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Men's Hoops Preview - Kansas State vs. (17) Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners come in looking for their sixth straight win. The Cats are looking to avoid their sixth straight loss. Which gives today?

Nigel should be getting the start again today. And a little friendlier crowd to go with it.
Nigel should be getting the start again today. And a little friendlier crowd to go with it.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats (12-13, 5-7 Big 12) welcome in the Oklahoma Sooners for a Saturday evening contest in Bramlage Coliseum. The Sooners are coming off an 11-point victory at Iowa State this past week, while K-State dropped a tough one at West Virginia, 76-72.

The Sooners come in looking for revenge on the Wildcats. In their last tilt - a January 15 game in Norman - K-State hung tough the whole game, including a solid performance from Stephen Hurt. In the final stretch, it was Marcus Foster displaying some heroics, hitting a game-tying floater bucket at the end of regulation, and a three-point dagger with three seconds left to sneak out of the Lloyd Noble Center with the win.

K-State is coming in losing five in a row and six-of-7, most recently the loss in Morgantown. Nino Williams tied a career high with 22 in that game, and the Cats posted two halves of over 50% FG (for a total of 56.8% for the game). This was the first time K-State lost a game this year (8-1) while making half their shots.

Know Your Opponent

So what's changed since mid-January? Even with seven total losses, the Oklahoma Sooners are still the elite team the were earlier. They're currently alone in 2nd in the Big 12 race, a game and a half back from league-leading KU.

In the Sooners last contest, they picked up big road win in Ames, taking down the Cyclones by never trailing in the second half, and leading by as many as 20. TaShawn Thomas had a stat-stuffer game, with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Isaiah Cousins also chipped in 19.

In their 5-game winning streak, they've won by an average of 19.0ppg, including a Big 12-record 45 point destruction of Texas Tech. Ryan Spangler has been scoring on a 15.6ppg clip during the streak, on 75% FG shooting.

Keep a close watch on:

Buddy Hield is still the league-leading scorer (17.6ppg, 45%FG, 5.5rpg) and a legitimate contender for Big 12 (and national) POY honors, Ryan Spangler is still a stud on the boards and in coming up with garbage points (10.9ppg, 60.1%FG, 8.0rpg), and Isaiah Cousins is a solid gamer (12.2ppg, 2.1apg, 5.1rpg).

Beyond their starting five, however, production begins to drop off considerably, with no one averaging more than 4.4ppg coming off the bench.

Offense/Defense Strategy:

Oklahoma does what Texas, Kansas, and some other teams do on defense - they don't overplay the passing lanes, so their turnover numbers are somewhat low. However, they do a great job of playing tough, straight-up D, and make shots difficult. Subsequently, their defensive eFG% is off-the-charts good (#8 in the country, at 42.6%)

K-State, of course, will be in its man defense. Oklahoma does a good job of getting into the paint with dribble penetration, then finding the dump-off pass to a big, or kick out to a shot behind the arc. Most threes for their offense come from this concept, as opposed to off the dribble or perimeter screens. When Oklahoma shooters are open, they make the shots.

Probable Starters

Kansas State Wildcats:

Nino Williams, 6-5 220 Sr
Thomas Gipson, 6-7 265 Sr
Wesley Iwundu, 6-7 205 So
G Nigel Johnson, 6-1 185 So
Jevon Thomas, 6-0 185 So

Oklahoma Sooners:

F Ryan Spangler, 6-8 235 Jr
F TaShawn Thomas, 6-8 242 Sr
Jordan Woodard, 6-0 189 So
G Buddy Hield, 6-4 212 Jr
G Isaiah Cousins, 6-4 192 Jr

3 Keys To The Game

1. Ugly It Up

While I do think that K-State could score at a higher pace if they got out into transition more frequently, that might just play into the hands of Oklahoma in this occasion. The Cats have a shot if they can keep the scoring down and ugly it up a little bit, as long as we can keep the Sooners from scoring efficiently. I know the fuglygame not fun to watch, but K-State just doesn't have the firepower to get into a scoring contest with Oklahoma.

2. Continued Chemistry

We saw K-State develop some level of chemistry against Texas and West Virginia. There isn't a "focus player" on the team, but they started to figure some things out in sharing the ball and getting some open shots. With some rumors flying about Marcus Foster and Malek Harris possibly being available from their suspensions as early as today, I'm really hopeful Bruce Weber is careful in how they're integrated back into the team, not to upset the chemistry and gameplan that is being developed.

3. Protect the Paint

This game is going to come down to rebounding, again. If K-State can stay in the paint and grab some rebounds, limiting Oklahoma's second (and third, and fourth) opportunities at the bucket, while getting a few of their own offensive boards, it'll give us a shot.

All stats by http://www.kenpom.com, or by the respective university's sports information.