Game Preview

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas is not in a position where its hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament are tethered to outcomes in the Big 12 Tournament.

Good thing too, considering a knee injury Udoka Azubuike suffered during a scrimmage at practice Tuesday will sideline the 7-foot sophomore center for the conference tourney at Sprint Center. Azubuike is the nation's leader in field goal percentage (77.4) and averages 13.7 points and 7.1 rebounds.

"It is isolated," Kansas coach Bill Self said of the MCL sprain. "It is a grade one sprain. We will hold him out this weekend in Kansas City and he will be reevaluated Sunday and our expectation is that he'll be back on the court next week."

Kansas, which captured its 14th consecutive Big 12 championship and enters the tournament at Sprint Center as the No. 1 seed for the 10th straight year, will not need to sweat a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Some league rivals, however, are not certain of their postseason destination from a conference that was considered as deep as any in the country. The No. 9 Jayhawks (24-7) will begin play in the quarterfinals with a matchup Thursday against Oklahoma State (19-13), which toppled Oklahoma 71-60 in a first-round clash Wednesday.

"Playing against, fighting against, somebody hungry and desperate, they're dangerous," Self said. "You could say going into this tournament nine (Big 12) teams deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament. ... Now, you could say too that of the nine teams going in, some of them need to win to solidify what's going on."

The only question regarding the Jayhawks' NCAA credentials is the seed they obtain. They are seemingly assured of either a No. 1 or 2 seed for the ninth consecutive year, rating second nationally in strength of schedule and fifth in RPI.

"We shouldn't be on the one line. We don't deserve that," Self said of the NCAA bracket to be released Sunday. "But if we were to win out and somebody loses, then yeah, you could make a case for that I guess because we've got so many good wins."

What motivation the Jayhawks carry stems mostly from an 82-64 dismantling it suffered in the last game of the regular season at Oklahoma State, which was picked last in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll.

Now, the Jayhawks get a third crack at the Cowboys, who led the entire game in the last meeting, as well as all but just a brief stretch in an 84-79 victory at Kansas on Feb. 3.

The Cowboys, under first-year coach Mike Boyton, became the first Big 12 rival to sweep Kansas in a home-and-home series with Self as the Jayhawks coach. That string extended to 102 series.

"Really, Oklahoma State has handled us easily for the most part as Big 12 games go. They controlled us both of those games," Self said. "The biggest thing is we need to prepare for is us. There should be incentive for a lot of reasons, (including) we lost in the first round last year."

Sophomore forward Cameron McGriff scored Oklahoma State's first 11 points of the second half and finished with 18 points and nine rebounds against Oklahoma. Senior wing Jeffrey Carroll added 13 points and 13 rebounds.

"We're fighters and we're going to compete for 40 minutes," Carroll said.

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