Getting to know: Oklahoma basketball

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger reacts to a play against TCU during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Oklahoma won 95-72. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger reacts to a play against TCU during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Oklahoma won 95-72. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

The Big 12 season has finally arrived.

Kansas was nearly flawless through it 12 nonconference games in 2018, posting an 11-1 clip. The lone loss dropped the preseason No. 1 team to No. 5 in the AP poll, where it remains ahead of the start of conference play. The league slate begins with a home tilt against No. 23 Oklahoma.

The Jayhawks have now won the league in 14 consecutive seasons, which is an NCAA Division I record for consecutive conference regular-season titles. Kansas has also won 27-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season. The last time KU lost a conference opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991.

“I don't know if you talk about the league race getting off to a fast start,” KU coach Bill Self said. “You just talk about playing well early. It's such a long grind, 18 games is a long time. You don't want to put too much emphasis on one game."

The Sooners (11-1) lead the Big 12 in rebound average at 43.2 boards per game and ranks in the top three in the conference in field goal percentage defense (37.5), 3-point field goal percentage (36.9) and rebound margin (+6.0).

"Statistically, they are very good defensively,” Self said. “They are a very good rebounding team. They are bigger than what you think.”

Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.

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BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA

TOP PLAYER

No. 0 — G Christian James | 6-4, 218, sr.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) can't quite get to a loose ball as it is scooped up by Oklahoma guard Christian James (0) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) can't quite get to a loose ball as it is scooped up by Oklahoma guard Christian James (0) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Self believes James would be the favorite for the most-improved player in the league.

In nonconference play, James averaged 17.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He leads the team in scoring, and ranks second in rebounding. James has scored in double figures in all but one game, amassing 20 points in four of his 12 games.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, James is considered very good in isolation and excellent at cutting off the ball. He’s scored 24 points in 25 possessions of isolation, while notching 24 points in 13 positions of cutting to the basket.

SUPPORTING CAST

No. 3 — G Miles Reynolds | 6-2, 170, sr.

Oklahoma guard Miles Reynolds (3) celebrates the team's 76-69 overtime win against Northwestern in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Oklahoma guard Miles Reynolds (3) celebrates the team's 76-69 overtime win against Northwestern in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Matt Marton) by Associated Press

Reynolds is second on the team in scoring after a strong nonconference showing.

Reynolds is averaging 10.9 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting in his first season with the Sooners. Reynolds, who transferred in from Pacific, has started in four of his 12 games and is averaging 25.3 minutes per contest. Prior to his lone season with Pacific, Reynolds spent two years at Saint Louis.

This season, Reynolds has done most of his damage in spot-up situations. According to Synergy, Reynolds is averaging 1.085 points per possession in such plays by scoring 51 points on 47 possessions.

No. 35 — F Brady Manek | 6-9, 215, so.

Oklahoma forward Brady Manek, left, Northwestern center Dererk Pardon, center, and Oklahoma forward Kristian Doolittle, right, fight for a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Oklahoma forward Brady Manek, left, Northwestern center Dererk Pardon, center, and Oklahoma forward Kristian Doolittle, right, fight for a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Matt Marton) by Associated Press

Manek is the third Sooner to average in double figures through 12 games.

The sophomore is averaging 10.8 points per game thus far to go along with his team-high 7.5 rebounds per contest. Manek scored 14 points against KU in the first meeting between these two teams last year before finishing with just two points in the second clash in Allen Fieldhouse.

This season, Manaek has reached double figures in seven of his 12 games. He’s finished with a season-high 18 points in two different outings.

No. 2 — G Aaron Calixte | 5-11, 175, sr.

Oklahoma guard Aaron Calixte (2) passes the ball away from Northwestern forward Vic Law (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Oklahoma guard Aaron Calixte (2) passes the ball away from Northwestern forward Vic Law (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Matt Marton) by Associated Press

Calixte is fourth on the team in scoring with an average of 8.7 points per contest.

In his first season with the Sooners, Calixte has started in all 12 of his outings and is averaging 23.7 minutes per game. Calixte came to OU after spending four years with Maine, one of which he only played five games.

With Oklahoma, Calixte is shooting 46 percent from the floor, including a 35.5 clip from downtown.

ONE THING OKLAHOMA DOES WELL

The Sooners can flat-out defend this year. They have the seventh-best defensive efficiency via KenPom.com. Oklahoma is holding teams to a 40.9 percent clip on 2-point shots, which ranks sixth in all of college basketball.

ONE AREA OKLAHOMA STRUGGLES

If this game is close down the stretch, Kansas could pull away at the free throw line. Oklahoma is shooting just 66.9 percent from the charity stripe, which is ranked 257th in college basketball. The D1 average as a team is 69.8 percent from the free throw line.

MEET THE COACH

The Sooners are coached by Lon Kruger, who is 151-92 in his eighth season at OU and 630-396 in his 33rd season overall. Oklahoma is 11-1 on the season and brings a seven-game winning streak into its Big 12 opener at Allen Fieldhouse.

VEGAS SAYS…

According to Action Network, Kansas is an 8.5-point favorite as of Wednesday morning. I’m hoping my picks get better now that the spreads are smaller and I know these Big 12 teams more than the nonconference foes. However, I’m not entirely confident just yet. I’ll take Oklahoma to cover, but Kansas should still win this game by six or seven.

My prediction: Kansas 77, Oklahoma 71

Record against spread: 4-8

Comments

Dane Pratt

But we're only shooting 68 percent

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Tim Orel

I am in agreement. KU can pull away at the foul line? Only if Dok is on fire or Self pulls him from the game.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

And would likely be lower had Dok not missed 4 games. Although he was 3 for 6 in his last outing.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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