Through the first four games of the Big 12 season, Texas is the only team in the league in the top half in both offense and defense. It’s worth pointing out that a big part of that is due to their game in Manhattan getting a bit out of hand, but other than a loss at Oklahoma State, Texas has been mostly impressive to start the conference season.
Offensively, the Longhorns have gotten by mostly by taking a ton of threes. They rank 66th nationally in that regard, although they make fewer than 33 percent of their attempts. They also do a good job of taking care of the ball, turning it over on just 17 percent of their possessions.
Another thing that is immediately apparent when looking at the Longhorns is they do not take a lot of shots at the rim. Just two players are taking more than 41 percent of their shots at the rim, and as a team the Horns are way down in 281st. Although this isn’t last year’s Kansas team, which you’d take in a jump shooting contest against virtually anybody, I like this year’s Kansas defense if it is playing an opponent who refuses to go to the rim.
Defensively, Texas is yet another near-elite Big 12 team. They rank 1st in the league in 2-point percentage allowed so far in conference play, which is good for 18th in the country. They are elite at keeping teams from getting to the rim, and are pretty good at keeping teams from scoring once they get there. They’re also 20th nationally in terms of giving up transition opportunities, so this figures to be a slow, low scoring game tonight. The Jayhawks will probably need a bit of 3-point luck on their side, as I don’t foresee too many clean looks in the paint.
Players to Watch
Jaxson Hayes, 6-11 freshman forward
Hayes came virtually out of nowhere, and is now probably the best pro prospect in the Big 12. He’s one of the best shotblockers in the country and although he doesn’t shoot it much, he’s making nearly three-fourths of his shots. He’s not a great rebounder, but that’s about the only blemish on an otherwise exceptional player.
Kerwin Roach, 6-4 senior guard
Perhaps the best perimeter defender in the Big 12, Roach will make it tough on whomever he is guarding tonight. Offensively, he is a capable although inconsistent shooter from the outside (33 percent for his career), and just efficient enough inside. He has developed into a good passer, but has also had turnover issues in the past.
Jase Febres, 6-5 sophomore guard
Febres is the best outside shooter for the Longhorns this year, making 39 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. He doesn’t do much else offensively, but Kansas will need to stick tight to him, which will give Hayes and Dylan Osetkowski more room to operate.
I think this might end up being closer than we think, although Kansas is certainly the better team. The Longhorns have been so good at keeping teams from getting to the rim that I don’t think we will have a great Dedric Lawson game tonight. It might have to be a sneaky good game from Quentin Grimes, or another Waco-like effort from Lagerald Vick to soften the Longhorn defense up. I also think Devon Dotson will need to win the point guard battle, but I do think he will do so.
The defenses look fairly evenly matched, but I like Kansas’s offense a bit more, so I will take the Jayhawks at home, 74-68.