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OU men's basketball: Beyond Allen Fieldhouse's emptiness, OU faces the same old Kansas

  • 2 min to read
Oklahoma Kansas Basketball

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) steals the ball from Oklahoma guard De'Vion Harmon (11) during a game in Lawrence, Kansas, last year.

Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse lists its capacity at 16,300. For anyone that’s been to the Jayhawks’ home gym, it feels like much more.

It’s suffocating that way.

Every seat is filled and each KU fan plays a vital role in fostering one of college basketball’s best home-court advantages.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, KU is allowing roughly 2,500 fans through its doors, which might be a boost for Oklahoma as it visits Kansas today at 3:30 p.m. in Lawrence.

The bad news? the Jayhawks are still the Jayhawks.

When asked about how the sixth-ranked Jayhawks (9-2, 3-1 Big 12) stack up to past teams, OU coach Lon Kruger said, “the similarity would be that they're very good.”

While playing in a league that currently has three top-6 teams, two more squads in the Associated Press' top-25 poll and another receiving votes (not including OU) might be jading Kruger, his words might also be an understatement.

On average, Kansas is outscoring their opponents by roughly 11 points, out-rebounding them by nearly nine and shooting 37.5% from the 3-point line.

The Jayhawks are top 11 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency against a schedule that's top-10 in terms of strength, according to KenPom.com’s ratings.

And the only blemishes on their 2020-21 slate so far are losses to No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 4 Texas.

OU, coming off a 15-point loss to No. 2 Baylor, would love to join that list but it would need to win its first game in Lawrence since Feb. 17, 1993.

The Sooners have ranked high and low over over the past 28 years, boasting teams worthy of beating the Jayhawks and some that didn't stand as much of a chance. KU hasn't always been on track to be a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but it's pretty close.

The one constant in OU's trips to KU is the crowds, which won’t be a factor Saturday afternoon due to COVID-related capacity restrictions.

That's been the case for every arena OU has graced this season, and it still doesn't seem to feel normal.

“Every time we go on the road, it's a different feeling than playing before a crowd,” Kruger said. “Certainly the Allen Fieldhouse crowd is one of the best in the country. So, it’ll be even magnified this year.”

Perhaps OU's bid for an upset is poorly timed. The Sooners' date with the Jayhawks comes at the end of a brutal four-game stretch, which has pitted them against four consecutive ranked Big 12 opponents.

It's been a strange ride for the Sooners, who gut-wrenchingly lost to Texas Tech by two, got up big on West Virginia before holding on late to win and were run out of Waco by Baylor.

Aside from walking into blowout losses to the Bears and a statistically improbable night from Xavier back on Dec. 9, OU's kept pace with pretty much everyone with its offense.

Austin Reaves is averaging 15.9 points, Brady Manek is at 13.2, De'Vion Harmon at 10.8 and Umoja Gibson at 9.7.

While OU isn't low on options for a monster game, more than one will likely be needed to break the program's curse at "The Phog."

They at least won't have to deal with more than 16,000 KU fans overwhelming them with coordinated chants and impromptu havoc for 40 minutes.

Albeit small, consider that a win.

Joe Buettner

405-366-3580

Follow me @JoeBuettner

jbuettner@normantranscript.com

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