the game because of injury. We played so good that game. That was a game we were really, really good—in tune and focused - he would've impacted the game differently but I don't know if he would've impacted the game in a way that would've meant a different result at all," said KU head coach Bill Self.

Kansas will prepare as if Griffin will play and will impact the game. For Self that means he will likely send double teams at the Sooner star when he's in the post. He will get plenty of attention in the KU scouting report but all year long Self has stressed that there is a danger in paying too much attention to one player, but there is no doubt in his mind who the best player in the country is this year.

"I think Blake is the best player in the country," Self said. "We held (Michael) Beasley to 39 last year and held (Kevin) Durant twice to 35 and 37 so I'm really high on those guys. But I think Blake is a more complete guy. I think he impacts the game in more ways than those other guys do. Running, rebounding, passing, he's very skilled and he loves to jump. He loves to show off his athletic ability. He's got great energy and bounce."

Last season in KU's first meeting with K-State in Manhattan Michael Beasley got the attention but his teammates were able to do enough damage to get the win. Beasley scored more in the game in Lawrence but the result was more favorable with KU earning the "W". So in concentrating on shutting one player down you can't let the rest of the team beat you and OU is perfectly capable of doing that with a terrific supporting cast.

Maybe sophomore center Cole Aldrich said it best, "it's not Blake Griffin against Kansas, it is Oklahoma against Kansas"

And the Oscar on Capel's team for best supporting actor just might go to freshman Willie Warren. Self knows all to well about the talents of the 6-4 freshman. Warrem was a KU recruiting target and is one of the best freshmen in the country. He nearly outshot A.J. Abrams of Texas on Saturday and earned his team a win despite Griffin's absence. Warren's heroic effort included six three-pointers and he has shown if you leave him alone you're making a big mistake.

"The reason they are (25-2) is because guys around (Blake Griffin) are playing well and he makes the game easier for them. Willie Warren – I read the other day one person had him - and not that this matters – but someone had him as the second best freshmen in America and the 12th best shooting guard in America overall – that's pretty good for a freshman," Self told reporters after the Nebraska win on Saturday.

If Kansas wants to win the Big 12 regular season for a fifth straight time a win in Norman could go a long way. Three opponents remain after Monday for KU but the Hawks get Missouri and Texas at home and a struggling Texas Tech team on the road. You'd have to say if KU wins this one it would be advantage Kansas.

"You could play great at OU and not win," Self stated. "I'm not putting all the emphasis on this one game like this is for all the marbles. But our guys are smart. And they understand it is a huge game and that it will have conference championship implications, there's no doubt about that. I'm anxious to see how we react in a big stage."

Self hopes that the outcome is different from the team he took into Austin three years ago. KU came in off a 10-game win streak, playing for a conference lead and was on the receiving end of a Texas blowout, 80-55. Kansas did come back and defeat Texas a couple weeks later to take the Big 12 Tournament title.

"I told our guys after we lost to Texas that game had a different feel to it. And there was a different pressure in that game because all of a sudden now everybody's is pointing to you and we were just flying under the radar and we didn't handle it very well," Self reflected. "So I do think it is good to play for high stakes and feel a different kind of pressure which prepares you for the NCAA Tournament."

"It's one of those games if you don't show up you can get blown out but I think coach will have us ready and we'll be pumped up for a game like that," said Sherron Collins.

KU enters this game as the underdog the only question is how big of an underdog it will be because without Griffin a win in Norman certainly looks less formidable. Self will certainly be trying to convince his team they are the underdog with less pressure then the big bad Sooners.

"I think sometimes when you feel like the pressure is on the other team to win, I do think that's a great situation to be in absolutely," said Self. Top Stories