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Texas Preview

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NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas Tech vs Texas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas looks to make the Big 12 title game for the 5th time in the last 6 tournaments, and the 15th time overall when it takes on Texas tonight. The Jayhawks maybe locked up a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament with their win last night over Oklahoma, but can definitely do so with one tonight over Texas.

The Horns are probably a top-5 team nationally in terms of pure talent, which makes their stats so puzzling. Texas finished just 4th in the Big 12 in offense, scoring 1.05 points per possession. Texas did finish 3rd in the league in both two and three point shooting, and they also took the most threes in the league, so it’s no mystery as to what Kansas will have to shut down tonight. That said, it is worth noting there was a 5-minute or so stretch during the game in Austin when Texas was getting basically everything it wanted at the rim as well.

Texas, unlike Oklahoma, has had a bit of a turnover problem at times this year, currently ranking 234th nationally in turnover percentage, although percentage wise it is just barely over the national average. If Kansas can continue forcing turnovers the way they did against Oklahoma, that is probably the best path towards a KU victory.

The reason for that is the Texas defense, which, although it was not great in Big 12 play (1 point per possession allowed, 5th in the league) it presents a tough matchup for Kansas due to all of its length inside. The Horns rank 27th nationally in field goal percentage allowed at the rim via hoop-math.com, and the Jayhawks have really struggled in both matchups, shooting 40 percent and 44 percent on twos in the first two matchups.

The Horns do send opponents to the line quite a bit, but KU’s most effective drivers of the ball don’t often seek contact and seek to go to the rim, so the Horns get all of the benefits of a great rim protection team without a lot of the drawbacks. The answer may be to just fire up a bunch of threes, and if they get the same type of results as last night against Oklahoma from deep (36 percent) that may be just enough.

Players to Watch

Andrew Jones, 6-4 junior guard

Jones should probably have the Big 12 comeback player of the year award named after him at this point, as he put up all conference type numbers two years after recovering from leukemia. He’s shooting 33 percent from three this year and has contributed in terms of both assists and on the glass as well, ranking in the top 30 in the league in both assist rate and defensive rebound rate.

Matt Coleman, 6-2 senior guard

It took a couple years, but Coleman has gone from OK to underrated to one of the best point guards in the league. He can get a little turnover prone, but is shooting 37 percent from deep, over 55 percent on twos, and is one of the best guards in the league at getting to the line.

Jericho Sims, 6-10 senior forward

Sims is maybe the biggest problem for the McCormack-less Jayhawks, as they don’t really have anyone to keep him out of the post and no real way to keep him from dunking everything he gets his hands on. He’s the Big 12 leader in 2-point shooting, and one of the better rebounders in the league as well.

The pick

Even though Kansas sits 5 spots higher in KenPom than the Longhorns, the Horns are such a tough matchup for the Jayhawks, maybe even moreso than Baylor. Even with McCormack I would be struggling to pick Kansas in this one (even though the Jayhawks did build a nice lead without him in Austin), but without him I think the Horns have too much size and Kansas is going to need too much 3-point luck to win this one, so give me Texas, 71-62.

2021 Record ATS: 18-9.