Oklahoma State is in Lawrence to face Kansas this afternoon, and CRFF sat down with Rock Chalk Talk managing editor Andy Mitts to get his thoughts on the match-up, Coach Underwood, and a few other things.
CRFF: What are the chances someone other than Kansas wins the conference this year? If anyone can do it, who can this year?
RCT: For someone else to win it outright? I’d probably say 30% or so. With Kansas being the only team still 4-0, they already have a built in advantage, and while I could see some unexpected losses on the road, we've already seen enough close calls for all the other contenders for it to be ready to see some other losses for them as well.
If someone else does snag the title, I'd probably have to go with West Virginia, as their defense has absolutely harassed everyone else this year. I'd give about a 20% chance that Kansas doesn't extend their streak.
CRFF: Aside from the obvious of Forte and Evans, which player for OSU are you most concerned with?
RCT: I'd have to go with Mitchell Solomon. Kansas has real depth issues down low, and if there is any sort of foul trouble for the Jayhawks, Solomon could easily take over the game.
CRFF: It took a comeback for the Jayhawks to beat lowly OU. What did the Sooners do that gave Kansas trouble?
RCT: I don't know that the Sooners did anything in particular other than make their shots. The Jayhawks were bad from inside the arc during that game, and it took a while to turn up the defensive pressure and shoddy to taking more outside shots. Plus, pretty much every game on the road is going to be difficult this year.
CRFF: Josh Jackson is another great Freshman for Bill Self. If he doesn’t rush off to the NBA after the season, what flaw would keep him at Kansas another year?
RCT: I honestly can't envision anything keeping him here for another year, except maybe a serious injury at the end of the season. His shooting touch isn't quite what you want from an elite player right now, but it has been improving steadily and the other aspects of his game are so great that it is hard to see him not going in the top few spots of the draft.
CRFF: Were you more excited about Travis Ford being fired at Oklahoma State (because he had a habit of beating Kansas) or more nervous about the hiring of Brad Underwood?
RCT: I wasn't particularly thrilled with either development. Travis Ford was a average at best coach who lucked into some talent that gave him a huge contract that Oklahoma State couldn't get out of for way too long. Even without Underwood bring the up and coming guy, just changing coaches was probably an upgrade.
But Underwood is likely going to be a home run hire for you guys. He will probably take a couple years to get his system installed and functioning at a high level. But once they get going, the Cowboys will likely be competing for conference title rather quickly.
CRFF: Bigger win for Kansas: Another Big 12 Championship or that football win over Texas?
RCT: I don't think it's possible to answer that question with certainty for a couple years.
CRFF: Ok in all seriousness, Oklahoma State is desperate for a Big 12 win. How nervous are you about this game?
RCT: I'm nervous about pretty much every game these days in conference. There have been a lot of surprising results, and with how many good teams there are in the middle of the pack, there isn't really an off game, even at home.
CRFF: Despite having a formidable backcourt with Mason and Graham, Kansas has had some issues defending inside. How much does the loss of Udoka Azubuike for the season impact Saturday’s game and the rest of the conference slate?
RCT: It's definitely forced Self to go with a smaller lineup a lot more often than he would like. Landen Lucas is the only consistent threat on the inside, and I think that is causing him to be more cautious than he would usually be on defense. Dok would have given them more to work with and better insurance against foul trouble. That being said, this team is talented enough in the backcourt to work around the lack of depth in the frontcourt.
CRFF: Prediction time: Final score?
RCT: I have a hard time picking against the Jayhawks, especially at home. I think Oklahoma State takes advantage inside as the Jayhawks are afraid to help too much to avoid getting lit up from beyond the arc, but ultimately, Kansas has too much. Kansas 87, Oklahoma State 81.
You can also read our Q&A with them over at their site, or by just clicking here.