NO. 7 KANSAS (15-3, 5-0 Big 12) AT TEXAS (12-6, 2-3 Big 12)
Time/TV: 4 p.m./Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court
Location: Frank Erwin Special Events Center
RPI Ratings: Kansas 9 (No. 2 Big 12); Texas 65 (No. 6 Big 12).
Line: Kansas -2.5 (Total 138)
Kansas Players to Watch: F Thomas Robinson, 6-9 Jr. (17.8 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 54.4% FG); G Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 Sr. (16.2 ppg, 5.2 apg, 44.8% 3s); C Jeff Withey, 7-0 Jr. (7.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.1 bpg). On Monday, Robinson dominated previously-unbeaten Baylor with 27 points and 14 rebounds. On Tuesday, he named to the John R. Wood Award Midseason Top 25. He has 13 double-doubles this season.
Texas Players to Watch: G J’Covan Brown, 6-1 Jr. (19.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.5 rpg); G Myck Kabongo, 6-1 Fr. (9.8 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.4 rpg); F Jonathan Holmes, 6-7 Fr. (8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 54.7% FG). Kabongo has struggled shooting during his freshman year (40.4 percent from the field, 28.9 from the 3-point line), but he is coming off a 14-point, 10-assist performance in Wednesday’s 84-80 loss to Kansas State.
Storylines: After beating Baylor 92-74, Kansas stands alone atop the Big 12 standings at 5-0. They Jayhawks have won eight straight since a Dec. 19 home loss to Davidson. Texas slipped 2-3 in conference with the loss to Kansas State. The Longhorns have lost 4-of-7 but all four losses were on the road. They are 10-0 at the Erwin Center this year.
Keys: The 92 points Kansas scored against Baylor marks a season-high. The Jayhawks are averging 76.8 points per game, which is 34th in the country. They are also 21st in assists and 23rd in field goal percentage. All five Jayhawks scored in double figures against Baylor – and Robinson and Withey (10 points, 10 rebounds) managed double-doubles. Nine of Withey’s 10 rebounds came on the offensive end. Taylor has been up and down for the Jayhawks, but he is certainly up right now. He has scored 28 points and six assists in each of his last two outings. He’s made 20 of his last 35 shot attempts and is 7-for-15 from behind the 3-point arc. Brown is one of the nation’s top go-to scorers. He’s 22nd in the nation at 19.2 points per game. In his last two games, he scored 34 and 22 points in losses at Missouri and Kansas State. Both teams have been prone to turnovers but have also forced a lot of their own. Kansas turns the ball over 14.1 times per contest and forces 15.4. Texas turns it over 13.4 – led by Kabongo’s 3.2 – and it forces 14.4 per contest. Kansas should have a significant advantage inside. The Jayhawks average 42.2 rebounds and are plus-9 per game. On the other hand, Texas does average 13.6 rebounds on the offensive boards. Texas is 11-0 at home this season. The Longhorns have beaten Kansas in Austin four of seven times in Big 12 play. Kansas is 3-0 in true road games, including Big 12 wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
The Bottom Line: Robinson should score at will against the Texas defense, and Robinson and Withey will keep Texas from getting much inside. Unless Brown and Kabongo dominate, the Jayhawks should beat the young Longhorns – even in Austin.
The Pick: Kansas 71, Texas 66.