No. 11 Kansas at No. 17 Texas
▪ WHEN/WHERE: 1 p.m. Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas
▪ TV/RADIO: CBS (Chs. 5, 13); KCSP (610 AM)
▪ ABOUT KANSAS (15-3, 4-1 Big 12): The Kansas defense has made measured progress during Big 12 play. After five conference games, the Jayhawks rank third in field-goal percentage defense (38.2) and sixth in scoring defense (66.0 points per game). But after giving up an average of 82 points to Iowa State and Oklahoma in their last two games, the Jayhawks’ season defensive numbers are still a bit alarming. Kansas ranks 47th nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, which would be the worst ranking of the Bill Self era. Opposing offenses are also shooting 44.7 percent inside the three-point line, the worst mark of Self’s tenure. Freshman wing Kelly Oubre, though, has provided a spark on the defensive end during conference play. He’s averaging 2.4 steals and 6.2 rebounds during conference games. Oubre (21 steals) is second on the team behind Frank Mason (25 steals) despite playing more than 250 fewer minutes on the season. Last season, the Jayhawks took one on the chin in Austin, falling 81-69 to Texas while the Longhorns’ perimeter speed and inside length overwhelmed a young Kansas team. Before last year, though, Kansas had won three straight over Texas at the Erwin Center.
▪ ABOUT TEXAS (14-4, 3-2 Big 12): When the Big 12 released its preseason coaches poll in October, Texas was just short of edging perennial favorite Kansas in the coaches’ vote. The Jayhawks received six first-place votes and 78 points; Texas had three first-place votes and 74 points. The Longhorns, of course, returned all five starters off last year’s team and added five-star center Myles Turner, so they were a trendy selection to dethrone Kansas. It hasn’t quite been that smooth. Star guard Isaiah Taylor was sidelined 10 games after suffering a wrist injury in November, and Texas dropped games to No. 1 Kentucky and Stanford while he was out. Taylor returned for Big 12 play, but the Longhorns began 1-2, getting throttled at home by Oklahoma and losing at Oklahoma State. The Longhorns, who rank sixth in the country in defensive efficiency, have rebounded with impressive victories over West Virginia and TCU, but they need a victory on Saturday to keep pace in the ultra-competitive Big 12. Turner, a major Kansas target in recruiting, has mostly come off the bench while leading the team with 11.8 points per game. With the 7-foot Turner in the fold, the Longhorns are one of the nation’s best at protecting the basket. They rank second in the country in block percentage, swatting 19.7 percent of team’s shots inside the three-point line.