The No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (25-3, 13-2 Big 12) have already clinched a share of their 13th straight Big 12 title, but with a win over the Texas Longhorns (10-18, 4-11 Big 12) on Saturday they will clinch the Big 12 outright.
The Jayhawks are coming off a 87-68 win over TCU on Wednesday night. After playing a back and forth game in the first half with the Horned Frogs, Kansas put their foot on the throttle and ran away with it. It was the first time in Big 12 play we’ve seen KU do so.
The Longhorns are having a disappointing season to say the least. Texas is coming off a loss at West Virginia on Monday night. They are losers of four straight and five of their last six. The ‘Horns gave KU a fight back at Allen Fieldhouse in late January, so they are capable of giving the Jayhawks a scare.
- Kansas leads the all-time series 28-8.
- Kansas is 8-6 all-time at the Frank Irwin Center.
- The Jayhawks have won six straight, 11 of the last 12 and 14 of the last 16 matchups.
- KU head coach Bill Self is 18-8 all-time vs. Texas, including a 18-6 mark while at Kansas.
- UT head coach Shaka Smart is 1-3 all-time vs Kansas, his lone win came back in 2011 in the Elite Eight while at VCU.
- In the matchup in Lawrence, junior guard Devonte’ Graham went for 18 points, while senior guard Frank Mason III had 17. Texas freshman forward Jarrett Allen had 22 points and 19 rebounds for the Longhorns.
- A KU win would clinch the Big 12 outright for the Jayhawks. It would be the 10th outright title during the streak.
- Kansas’ 86-56 win in Austin last season also clinched the Big 12 outright for the Jayhawks
- Frank Mason leads the Big 12 in scoring at 20.8 PPG. He has scored 20 or more in six of his last eight ball games.
- Mason is currently averaging 20.8 PPG and 5.0 APG. If those numbers stand he’ll be the first Big 12 player ever to average at least 20 PPG and 5 APG in a season.
- Mason leads the Big 12 in three-point percentage. In Wednesday’s win over TCU Mason went 4-6 from three, upping his average to 51.2%.
- Mason is one of 20 finalists for the Wooden Award.
- Devonte’ Graham is coming off a 17 point performance against TCU. The junior is averaging 13.1 PPG, which ranks 14th in the Big 12.
- Graham has made multiple three-pointers in nine of his last 10 ball games. He leads the Jayhawks in three-pointers made with 69.
- Freshman wing Josh Jackson notched his sixth double-double in his last eight games against TCU.
- Jackson is second on the team in scoring and fifth in the Big 12 at 16.5 PPG.
- Jackson is sixth in the Big 12 in rebounding at 7.1 RPG.
- After starting the season 23% from three, Jackson has gone 17/33 from beyond the arc. His three-point average is up to 36%.
- Jackson is also a finalist for the Wooden Award.
- VegasInsider.com has Kansas as the favorite at -8.
Conference titles live in Allen Fieldhouse
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) February 23, 2017
When: Saturday, February 25th, 2017, 5:00pm CT
Where: Frank Irwin Center, Austin, TX
How to Watch: ESPN or WatchESPN
How to Listen: Jayhawk Radio Network
Texas Longhorns (10-18, 4-11 Big 12)
Believe it or not, Texas was actually ranked in the preseason top 25. Obviously, things have not gone as planned for Shaka Smart’s group. The Longhorns suffered a few embarrassing losses during the non-conference slate, including to UT-Arlington and Kent State. That poor play permeated into conference play, as the they started 1-6 in Big 12 competition.
Although they poor results to show for it, Texas has been able to play with some of the better teams in the Big 12. They lost by just two points to West Virginia at home in January. They were able to play with Baylor for a half in their meeting in Waco, and as we know in the initial matchup at Allen Fieldhouse Texas was within single digits in the second half.
There is some promise in this Texas though. They are quite young as, their four top scorers are all underclassmen, although leading scorer Tevin Mack is suspended indefinitely. Freshman sensation Jarrett Allen is having a great season, if it wasn’t for Josh Jackson and UT’s poor record, he would have a chance as Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Strength – Close Shot Defense: Texas does have some size and because of that it’s hard to score at the rim against them. Teams are getting just 29% of their shots at the rim vs. the Longhorns this season, that ranks 49th nationally.
Strength – Three-point Defense: Opponents are shooting just 32% (41st NCAA) from beyond the arc this season against Texas. The flip side is that opponents do get off their fare share of three-pointers. The Longhorns are surrendering nearly 21 three-point attempts per game, that ranks 175th nationally. If KU (40%) can get off 20 three-point attempts, more times than not their going to cash in.
