No. 11 Kansas opens up Big 12 play with a tough Texas team.
The Christmas break might have come at the wrong time for the Jayhawks, as they dominated in wins against Omaha and Stanford. After the week-long break, the season ramps into full gear as the ever-tough Big 12 season begins. The Jayhawks don’t get time to ease into it either, they’ll jump right into the fire against a tough Texas squad.
About Texas: While the Longhorns don’t have a signature win on their resume, they have played a couple of close affairs with teams such as Duke and Gonzaga — both overtime losses. This could be a make-or-break year for head coach Shaka Smart and a win over big bad Kansas to start the conference slate would be a step in the right direction for Smart and the Longhorns. Leading scorer Andrew Jones has been out for the last month with a fractured wrist, but is reportedly a gametime decision for Friday night. If Jones can’t go, the Longhorns will have to rely on the likes of Kerwin Roach and the uber-talented Mo Bamba.
Game Info and Notes:
- Friday, December 29th, 2017 at 8:00 pm CT
- Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
- ESPN2 or WatchESPN App
- The Jayhawks hold the series 29-8, winning the last matchup 77-67
- Kansas opens conference play at Texas, Friday, Dec. 29, as the 13-time defending Big 12 champion, a streak which started in 2004-05 and has tied the NCAA Division I record with UCLA (1967-79).
- Kansas has won 26-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season with 10 of those in Allen Fieldhouse and 16 on the road. The last time KU lost a conference opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991. This will be the ninth time in Bill Self’s 15 seasons at KU that the Jayhawks have opened Big 12 play on the road
- Kansas has won 15 of the last 17 meetings against Texas
- Kansas is the only school in the Big 12 that has two players ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding. KU junior G Lagerald Vick is fourth in the league in scoring at 17.1 ppg and ninth in rebounds at 6.6 rpg, while sophomore C Udoka Azubuike is 10th in scoring at 15.5 ppg and fourth in rebounds at 8.0.
- Udoka Azubuike is second the NCAA in FG%, shooting 77.9% from the field
- Kansas is third nationally in assists per game at 20.0. KU also ranks in the top-10 nationally in field goal percentage (fourth at 52.3), scoring margin (fifth at 21.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (seventh at 1.7)
- KU is trying avoid its first three-loss December since 1998-99
Longhorns to Watch
Mo Bamba – 6’11″ freshman, forward
By most projections, Bamba will be a lottery pick in next year’s NBA Draft. The matchup between him and Azubuike will be one of the better head-to-head matchups we see this season. He might not be as big as Azubuike is physically, but he does have some athleticism to combat that. Bamba is averaging 10.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG and 3.98 BPG, which leads the Big 12 and is third nationally. Last time out Bamba registered 17 points, 11 rebounds and a season-high six rebounds. With the help of Bamba, Texas is top 50 in shots blocked at the rim and top 100 in the attempts at the rim. Easy buckets could come at a premium for the Jayhawks.
Kerwin Roach II – 6’4″ junior, guard
Roach kind of reminds me of a poor-man’s Legerald Vick in that he’s super athletic and can jump out of the gym. He doesn’t score or rebound the way Vick does, but he’s third on the team in scoring with 10.9 PPG. He’s also pulling down 3.7 RPG and dishing out 3.0 APG. He’s shooting an eye-popping 82% at the rim this season, if Kansas can turn him into a jump shooter he should be rather ineffective.
Dylan Osetkowski – 6’9″ junior, forward
Osetkowski is second on the team in scoring and rebounding, pouring in 14.6 PPG and hauling in 7.8 RPG. While most of his points come within the three-point line, the junior has shown he can step out and knock down a three-pointer from time-to-time. It’ll be interesting to see how KU matches up him on Friday night.
Kansas 78 – Texas 71
If Andrew Jones is healthy and ready to go, that may sway my pick the other way, but without him it may be hard to snap KU’s Big 12 opener streak.
Looking at the numbers, this isn’t the greatest matchup for KU. Texas gets back in transition and they also defend the three-point line pretty well. The ‘Horns are also allowing opponents to get 36% of their shots from the outside, which is middle of the pack at 127th. Kansas is a that good of a shooting team, where if they get enough chances they’re bound to go in.
I’d expect Texas to give KU a close game, with the Jayhawks pulling away late, hitting free-throws to make the score look worse than it actually was.