The No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks open up Big 12 play on Thursday evening. The Jayhawks don’t get to ease into league games, as they travel to Lubbock to take on the No. 14 Texas Tech Red Raiders. KU enters Big 12 play with a 6-1 record, with its only loss coming at the hands of No. 1 Gonzaga. The Red Raiders enter league play at 6-1 as well, with its only loss to No. 17 Houston. This matchup should be a testament to how deep the Big 12 will be this year, as its between two top-15 teams — one who was picked to finish 2nd (KU) and the other picked to finish 5th (TTU).
- Thursday, December 17, 2020, 6 PM CDT
- United Supermarkets Arena – Lubbock, Texas
- No. 5/5 Kansas (6-1, 0-0) opens up Big 12 play for the 2020-21 season at No. 14/14 Texas Tech (6-1, 0-0) on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m. (Central). The contest will air on ESPN.
- Kansas has won six straight since losing its season opener to No. 1 Gonzaga and is coming off a 95-50 win against Omaha on Dec. 11 in Allen Fieldhouse. Texas Tech has won its last four games after its 77-57 win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 12.
- Kansas has won 29-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991- 92 season, with 12 of those at home and 17 on the road. The last time KU lost a league opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991. Texas Tech will be the fourth ranked team Kansas will play so far in 2020-21. The Jayhawks are 2-1 versus ranked foes this season.
- Kansas’ last six losses have been to ranked foes, with three of those in the top five.
- Redshirt-freshman Jalen Wilson has led KU in scoring three of the last five games, posting double-doubles against two ranked foes – No. 20 Kentucky (23 points, 10 rebounds) and No. 8 Creighton (23 points, 10 rebounds). His 8.7 rpg average ranks eighth nationally among NCAA Division I freshmen.
Red Raiders to Watch
Mac McClung – 6’2”, junior, guard
McClung is the No. 1 scoring option for the Red Raiders, as he leads the team with 14.1 PPG. The Georgetown transfer is a real threat at getting to the basket and shoots a high percentage at the line, but he’s never been a three-point shooter (career 30% from deep). McClung is coming off two of his worst shooting performances, as he’s a combined 3-22 (0-6, 3PT) in the last two games. It’s pretty safe to say, he’s not going to stay that cold going forward.
Terrance Shannon Jr. – 6’6”, sophomore, guard
While McClung has been ice cold lately, Shannon has upped his game. The sophomore guard scored 15 points and pulled down seven boards in a win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Saturday and before that scored 12 points on 71 percent shooting in a victory over Grambling State. Shannon is not going to kill you from deep (just 22 percent from three). He’s going to get most his points at the bucket or in the midrange, as nearly 79 percent of his shots have been 2 pointers this season.
Jayhawk Pick to Click
Jalen Wilson – 6’8”, RS freshman, guard
Wilson has been KU’s best player all season thus far, and they’re going to need their best option to shine in the conference opener on the road against a top-15 team. The Texas native is coming off his lowest scoring output of the season with just nine points against Omaha, but he was only needed for 16 minutes of play. He came up huge in KU’s triumph over No. 8 Creighton with 23 points, and burst on to the scene with 23 against Kentucky in the Champions Classic. Wilson has come up huge under the bright lights this season, and I don’t expect anything different against Tech.
I expect this one to be a tightly contested battle. Texas Tech is only a 1.5 point favorite (and the line has moved Kansas’ way since it opened at Tech -2), which basically means Vegas thinks it could go either way. Kansas hasn’t lost a Big 12 opener in 29 tries and has lost just once in Lubbock since 2010.
Texas Tech’s 6-1 record looks better on the surface than they actually are, I think. The Red Raiders’ best win is Abilene Christian. They’ve played one team with a pulse – Houston – and they lost. Their defense has been really good, but there are lots of questions about the legitimacy of their offense, considering how much they’ve struggled to score against some really lousy teams. Against the Jayhawks’ rapidly improving defense, I think they could have some problems keeping up.
I’ll go with the Jayhawks to pull this out. I like KU’s size advantage with David McCormack. The Red Raiders have one player over 6’7”, a 7’1” freshman who averages 5.3 minutes a game. McCormack should be able to handle the load down low, assuming he stays out of foul trouble.
I also look for KU to #FreeTheThree. Bill Self acknowledged this week that his team needs to start shooting more threes. They have a handful of capable shooters with Wilson, Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and even Marcus Garrett. Tech ranks middle-of-the-pack nationally in three-pointers allowed, but they’re top-30 in opponents’ three-point percentage. Again, their competition hasn’t been good, so I think KU brings that number back down a bit. This season Kansas is shooting 39.9 percent from deep this year, good for 36th nationally. Let it fly!
Kansas 75, Texas Tech 70
Season Record: 6-1 (5-2 ATS)