Kansas faces probably its toughest test of the entire conference season today when it takes on the Texas Longhorns in Austin. Not only is the game on the road, but Texas is both legitimately good and a tough matchup for Kansas.
Chief amongst our concerns is the fact that Texas ranks 18th nationally in effective height, and has a front line that goes 6'11", 6'10". 6'9", 6'9", 6'8". Yikes. That has allowed the Longhorns to allow opponents to shoot 46.9 percent at the rim on the season, which is 6th best in the nation. The Longhorns defensive numbers on the season are impressive: 7th in adjusted efficiency, 3rd in effective field goal percentage allowed, 4th in 2 pt percentage allowed, and 2nd in block percentage. One thing the Jayhawks should be able to take advantage of, however, is that Texas is 335th nationally in turnovers forced, so at the very least we will be able to attempt a lot of shots that will get blocked.
How does Kansas combat this? It's first worth noting that the Jayhawks are shooting 48.2 percent on twos in Big 12 play, which is second best in the league, and by now they have a lot of experience playing teams with Texas like size. The Jayhawks obviously had the Kentucky debacle, but opponents Georgetown, Oklahoma, and Utah all rank in the top 10 nationally in rim defense, and Kansas is 3-0 against those teams.
Last year, the Jayhawks stubbornly kept attacking the rim against the Longhorns, and as a result scored just a point per possession. Last year the Jayhawks did not have a great outside shooting team, so that strategy was at least defensible, but this season there is no excuse for the Jayhawks to not basically bomb away. Kansas ranks 19th nationally in 3-point percentage, and has 5 players shooting 39 percent or better. Wayne Selden is the worst shooter in the lineup, and he's still shooting an acceptable 35 percent.
One area where Kansas has really improved is defensively. The Jayhawks rank third in the Big 12 allowing .96 points per possession, and they rank first in two point percentage allowed. Kansas also leads the Big 12 in defensive rebounding, allowing opponents to rebound just 27.5 percent of their misses, but that is likely due to schedule, as the Jayhawks have played Tech and three teams that virtually abandon the offensive glass (OSU, ISU, OU).
Individually, the player most people will have their eyes on is Freshman Myles Turner. Turner was thought to be the final addition to the Jayhawks recruiting class, but the Texas native opted to stay in state. Turner's overall numbers have been great this season, shooting 48 percent on twos, 40 percent on threes, and ranks 18th in block percentage. However, it is worth noting Turner has shot just 31 percent on twos in Big 12 play and while the rest of his numbers are great, there has definitely been a gap in performance when Turner has played good teams compared to when he has played bad teams.
Kansas's biggest advantage is in the backcourt. Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor has just a 42.7 percent effective field goal percentage on the season, though he has been a much better passer in conference play. Javan Felix has arguably been as good of a guard for Texas, shooting 48 percent on twos and 37 percent on threes this season.
Forward Jonathan Holmes is struggling in Big 12 play, shooting just 39 percent on twos and 17 percent on threes, but he is shooting 37 percent from three for the season as a whole.
Last but not least, Cameron Ridley ranks 5th in the Big 12 in eFG, 2nd in offensive rebounding, and 1st at getting to the line. He'll be a load all day. I would expect to see some Landen Lucas to try to combat Texas's rebounding ability and to be 5 fouls if needed (although the Longhorns are one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country).
The win over Oklahoma improved me to 12-5-1 ATS this season. Texas is favored by 3 in this one, which seems a bit low to me to be honest. I will (sadly) take the Longhorns to win and cover, 69-61.