Tulsa-area basketball fans are familiar with the top three seeds visiting the BOK Center during the NCAA Tournament’s first-round games.
Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger and Tulsa’s Frank Haith are also connected to top-seed Kansas, No. 3 Baylor and No. 6 SMU. The coaches competed against the schools in Big 12 and American Athletic Conference competition this season.
So what are the chances that one of the schools could make an extended postseason run? Who are the X-factors on each squad? And how does an opponent beat them?
The Tulsa World met with both coaches this week and they gave their insight.
What are the chances that one school could make an extended run in the tournament?
Kansas: “Kansas as the No. 1 seed certainly has the potential to be the national champion. They’ve got all of the components. They’ve got experience with Coach (Bill) Self, outstanding guard play, depth on the perimeter especially. They’re certainly capable of being a national champion.” — Lon Kruger
Baylor: “Coach (Scott) Drew does a great job with Baylor. Consistently they’ve been outstanding defensively. Maybe in the last six weeks they haven’t been as consistent on the offensive end in terms of production, but still a very talented ballclub. (Manu) Lecomte at the point, (Johnathan) Motley inside, other really, really good players around those guys. Probably a little deeper than what people maybe at first realized. They can bring people off the bench and get good production, whether it be (Terry) Maston or perimeter guys. King McClure can have a big game. A lot of different individuals can have big games on any given night.” — Kruger
SMU: “I said this right after the conference tournament that I think that SMU can make a big-time run. They have all the qualities to get past this first weekend, obviously, and I think once that happens, they are just so good offensively, maybe the best offensive team in the country because they put so many guys out there that can score the basketball.” —Frank Haith
What does an opponent have to do to beat these teams?
Kansas: “Kansas hasn’t been deep on the interior. If (Landen) Lucas is in foul or (Carlton) Bragg is in foul trouble, they don’t go real deep with size. Yet they can play a bigger lineup or a smaller lineup. (Josh) Jackson being a premier player at that four spot is a matchup nightmare for an opponent. (Frank) Mason at the point, (later in the game) they get the ball to Mason and he can not only score but create for a lot of very good players around him. They’re a ballclub in a tight game late, odds go in their favor.” — Kruger
Baylor: “A very good ballclub that maybe wasn’t as productive offensively consistently late in the year, but still a very, very good team … It seemed like they continued to guard people very well and weren’t giving up points late in the season, but maybe weren’t scoring at the clip they were earlier in the year. Sometimes you get into that second round of conference play and teams are more familiar and it’s a little more difficult to score points.” — Kruger
SMU: “You are going to have to score. They do a great job, because they only have six players, where if they have a lead, they get their tempo going. You are going to have to score and execute in the paint against them. They make it hard for you to get in there. But if you are able to get in there, I think you can be able to score against them because they don’t want to foul and they don’t have a lot of depth in the post. That’s going to be the key to beating them – being able to score in the paint against their big guys and put pressure on their big guys to defend. Ben Moore and Semi (Ojeleye), if you are able to do that, you have a chance to beat them.” — Haith
Who is each school’s ‘X-Factor” on the roster?
Kansas: “(Frank) Mason is going to be there. You know what you’re getting with Mason, and it’s outstanding play especially in late-game situations. Probably the foul trouble on the interior could be a concern for Kansas because of their lack of depth on the inside. And obviously foul trouble for Mason could pose a problem, too, but every club has that concern.” — Kruger
Baylor: “You expect Motley to be there night after night. The very good players typically do that and even raise their play in the postseason. Lecomte on the perimeter has been consistently good all year long. You would expect him to have a good postseason. Ishmail Wainright is a veteran that’s always been kind of the glue for that ballclub and has always done a great job. Jo Lual-Acuil inside hasn’t been there maybe as consistently as Motley, but is very capable of having a good postseason.” — Kruger
SMU: “I think Sterling Brown is their guy. When he plays well … he is such a key on both ends of the court. He usually guards the other team’s best player on the perimeter. I think he makes timely shots and he plays so hard. He’s a key guy for me. He’s an X factor. I know Semi is their MVP and Ben Moore and Shake (Milton) are very talented. But the guy that I point to is Sterling Brown.