No. 2 Kansas hosts No. 10 Texas at 3 p.m. today on CBS.
What to know about Texas: The Horns (15-3, 3-0) played great defense and made some baskets themselves in opening up a huge early lead against Texas A&M on Wednesday night. UT is possibly the most athletic team in the conference. Their primary contributors include:
– Senior forward Gary Johnson (12.1 points, 7.1 rebounds)
– Sophomore wingman Jordan Hamilton (19.7, 7.1)
– Freshman forward Tristan Thompson (13.1, 7.7)All three shoot better than 47% from the field. Kansas probably has not faced a team this talented since playing Kansas State last year in the Big 12 tournament final.
In the Longhorns’ biggest win of the year so far (@ Michigan State), they didn’t shoot or rebound particularly well. However, they forced 16 Spartan turnovers and defended the three-point line successfully. Overall, MSU only made 18 field goals all game, so clearly Texas has shown they can win on the road with defense.
Kansas (18-0, 3-0) has arguably the best home-court advantage in the country. They have been rather unimpressive at home this year, often winning by the slimmest and most fortunate of margins, but they always win. Texas needs another fast start like the one they got Wednesday to end KU’s 69-game home winning streak.
What to know about Kansas: They are maddeningly patient, if you’re the opponent. This comes from a combination of their roster depth and experience. Kansas players don’t have to score 30 points, because pretty much any lineup coach Bill Self chooses has multiple scoring options, with more on the bench.
Guard Josh Selby and forward Thomas Robinson are players you should recognize, but there’s no way around it: this game revolves around the Morris twins. They will get some points because they are good shooters from the outside and strong enough to get a few inside. I bet Texas’ ability to limit them largely determines the outcome.
But Texas plays a 2-3 zone defense that might change the way Kansas plays offense. I was listening to ESPN the other night as they tried to account for Kansas’ better play this season against man-to-man rather than zone. I think it has to do with the Jayhawks’ use of post passing. The Morris twins can both do it well, and there should be room at the free-throw line to set this offense up. If Kansas can knock down three-pointers off such passes, they’ll be tough to stop.
Bottom Line: With Kansas State in free-fall, this might be the best chance someone has of handing KU a conference loss. Obviously the Jayhawks will be tested against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and twice against Missouri. Either team can still win the league without winning this game, so give Rick Barnes and Texas credit for playing that well up to this point. I underestimated the Longhorns, but I expect Kansas to play a much more complete game at Allen Fieldhouse than we’ve seen lately.
Kansas 78, Texas 73