With all the talk surrounding upsets and the bubble during championship week, marquee match-ups sometimes get swept under the rug. It will be tough to do that on Saturday, as the Big 12 championship game will feature a battle between two top-10 teams, Kansas and Texas.
Kansas (31-2, 14-2) is playing some of its best basketball of the season right now, having won seven straight since its 16-point loss at Kansas Sate on Valentine’s Day. The Jayhawks struggled against Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, needing some poor decision-making and execution from the Cowboys down the stretch to advance. They bounced back against Colorado, hitting on all cylinders in eight-point win.
The Jayhawks are a lock for a No. 1 seed and one of the Final Four favorites. They lead the nation in effective field-goal percentage and two-point percentage, and are also one of the best defensive clubs around. Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris are the go-to players offensively, providing double-double potential on a nightly basis. Not too many teams can counter them down low. On the perimeter, Kansas uses a variety of options, with Tyrel Reed knocking down shots and Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar and co. creating opportunities with their playmaking abilities.
Texas (27-6, 13-3) struggled late in the year, losing three of four before defeating Baylor on the road in the season finale. The Longhorns have played well in the conference tournament, easily advancing past Oklahoma in the quarterfinals and then pulling away from Texas A&M down the stretch in the semifinals on Friday night. In the first meeting between the two teams, Texas went into Lawrence and came out with an 11-point victory.
The Longhorns are the best defensive team in the country, pacing the nation in defensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage defense. Offensively, they can knock down perimeter shots, but make their living inside the arc. Jordan Hamilton has blossomed into one of the best offensive players in the country after going through bouts of selfishness during his freshman season. Freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph have been very solid down the stretch, and Gary Johnson does the dirty work inside.
This is going to be a fantastic game, with intriguing match-ups all over the floor. Markieff Morris and Tristan Thompson will bang down low, but it will be interesting to see if Gary Johnson can defend Marcus Morris’ versatility. On the perimeter, who will defend Jordan Hamilton? He had 17 in the first match-up. Texas also has the defensive guards to disrupt Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby.
Both teams have the personnel to make a run to the Final Four, but which will emerge as the Big 12 champion? Kansas has superior depth and numerous offensive options, while Texas’ defense can be impenetrable at times. If Kansas attacks the rim and gets Texas’ bigs in foul trouble, the Jayhawks should win. If they allow Texas to dictate their sets and settle for 3-pointers, the Longhorns will come out victorious.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted by Jeff Borzello
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