The chief fear in this one is probably that Kansas is looking ahead to the next two weeks, when the Jayhawks will face the 4th, 2nd, and 9th rated teams in KenPom. As it is, Texas may be just 1-4 in Big 12 play, but their last three losses have been by 3 points, 2 points, and 10 points after keeping it close for most of the game.
The Longhorns have suspended wing Tevin Mack indefinitely, which on the surface is a boon for Kansas. Mack is shooting 53 percent on twos and 39 percent from three this year. It hasn’t really worked that way for Texas, though, as the Horns have seemingly gotten better since he’s been out.
Offensively Texas has been nothing short of awful. They currently sit 10th in the Big 12, scoring just .96 points per possession. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will struggle against Kansas.
For one thing, their chief issue is turning the ball over (23 percent of possessions in Big 12 play). We know Kansas doesn’t force many turnovers. The Longhorns also shoot 53 percent on twos in league play, and right around 52 percent for the season, so they’ll likely do a tick better tomorrow. Although, it is also worth pointing out Texas doesn’t attack the offensive glass at all, rebounding just 25 percent of its misses, so like the Iowa State game, any miss will likely be a one and done scenario.
Defensively, Texas has been very good this year. The Longhorns allow 1.02 points per possession in Big 12 play which seems high but it is actually 2nd in the league. However, there are some factors pointing towards regression.
For starters, Texas allows opponents to shoot 53 percent on twos, which is 8th in the Big 12 (although they are doing better than the D1 average for the season as a whole and they haven’t played a horrible schedule so who knows). However, Texas is allowing teams to shoot just 29 percent on threes while allowing teams to take an astounding 37 percent of their shots from deep. While it might seem smart to let teams have shots they aren’t making, obviously in the long run allowing teams to take a bunch of threes is going to come back to bite them.
Players to Watch
Andrew Jones, freshman guard
Jones was Texas’s most heralded recruit from the class of 2016 and so far he has played like it. He has shown flashes of being able to shoot from the outside, and is shooting 55 percent inside the arc. He’s a bit too turnover prone, but he also draws over 5 fouls per 40 minutes.
Jarrett Allen, freshman forward
Allen started off a bit slow, but has certainly rounded into form. He’s shooting 60.7 percent on twos in Big 12 play, and has the 8th best effective field goal percentage in the league because of it. He also is the third best defensive rebounder in the league and the 5th best shot blocker. He’s going to be a handful down low for the Jayhawks, and he also has the ability to step out onto the perimeter.
Shaquille Cleare, senior forward
Cleare, a native of the Bahamas and and a transfer from Maryland,is playing just over half the team’s minutes this year. He’s done well in them, though, shooting 53 percent inside the arc in the Big 12. He’s also the 7th best defensive rebounder in the league.
Things to Watch For
- Perimeter shooting - Kansas will likely have their fair share of open threes. If they can make even close to 40 percent they should win. This also is the game where traditionally Kansas has struggled to score inside but refused to adjust and kept pounding it in there anyway. Will that happen again?
- Turnovers - We covered it up top, but Texas turns it over a lot. Given that Kansas doesn’t force many, there could be 5 or 6 extra possessions for the Longhorns to work with. Kansas also has committed quite a few unforced turnovers in the last couple games. Obviously that needs to stop.
- Josh Jackson - He’s struggled the last couple games with turnovers and shot selection. With the murderer’s row coming up, now is a good time for him to get back on track.
While this looks to be potentially one of the easier Big 12 games for the Jayhawks, obviously none are easy. However, with Texas’s tendency to give up open jumpers, if Kansas can resist the urge to drive into traffic I think the Jayhawks will win semi-comfortably. I’ll say 83-73.