Just to show how important jump shooting can be in any individual game, if you “normalized” (that is, take each team’s season average) both teams’ 3-point shooting in the prior matchup, which Texas won 84-59, you get just a 4-point win for the Longhorns.
There were more issues than that, of course. Kansas shot just 40 percent on twos while allowing Texas to shoot over 50 percent, and the Jayhawks rebounded fewer than 30 percent of their misses. Still, I don’t think the gap between the two teams, even then, was as wide as the score suggested.
But Texas remains a tough matchup for Kansas. The Horns have probably the deepest and most talented frontcourt in the league, and one of the most versatile as well. They also have a deep and talented backcourt that can both take over a game and steady the Longhorns. Texas leads the Big 12 in attempting threes, with over 42 percent of their attempts coming from behind the arc. They also are shooting 35 percent from three on the season, but as they showed in the first matchup, they have the shooters to do a lot better than that. They also rank 2nd in 2-point shooting and while they rank just 5th and 4th in turnovers and offensive rebounding, both are better than the national average, so they’re no slouch there.
The biggest thing to watch, obviously, is how Texas shoots behind the arc, but if the Jayhawks can keep them off the glass again and limit them to one shot, that will provide a huge boost as well.
Defensively, Texas has at times been KU’s bugaboo. It seems like every other year or so there is a game where Kansas just can’t buy one at the rim against the Longhorns and yet the Jayhawks still attack the rim with regularity. Texas seems to be OK with that: the Horns rank 239th nationally at allowing opponents to get to the rim but just 20th at allowing opponents to score there (both figures via Hoop-Math).
There is cause for optimism, however: Kansas has seemingly found something with their low turnover offense, committing turnovers on fewer than 10 percent of its possessions against Texas Tech, which allowed them to score 1.08 points per trip despite shooting under 50 percent from two and around 30 percent from three. Texas usually doesn’t force a ton of turnovers (261st nationally) so if the Hawks can hang onto the ball, and if they can get a bit more 3-point luck than last matchup, they certainly have a chance.
Players to Watch
Andrew Jones, 6-4 junior guard
Jones takes the 3rd most shots in the league, and is shooting 54 percent on twos and a respectable 35 percent from three. He’s also been a decent passer and defender.
Kai Jones, 6-11 sophomore forward
Jones is a super athlete and he’s putting the rest of his game together as well. He’s shooting 44 percent from three this year (although just on 25 attempts) and ranks in the top 15 of the Big 12 in both blocks and steals.
Matt Coleman, 6-2 senior guard
Coleman isn’t the flashiest player, but he’s developed into one of the best point guards in the Big 12. He ranks 7th in assist rate, 7th in 2-point shooting, and 17th in 3-point shooting. It’s tough to take just one guy out of the Texas lineup and hinder the offense, but if there was, it’s probably Coleman.
Texas is ranked just ahead of Kansas in KenPom, and with how they’re both playing they probably are pretty equal. But the Longhorns are maybe the worst matchup for Kansas in the league due to their athleticism inside and ability to shoot from deep. If Kansas doesn’t respond as poorly to the inevitable Texas run as they did in the first matchup, they stand a decent chance of winning, but I’m seeing a lot of David McCormack in foul trouble and then Mitch Lightfoot against Kai Jones and Jericho Sims and I’m not liking that picture. I’ll take a Texas cover, 76-68.
2021 record ATS: 16-7