Who: #19 Texas Longhorns (20-6, 9-4 Big 12) vs. #8 Kansas Jayhawks (20-6, 11-2 Big 12)
When: 6:30 PM on ESPNU/WatchESPN
Where: Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, KS
Last Meeting: Texas won 81-69 in Austin on February 1.
Key Matchup: Cameron Ridley vs. Joel Embiid. Ridley played well during the first meeting between these teams. The sophomore center finished with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in 23 minutes. Embiid posted similar numbers with 8 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. The freshman was visibly frustrated, though, shooting only 33% from the field in 25 minutes of play. Ridley’s mammoth-sized 6’9, 285 pound body significantly contributed to that frustration. His toughness and ability to clog the paint will force the projected lottery pick to work way more than he’s used to. He must stay out of foul trouble to give the Longhorns a chance on the road, too.
Analysis: Why does ESPN have to schedule game times so far in advance? This matchup is so much better than an ESPNU/Watch ESPN telecast. At least it’s not on the Longhorn Network. Round two for the Jayhawks and Horns is one of the biggest games on the weekend slate. A win for Kansas gives them a three-game cushion in the conference race, making their 10th consecutive Big 12 regular season title a near certainty. A loss puts Texas a game behind with four more to go. The Longhorns would also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, giving them the edge for the top seed in the conference tournament, too.
Rick Barnes’ squad must overcome their recent road troubles to pull off the upset in Allen Fieldhouse. During the month of February, they have struggled offensively in their three games away from the Frank Erwin Center:
Field Goal %
|Feb 4: Win vs. TCU||54||59||31.0%||-5|
|Feb 8: Loss vs. Kansas State||74||57||32.7%||-6|
|Feb. 18: Loss vs. Iowa State||85||76||32.9%||-4|
For those three games, Texas averaged 64 points, which is well below their season average of 76.9 points per game. Barnes needs guys like Javan Felix (6-22 FGs vs. Iowa State) and Isaiah Taylor (8-20 FGs vs. Iowa State) to be much more efficient with their shot selection, too.
Prediction: The Longhorns have been pulling off their Jekyll and Hyde home and road routine for the last month now. They will probably need to shoot around 40% from the field and win the turnover battle to come out of Lawrence with a victory. These tough tasks are certainly possible, but I don’t see them happening.
Kansas is coming off a thrilling 64-63 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock earlier this week. Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points and hit the game-winning layup with two seconds to play. Embiid added 18 points and 8 rebounds in his first game back from injury. Expect the freshmen to continue this momentum after two of their best performances of the year. The Jayhawks have been wildly inconsistent this season, but will be out for revenge after being embarrassed in Austin a few weeks ago. Bill Self will have his troops motivated and ready to end the Big 12 race once and for all. I can already hear the “Rock Chalk” chant.
Kansas 81, Texas 72