Nothing is certain in Big 12 men’s basketball this season. But it is a reasonably sure bet that we won’t see the same Kansas team that lost at Texas when these same two teams take to the court at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for the renatch.
No. 19 Texas (20-6, 9-4) makes the second leg of a brutal two-game road trip with a trip to No. 8 Kansas (20-6, 11-2) on Saturday, four days after losing at No. 17 Iowa State earlier this week. Just one week ago, this matchup looked a lot more important, with the Longhorns then trailing first-place Kansas by just one game. The difference is now two games as a result of Texas’ loss at Iowa State and the Jayhawks’ one-point win Tuesday at Texas Tech.
Nevertheless, the Kansas-Texas contest Staurday night still carries plenty of importance for b0th sides. For Kansas, a victory not only would ease the pain from the disappointing defeat the Jayhawks suffered at Texas but also would move them one step closer to claiming yet another conference title. For the Longhorns, the stakes are simple: They have to win to stay close to front-running Kansas in the standings and remain in contention for a conference title.
Kansas and Texas are the two winningest teams since the formation of the Big 12 17 seasons ago. The Jayhawks, who have won 13 Big 12 titles to three for Texas, lead the all-time series 22-8 and have won four of the last five and eight of the last 10 games between the two schools.
In the first game this season between these two ranked teams, it was the Longhorn defense that made the big difference in the outcome. Texas is second in the Big 12 (behind Kansas State) in field-goal-percentage defense, holding its opponents to an average of 40-percent per game and under 30 percent from three-point range. Texas held Kansas to 38 percent shooting in the first game and just 26 percent in the opening half, which, for all intents and purposes, sealed the game for the victorious Horns.
“I thought they had us on our heels the whole time,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said in his press conference this week about his team’s loss at Texas earlier this month. “Their transition offense was better than our defense, and certainly our ball screen defense wasn’t any good at all.”
Both teams are very good rebounding teams. The Jayhawks have outrebounded 22 of 26 opponents this season. One of the four teams that outfought Kansas on the boards was Texas, which owned a 41-37 advantage in the first game. The Longhorns’ overall rebouding stats are very similar to Kansas. Texas also leads the league in blocked shots, averaging six per game, one more than second-place Kansas.
The Longhorns are a deep team much like ythe Jayhawks. Texas has 10 players who average 10 or more minutes per game, The Horns are led on the offensive end by Jonathan Holmes and Isaiah Taylor, both at 13.1 ppg. And right behind those two is Javan Felix, averaging 12.8 per game.
Three Things To Watch For In The Game
- The Jayhawks generally play big at Allen Fieldhouse, especially in big games. Watch for Kansas to try to jump on the Longhorns early and get them out of rhythm and out of their comfort zone. KU will need to shoot well and protect the ball, two important ingredients to take away the Texas transition game that hurt Kansas so badly in the game in Austin.
- Texas has 80 more offensive rebounds than Kansas in the same number of games (26). The Jayhawk big men need to limit Texas’ strength on the offensive glass and hold the Horns to one shot per possession. Otherwise, the Longhorns will have the opportunities to stay in the game and keep the score close.
- Both teams like to work the ball inside and take advantage of their size and jumping ability to score in or near the paint area. Whichever team does the better job of taking away points in the paint will have the upper hand because neither team shoots that many threes. Kansas is the better three-point-shooting team in conference play, if that becomes a factor.
My pick: Kansas 84, Texas 77
There is another big game in the conference taking place in Norman, Okla., this weekend, where Oklahoma is hosting Kansas State. The Sooners and Wildcats are tied, along with Iowa State, for third place in the conference standings, all with 8-5 records.
Aside from the impact this game has on the conference standings and potential seeding in both the Big 12 and NCAA postseason tournaments, there are other interesting story lines associated with this matchup. The most obvious of which is that the Sooners are looking to equal the score from their earlier six-point loss this season at Kansas State.
Another strong tie between Oklahoma and Kansas State exists on the Sooner sideline. OU head coach Lon Kruger and top assistant Steve Henson played at Kansas State, and Kruger coached the Wildcats for four seasons from 1986-90. Kruger took K-State to the NCAA Tournament in each of the four seasons he coached there. He is 2-3 vs. his alma mater in three seasons as the Sooners’ head coach.
In the first game this season at Kansas State, Oklahoma held a 62-56 lead with just over five minutes to play, but the Sooners scored only four more points the rest of the way as K-State outscored OU 16-4 to come from behind and win the game.
Oklahoma leads the all-time series 104-94 and has won 11 of the last 18 games with Kansas State. The Wildcats, hoever, have won the last three games.
Three Things To Watch For In the OU-Kansas State Game
- Oklahoma likes to put up the three-ball, and they are much better at home than they are on the road. The Sooners have shot 41 percent from beyond the three-point arc at home this season. Kansas State leads the conference in defense, and is No. 1 in the league in defending three-point shots, holding opponents to under 30 percent for the season. The Sooners have six players who have scored at least 20 three-pointers this season and average eight made three-point shots a game..
- Kansas State held the high-scoring Sooners, No. 2 in the conference with an 83-point team average, to just 33 percent from the field in their first encounter this season. The Wildcats lead the league in field-goal defense and will try to slow down the Sooner attack by playing more of a half-court, ball-control game and using most of the shot clock of offense. Oklahoma wants to play in the 80s as far as points. Kansas State generally plays in the 60s, and when they do, the Cats generally win.
- Oklahoma leads tha Big 12 in free-throw shooting, making 74 percent of its free throws as a team. If Oklahoma has the lead late and the game is close, this could be a deciding factor.
My pick: Oklahoma 78, Kansas State 71
Other Big 12 Men’s Basketball Weekend Picks:
Texas Tech 75 @ Oklahoma State 84 - Marcus Smart is back for Oklahoma State as the Cowboys’ seven-game losing streak comes to an end.
Iowa State 78 @ TCU 64 – Iowa State has not been a good road team, but they will win this one, even though TCU is playing much better of late.
Baylor 69 @ West Virginia 80 - The Bears have won three in a row after losing seven of eight. Make it one in a row on the loss side as West virginia protects its home court and moves to 8-6 in the conference.
Last week’s results: 7-2
For the season: 41-21 (.660)