Strength – Rim Protection: This ties in to their close shot defense. The ‘Horns are rank 45th in blocks per game (4.5 BPG) and 55th in block % (7.6%). UT’s Jarrett Allen and James Banks rank among the leaders in the Big 12 in blocked shots.
Strength – Transition Opportunities (Both Ends): Texas does a good job of limiting transition chances for their opponents and creating their own. Teams are getting 18.7% of FGA in transition, which ranks 65th. The ‘Horns are getting 24% of their own FGA in transition, that ranks 70th.
Weakness – Three-point Shooting: Texas the worst three-point shooting team in the Big 12 and one of the worst in the country. The ‘Horns are shooting just 30% from the outside this season — 335th nationally.
Weakness – Rebounding: Despite their size and length, Texas ranks near the bottom in both offensive (207th NCAA) and defensive (236th NCAA) rebounding %.
Weakness – Free Throw Defense/Offense: The ‘Horns are 311th in free-throw percentage (65.2%). They are also allowing opponents to shoot 72.2%, which ranks 274th nationally.
Weakness – Turnovers (Both Ends): Texas is not the best as ball security or forcing turnovers. The Longhorns cough the ball up 13.7 times per game (228th NCAA) and force just 12.8 per game (213rd NCAA).
Weakness – Scoring Offense: The Longhorns have trouble putting points on the board, as they average just 68.3 PPG (275th NCAA). This does not bode well against a team like Kansas who averages 83 PPG.
Longhorns to Watch
Jarrett Allen – 6’11”, Forward, Freshman
The former Jayhawk recruit is having a great freshman year in Austin. He’s averaging 13.3 PPG (12th in the Big 12), 8.3 RPG (3rd in the Big 12), 1.5 BPG (4th in the Big 12) and is shooting 57% (3rd in the Big 12) from the floor. If KU lets Allen get to the rim, more than likely he’s going to score. He’s shooting 70% at the rim this season and is getting there 44% of the time. He also shows some touch in the midrange game, as he’s shooting nearly 50% on two-point jump shots. In the initial meeting in Lawrence, Allen had a monster game as he had a career high 22 points and 19 rebounds. TCU’s Vladimir Brodziansky had a huge game against KU in the first matchup, then had a dud in the rematch. KU hopes for similar results with Allen on Saturday.
Andrew Jones – 6’4″, Guard, Freshman
Jones has come on strong since Tevin Mack was suspended indefinitely on January 12th. In the ensuing 15 games since, Jones has averaged 12.9 PPG and 4.2 APG. Jones is also shooting 34% from three-point land this season, he’s really Texas’ only outside threat. Jones can get sloppy with the ball at times — averages nearly 3 TOs per game –, so there is potential for Mason and Graham to accumulate some steals in this one. He had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists off the bench in the previous matchup with KU. Jones has played well enough this season to make Longhorn fans optimistic for the future.
Keys to Victory
- Hit outside shots: This is a key to almost every game, and for good reason, but Kansas should be able to have a field day against UT’s weak three-point defense. The Jayhawks were 11-23 from the outside in the matchup back in January. Look for more of that on Saturday evening.
- Let Texas shoot: KU should just pack the paint, and let UT’s shooters shoot. They are poor three-point shooting team and until they prove otherwise, let them shoot. It would not be a terrible idea to double team Jarret Allen, after he tore KU to shreds in the first meeting.
- Force turnovers, get in transition: Texas’ guards will turn the ball over, which should lead to some transition opportunities for the Jayhawks. The stats say UT limits transition opportunities, but when opponents do get their chances they cash in 56% of the time. Kansas is one of the best transition offenses in the country.
Kansas 85 – Texas 70
I see Texas keeping it close for about a half, but in the end Kansas just has too much firepower. I think the Jayhawks will have another great three-point shooting game, and they’ll find a way to get some transition buckets.
Kansas’ guards are vastly superior to UT’s. In the first matchup in Lawrence, Mason and Graham combined for 35 points and 52% from the field. Mason is making a final push for the National Player of the Year, and I like him to continue his hot play in this one.
One thing to watch for is consistency from Carlton Bragg Jr. Bragg played his best game of the season on Wednesday night as he scored 15 points on 7-10 shooting, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. He did all this in just 22 minutes of play. It will be intriguing to see if Bragg can carry that over to Saturday’s game.