Kansas-Texas basketball preview
01/31/2014 8:39 PM
01/31/2014 8:39 PM
3 p.m. at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas
ESPN; KCSP (610 AM)
•ABOUT KANSAS (16-4, 7-0 Big 12):
The Jayhawks enter Saturday with at least a two 1/2-game lead over every team in the Big 12 — except Texas and Oklahoma. Both those teams still have to travel to Allen Fieldhouse, so this makes Saturday crucial for the Longhorns. Can Texas slow down Kansas? The Jayhawks are shooting 54 percent in Big 12 play and averaging a league-best 84.9 points per game. Freshman center Joel Embiid is shooting 66 percent from the floor, and freshman wing Andrew Wiggins is scoring 24.3 points and grabbing 6.3 rebounds over his last three games. KU is 6-2 against ranked teams this season, and Bill Self is 12-5 against Texas during his KU tenure. But the Jayhawks haven’t started 8-0 in the Big 12 since the 2009-10 season. Saturday’s game will be the first leg of a two-game Texas swing for the Jayhawks, who play at Baylor on Tuesday. Kansas will fly home after Saturday’s game before traveling to Baylor late on Monday.
•ABOUT TEXAS (16-4, 5-2 Big 12):
It has been a year of resurgence for Texas, which finished 16-18 last season and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. After opening the Big 12 with losses against Oklahoma (at home) and at Oklahoma State, the Longhorns have won five straight. The run includes home victories against No. 8 Iowa State, No. 22 K-State and No. 24 Baylor — the first time Texas has beaten ranked opponents in three straight games. Earlier this month, Kansas became the first team in 17 years to beat ranked teams in four straight games. Now Texas can match the feat just a few weeks later. The Longhorns start three sophomores and one freshman, and first-year point guard Isaiah Taylor has provided a spark. He had a career-high 27 points against Baylor in Texas’ last game. But Texas has also gotten back to playing sound defense. During their five-game winning streak, the Longhorns have held teams to a combined 39.2 percent shooting from the field.
It’s too early to think about Kansas potentially running the table in the Big 12. (Is 18-0 possible?) But if the Jayhawks escape Austin with another victory, they would have essentially lapped the field during the first half of the conference season.