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With just over half of the season gone, games are starting to get a little more important as the weeks go by. This one may not seem all that big compared to the Big 12 elite, but it is one that both of these teams need to win if they want to guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Kansas State is back in the rankings after a couple nice wins, but now has two road games this week. The only win on the road it has this year is at TCU, which isn't saying much. If the Wildcats don't want to be sweating bullets in March, this is a game that would look nice on the résumé.
As for Texas, this isn't the type of game it can lose, especially after beating Iowa State on Saturday. A loss here would make that win irrelevant. Looking at the Longhorns' future schedule, a loss would put them at 14-5 and still needing a couple more big wins.
The Wildcats dominated in this matchup last year, winning both meetings by double-digits (the one at KSU by 26 points). However, things look a bit different than a year ago with Texas improved and K State probably a step below.
The Longhorns are led by a couple bruisers down low in Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley, both of whom were vital in the upset over the smaller ISU. Unfortunately in this game, the Wildcats have some bigs of their own so it won't be as easy. Guard Javan Felix is their second-leading scorer and someone that's hard to stop. Unfortunately, he does throw up a lot of shots and hits just 35 percent of his field goals. Felix's points are up by five this year, but his assists have also gone down. A lot of that is due to freshman PG Isaiah Taylor, who has done great, scoring 11.2 PPG to go with 3.8 APG.
Taylor will have to be the better guard in his matchup against fellow freshman Marcus Foster. Foster is young, but he has taken over this KSU squad, leading the way with 14 PPG. Thomas Gipson, Nino Williams and Wesley Iwundu are KSU's big men and will be used to stop the Holmes-Ridley duo. A problematic matchup for Texas, and for most teams, is the athletic, and lanky Shane Southwell. Southwell is a big part of this team, scoring 11.5 points per game, and also a factor on the boards and dishing the ball. At 6-7, Southwell is an awkward matchup. For most games, the Wildcats go as Southwell goes.
This is the type of season series that can end tied 1-1, with both home teams winning. A loss here for Kansas State may not be that bad for them in the long run, but a win would be nice before they head to Iowa State on the weekend.
It's going to come down to what the Texas big men will be able to do against a team that can hold its own in the paint. We saw the Longhorns beat up the smaller Cyclones, but will undoubtedly find more trouble in this matchup. If that's the case, Felix and Taylor will be crucial in the backcourt.
Our models prediction for this game: Texas 72 Kansas State 67
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