Sooners not underestimating reeling Kansas
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Saturday, February 09, 2013
2/09/13 at 7:06 AM
NORMAN - If you believe Bill Self, Oklahoma is about to play the worst Kansas basketball team since, well, the dawn of Kansas basketball.
After the Jayhawks' 62-55 loss at TCU on Wednesday night, Self told reporters you'd have to retreat to the first decade of his program to find as inept a team. Back when game creator James Naismith was coaching the Jayhawks against YMCA teams from Leavenworth, Kan., and Oskaloosa, Iowa.
It's fascinating what happens when a team ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll loses a 33-game homecourt winning streak to a team that never wins on the road (Oklahoma State), and follows that up by losing to a team that never wins, period (TCU).
And it makes things very interesting for the next opponent. How are the Sooners supposed to take this as they approach Saturday's 3 p.m. tipoff?
Does OU coach Lon Kruger buy what his counterpart was selling after Wednesday's loss?
"I don't think that will work on many people," Kruger said with a chuckle following Thursday's practice. "Kansas is very good. Obviously they didn't play like they wanted to against TCU, but we would expect the normal Kansas team to come in here and play well."
Thus, the Sooners (14-7, 5-4 Big 12) see Saturday as an opportunity "not because of the way Kansas is playing," as Kruger said, "but as an opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country."
So is it one of the worst teams in KU's 115-year history or one of the best teams in the country? Depends on who you ask, apparently.
"They were top two or three in the country. In order to be that, you've got to have legit NBA players on your team," OU guard Sam Grooms said. "For people saying they're not any Thomas Robinsons or Tyshawn Taylors or Morris twins on that team ...
"Elijah Johnson might not do the same things Tyshawn Taylor did, but he's still very good. Jeff Withey might not do the same thing Thomas Robinson did, but he's still a defensive presence who alters everybody's game plan. And Ben McLemore is probably one of the better two-guards in the country, if not the best.
"I still think they're one of the best teams. You can't underestimate them."
The Sooners promise they won't, for they figure they're not only going to face a talented team, but a motivated one.
Asked what kind of Kansas team he expects to see, OU guard Steven Pledger said: "A team that's probably been cussed out every day. Bill Self won't allow it, not after losing two games in a row like that."
"To be honest, we're probably going to get a Kansas team that's (angry) about everything," OU forward Andrew Fitzgerald said.
"Kansas is gonna play their heart out, no matter what," guard Buddy Hield said. "Even though they lost to TCU, they're still a good team. They can get far in the NCAA Tournament. They can still go on a good run."
So can the Sooners. That adds more intrigue to Saturday's game. Both teams are coming off back-to-back lackluster losses, but both are playing for March. OU wants to return to the NCAA Tournament. Kansas (19-3, 7-2) wants to hang on to its high seed.
"It's going to be big Saturday," Fitzgerald said. "I can't wait for it."
But not necessarily because the Sooners feel they're catching KU in a historically vulnerable position.
"If people underestimate them and think they're not the same Kansas team, I think they're crazy," Grooms said. "Sometimes you're gonna lose. That's just basketball ... They can come in here and play outrageously great like they did when they beat Ohio State earlier this season, or they can come in and play outrageously bad like they did against TCU.
"But we've got to come in prepared either way."
3 p.m. Saturday
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Original Print Headline: Sooners not taking KU lightly
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Kansas head coach Bill Self argues a call during a loss to TCU on Wednesday. SHARON ELLMAN/Associated Press