Texas finds itself in a quandary and things may not get better. Coming off back-to-back road losses since the Kerwin Roach suspension, it now has to play two of the better teams in the conference. If it doesn’t win one of these next two, the NCAA Tournament may not be a possibility without a run in the Big 12 Tournament.
But with or without Roach, the Longhorns have a chance in this Game. Iowa State is a better team, but it’s been a hard one to figure out, getting swept by the likes of Baylor and TCU, teams not much different from Texas, at least in terms of record. The Cyclones won the first meeting a month ago, but it didn’t come easy because the Longhorns grabbed a late lead with about five minutes to go before falling 65-60. The question is if everyone else can step up at home because Roach had 19 points in that Game.
The Longhorns have at least been competitive without Roach, losing their last two on the road by a combined three points. Jase Febres and COurtney Ramey, who had a combined nine points in the first meeting, have helped. Febres has 38 points, nine boards and six assists in the last two Games, while Ramey has added 28 points and 11 assists. They haven’t exactly missed Roach, but the bench is definitely smaller.
To win this one, they’ll need to keep doing what they’ve been doing and hope their home cOurt will take care of the rest. Those two guards and Matt Coleman will be important against Iowa State’s lengthy perimeter, but also Dylan Osetkowski and Jaxson Hayes have to win in the paint. Neither one of these teams is good at rebounding, but if Hayes and the Texas bigs focus in that area, that could be something that turns this Game. The Cyclones don’t have a good matchup for Hayes at 6-foot-11 as Michael Jacobson and Cameron LArd both come in at 6-foot-9. Hayes’s production has kind of slipped in the last month, but he’s someone Texas needs to get going since his length and athleticism can be a problem for a lot of teams.
Otherwise, the Texas defense has to step up again after Iowa State leading scorer Marial Shayok went just 3-for-14 in the first meeting. But given that Shayok is one of the more efficient shooters in the conference, it’s hard to see that happening again. The other problem for the Longhorns is that they have the worst three-point defense in the Big 12, allowing more than 37 percent. That number allows for anyone to catch fire against them and the Cyclones will turn to that since almost everyone on their roster can shoot. In addition to Shayok, Lindell Wigginston and Nick Weiler-Babb can fill it up, while Tyrese Haliburton is one of the best in the Conference at 44.2%.
The absence of Roach on the perimeter defensively has maybe been the biggest thing and that could be a problem against ISU’s small-ball lineup. This Game was close almost the entire way in that first meeting and that should be the case again. The difference could be Texas on the glass with Osetkowski and Hayes, but to win, it has to play better defense, and that won’t be easy against a team that can Scorein a variety of ways.
Our Pick – Texas +1