OSU's Marcus Smart vs. KU's Elijah Johnson
Analysis: If there's one hangup in the Jayhawks' bid to remain elite, it's the point guard spot, where Johnson has struggled to the point of being called out by KU coach Bill Self. In the first meeting, Johnson went 3-of-14 from the floor and committed four turnovers in the loss, prompting Self to say afterward: “We don't have a point guard.” Smart dominated that game — as he has many in OSU's seven-game winning streak. Sophomore Naadir Tharpe has been getting more exposure at the point, providing positive results. Still, this is a matchup the Cowboys can and must exploit.
OSU's Markel Brown vs. KU's Ben McLemore
Analysis: McLemore, along with OSU's Smart, is a front-runner for Big 12 Player of the Year. And there's mounting evidence that Brown deserves consideration, too. The Cowboys junior was the firestarter in Lawrence, providing early energy and confidence with a 3-point barrage. He finished with seven 3s and a game-high 28 points in OSU's win at Allen Fieldhouse. McLemore, a projected high NBA Draft pick, can take over games as a shooter or a slasher. He averages 16.7 points to Brown's 15.8 and is also a strong perimeter shooter.
OSU's Le'Bryan Nash vs. KU's Travis Releford
Analysis: Nash is coming off his best game of the season, a 26-point performance against Oklahoma that also featured his hard work on defense and around the basket. While the points aren't a necessity, the effort is against a fundamentally sound team like KU. Releford is a seasoned vet who provides steady production and leadership. He leads the Big 12 in field-goal percentage at 59.9 percent and has shot 71 percent or better in 11 games.
OSU's Michael Cobbins vs. OU's Kevin Young
Analysis: A senior getting his first opportunity at full-time duty, Young is an energetic forward who gives the Jayhawks solid work on the boards. He had 12 points and seven boards in the earlier loss to the Cowboys. Cobbins has been a valuable cog in OSU's streak — scoring, rebounding, defending and blocking shots. His eight points and eight rebounds were big in complementing the rest of the Cowboys in the win at KU.