If the last week has been any indication, it’s that the Big 12 is wide open this year. Kansas may be the favorite to win it, but as opposed to year’s past, this is not the same dominant Jayhawks team and this is the deepest the Conference has been in some time.
Kansas lost at Iowa State over the weekend, in a Game they were down the entire way. The Jayhawks followed that up with a worrisome win over Oklahoma on Monday. They led by as many as 20 points, but let the Sooners back in the Game in the second half, and eventually pulled away in the closing minutes. These are two situations that would have had different results in previous years. And now, due to the depth of the conference, they get to travel to Texas, who is coming off two huge wins.
After slipping up against Oklahoma and OK State, the Longhorns are back on the right track, with two blowout wins against West Virginia and at TCU. It looks like they have found their form again which is bad news for Kansas in this Game. There are a few teams that can challenge for the top of the conference, and if Texas plays like we have seen them in recent Games, they will be one of those teams near the top.
Kansas has struggled on the road in every Game this year. They just had the loss at Iowa State and scraped by at Baylor with a one-point win. In non-Conference play, the Jayhawks were blown out by Temple and beat Georgetown by five. If the same Texas team shows up as did against WVU (77-50), this could be another Longhorns win. The thing about Kansas is that they are the team on everyone’s radar as they’ve dominated the Big 12 for the past decade.
The matchups to watch in this Game are the ones in the paint. Cliff Alexander and Perry Ellis can be dominant down low when they’re on their Games, but that doesn’t happen every week. Alexander is still learning, but is coming off a 13-point, 13-board performance, only his second double-double of the season. While Ellis leads the team in scoring and rebounding, he tends to struggle against teams that can match up with him. Texas is a team that matches up well.
The Longhorns are big — probably the biggest team in the conference. Myles Turner, Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley all have height and size that make them one of the best rebounding teams in the country. That doesn’t even include the experienced Connor LAmmert and Prince Ibeh coming off the bench. These guys will give fits to Ellis and Alexander. And in Games when Ellis struggles is usually when Kansas struggles.
For the Jayhawks to win, the backcOurt duo of Frank Mason and Wayne Selden need to show up. Mason has been great this year, but Selden is still finding his footing in his second season. Freshman Kelly OUbre has been playing better which will help.
The problem is that Texas has a viable backcOurt as well with Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix both averaging double digits. And to add to that, it finally looks like Taylor is back to his normal self after being out close to two months.
It will be difficult for Kansas to win this Game if Texas can play anywhere close to how they have the last couple Games. The Jayhawks will need to hit their shots and Ellis and Alexander will need to hold their ground.
Our Prediction – Texas by 1