Oklahoma basketball: Buckle up; this week is going to be rough sledding

Nothing is easy in the Big 12 this season, and the Oklahoma basketball team is about to get a royal dose of that in this first week of the new year.

Over the next six days, the Sooners not only go up against two teams that up to last week were ranked in the top-five nationally, but they will be doing so in those team’s home building.,

On Wednesday, Oklahoma will play at No. 2 Baylor, and then three days later the Sooners go north to historic Allen Fieldhouse, home of the previously third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. I probably don’t need to remind you that Oklahoma has not won a game on the Jayhawks’ home floor since 1993. That’s a span of 19 games.

The closest Oklahoma has come to winning a game at Allen Fieldhouse was in 2016 with Buddy Hield scoring 46 points and the Sooners taking the Jayhawks to three overtimes in a 109-106 thriller.

Kansas is loaded again this year, and the scary thing is the perennial Big 12 champions are probably the second best team in the conference this season. Baylor ranks second in the country in scoring, averaging 92.9 points a game, and leads the nation in scoring margin, outscoring their opponents by an average of 30 points.

Baylor has four players scoring in double digits, including two (Jared Butler and MaCio Teague) who rank in the top four in Big 12 scoring. Butler averages 16.0 points a game and is a dangerous three-point shooter, shooting 46 percent from behind the arc. Teague averages 15.9 points and Davion Mitchell 12.0. Adam Flagler averages 10.9 coming off the bench.

Baylor’s 52 percent shooting percentage leads the Big 12 and ranks 11th in the country. The Bears are a strong offensive rebounding team, which leads to a lot of second-chance points.

The timing for the Sooners to play Kansas in Lawrence this weekend is not especially welcoming. It will be the Jayhawks first game back on its home floor since suffering an 84-59 loss to then No. 8 Texas, matching Kansas’ worst loss in the history of Allen Fieldhouse.

It’s never a good time to have to play Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. But because of what happened last Saturday against Texas, you can be certain the Jayhawks are going to be out to set things right a week after being embarrassed at home. Not a good time for Oklahoma to be showing up on the Kansas’ home schedule.

The Jayhawks have just three starters averaging in double figures this season. Freshman Jalen Wilson is KU’s big scorer this season, averaging 15.1 points a game. Ochai Ogbaji averages14.4 points. and Christian Braun is at 11.1. Kansas has not shot the ball well so far this season. The Jayhawks rank near the bottom in the Big 12 shooting 42 percent from the field. But KU is deep and talented and aside from the huge upset last Saturday is one of the best teams in the country playing at home.

Oklahoma is second in the Big 12 in scoring (81.8 points per game) and fourth in field-goal percentage (46.4). Seniors Brady Manek and Austin Reaves are the Sooners’ two best scoring threats, averaging 13.6 and 15.5 per game, respectively. The beauty of the 2020-21 Sooner men’s team is their depth and the ability they have shown so far of not having to rely on Manek and/or Reaves to carry the team every game.

In Saturday’s win over West Virginia, junior transfer Umoja Gibson came off the bench to score 29 points, including eight of 11 three-pointers. The game before that, sophomore point guard De’Vion Harmon led the Sooners with 17 points.

Ten different Oklahoma players are averaging at least 13 minutes every game. Three starters are scoring in double digits and seven different players average at least eight points a game.

This three-game stretch — West Virginia, Baylor and Kansas, last week all ranked in the top 10 nationally — is easily the most challenging on Oklahoma’s 2020-21 schedule.

The Sooners took care of business in the first of those three games. An even bigger challenge awaits this week..