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Across the Court: Texas Longhorns (Part 1)

We preview tonight's game with Burnt Orange Nation, one of two SB Nation sites covering the Texas Longhorns.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently everything is bigger in Texas, including the number of sites it takes to cover the Texas Longhorns. We have Q&As with both sites, and up first is Jack Keyes with Burnt Orange Nation.

RCT: Predictions for Texas have been all over the map this year, with some thinking Shaka Smart was going to break through this year with freshman phenom Mo Bamba, and others thinking that they didn’t have enough to realistically compete in a stacked Big 12. But what were the expectations from the fans of this team?

BON: With so many new players added to the team, preseason expectations from within the fan-base varied just as much as predictions from the experts. Most realistic Texas fans recognize that though the ‘Horns have a very high ceiling and could make a run in the NCAA tournament, simply getting into the tournament would constitute for an acceptable year. The ‘Horns did only win 11 games last season after all. Texas has been far from perfect this year, but the ‘Horns are nearly on track with most fans’ expectations I think.

RCT: Speaking of Shaka, how does the fanbase think he has settled into the Texas job?

BON: His approval rating seems to be back to pretty solid after a convincing win on the road against Alabama, but some fans definitely showed some concern after Texas lost to Michigan at home and barely eked out a win over Tennessee State. Some fans may say he’s a better recruiter and motivator than an in-game coach, but most of us are thrilled to have Shaka on the 40 acres. Keep in mind that there’s definitely less constant pressure for a head basketball coach than for a football coach at Texas.

RCT: Other than the obvious matchup in Udoka Azuibuike and Mo Bamba, what matchups are going to be key in this game?

BON: I’m very curious to see if Texas guard Andrew Jones will be effective coming off of his wrist fracture. Lagerald Vick is an explosive player and excellent defender and could really challenge Jones if he’s not 100%.

RCT: What kind of fan support can be expected for this game? Is there any concern that the holiday break will affect the home atmosphere (and I saw the sparse crowd for the Tennessee State game)?

BON: It’s unfortunate that the Kansas game was scheduled over winter break because the Jayhawks are one of the few attractions besides a Kanye West concert that could get students to the Frank Erwin Center. Still, though the holiday break will affect the atmosphere, the atmosphere wasn’t very good to begin with. It’s been an issue for Texas basketball, and hopefully a new arena down the line can help change that culture. I expect a few empty seats, but hopefully the fans at the game will be loud.

RCT: Prediction Time! How does the game go today? Can the Longhorns give everyone in the conference hope by putting the Jayhawks in an early hole in the conference race?

BON: I’m not bold enough to predict that Texas will beat Kansas, but I’m also confident enough to think Texas could win -- especially if it turns to a defensive sludgefest. Ultimately though I’ll take the safe bet and go Jayhawks 67, Texas 63.

RCT: BONUS - XBox or Playstation?

BON: I grew up playing PS2, but I’ve been playing a lot of FIFA on XBOX One with my little brother over Christmas break. So, I think I’m an XBOX guy for now, but it’s too bad neither console has an NCAA basketball game anymore.

A huge thanks to Jack for helping us out today. Don’t forget to check out the questions I answered for him over on BON and even more coverage of tonight's game.