Big 12 Semifinals: (3) Texas vs. (2) Kansas – Preview and Prediction

The No. 11 Kansas Jayhawks opened up postseason play with a win over Oklahoma on Thursday night in Kansas City. Kansas opened up a huge lead in the first half before seeing the Sooners storm back and cut the lead one possession at one point. Nevertheless, KU was able to hold off OU’s second half charge and move on to the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament, where they take on the Texas Longhorns. Texas snuck by Texas Tech on Thursday in the night cap by a score of 67-66. With no David McCormack, Kansas will really be tested against a big and long front line of Texas. 

  • Friday, March 12, 2021, 8:30 PM CDT
  • T-Mobile Center – Kansas City, Mo. 
  • ESPN2
  • Kansas is the No. 2 seed for the Big 12 Championship for the fifth time with the others being in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2008. KU won the 2006 and 2008 Big 12 Championships and lost in the semifinals of the 2001 and 2005 events. KU is 9-2 as the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Championship.
  • Kansas has won 15 postseason conference tourney titles and 11 in the Big 12 era. KU (11), ISU (5), OU (3) and OSU (2) are active league members with Big 12 tournament titles. 
  • Since the Big 12’s inception in 1996-97, Kansas is 47-12 in the league tournament. KU is 1-0 in opening round games, 21-3 in the quarterfinals, 14-6 in semifinals and 11-3 in finals
  • Kansas is No. 14 in NET nationally in strength of schedule among the 357 teams listed. Kansas’ NET is No. 14, which is second in the conference. 
  • After its 71-58 win against No. 2 Baylor on Feb. 27, KU is 7-6 versus ranked opponents this season and its 13 games are the most in NCAA DI this season. KU’s seven wins are tied for second most in NCAA Division I with Baylor and Oklahoma State.
  • KU has won 12 league games for the 21st consecutive season. Kansas has won 11 league games for the last 27 seasons and the current 27-year streak with 10-plus league wins is the longest active streak in the nation. Kansas has won 10 or more conference games 58 times overall.
  • Kansas leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (40.4%) and three-point field goal percentage defense (32.1%). 

Sooners to Watch

Andrew Jones  – 6’4”, senior, guard

We are pretty well versed with Jones’ story by now, as he overcame a bout with cancer earlier in his career and now is having the best season of his college career. He leads the Longhorns in scoring at 14.7 PPG, and has especially turned it on in conference play. In league games, he’s averaging 16.6 PPG and had five 20-point efforts. He’s not a particularly good three-point shooter (just 31%), but he’s excellent at getting to the basket and drawing contact. In two games against KU this season, he’s gone for 14 and 13 points respectively. 

Greg Brown – 6’9”, freshman, forward

Brown, a highly prized recruit, has been solid for his hometown Longhorns this year. This season, Brown is averaging 10.0 PPG and is second on the team in rebounding at 6.6 RPG. He has been quiet down the stretch during Texas’ tear to end the year, scoring in double figures just twice…one of which was against Kansas. He had a weird moment in last night’s game when he melted down over a bad call and spent the rest of the game on the bench. Perhaps KU can take advantage of a superstar athlete that’s not completely focused.

Jayhawk Pick to Click

Marcus Garrett – 6’5”, senior, guard

It’s March. This is where you need your senior guards and leaders to step up and play their best, so I’ll roll with Garrett here again. He was snubbed of Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, so I think that will be a little extra motivation for him throughout this tournament. He was great against Oklahoma going for 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. Two of Garrett’s worst games of the year came against Texas. I’m sure he’d like to get revenge the third time around. 

Prediction

They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, and that is true. Kansas has lost to Texas twice this season. The last time they lost to one team three times in one year? The Ted Owens era, way back 40+ years ago. In Bill Self’s tenure, the Jayhawks have never played a Big 12 team multiple times and not won at least one time. 2017-18 Oklahoma State was the only other Big 12 team to sweep KU in the regular season in the Self era, and the Jayhawks beat the Cowboys in the Big 12 tournament. They have the same chance today against Texas.

But this pick is all about the matchup, and who is and who isn’t there for KU. I think the loss of McCormack is huge in this one. With McCormack in the lineup, Texas cleaned up on the glass in both matchups this year and without him I think it could be uglier with the likes of Brown, Jericho Sims and the guys Texas can throw out there. Texas had 13 dunks in the Feb. 23 overtime win, primarily when KU was playing five-guard lineups. It is worth noting that the Jayhawks built a 14-point lead with the five-guard lineup by forcing turnovers and speeding the pace way up, and that’s definitely going to be their strategy tonight as they enter with just a seven-man rotation.

If KU is to have a shot, I think they’re really going to need to shoot the lights out. The Jayhawks were just 8-for-22 from three-point land vs. OU, with half those makes coming from Ochai Agbaji. At 36%, that’s not even a super-strong performance, but it was just the second time in the last 15 games KU has eclipsed 35% on threes. They must be better. KU can’t afford Christian Braun to go invisible for a second straight game, and they’ll need to continue to get strong play out of Garrett. Jalen Wilson will need to do better than a 2-for-10 effort. Lastly, without McCormack they’re going to need to get some solid minutes out of Mitch Lightfoot at some point. He was good off the bench against OU, going for 11 points and four rebounds. It could be a different story against Texas’ front line. I just think too many things have to happen, and ultimately Texas gets a few too many easy looks inside with their height.

Texas 74, Kansas 65
UT -1

AUDIO PREVIEW: LINK

Season Record: 20-7 (16-11 ATS)

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1.

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