Big Monday vs. Texas a big game in the Big 12 race for Kansas and many others
Kansas Jayhawks (18-5 overall, 6-4 Big 12) vs. Texas Longhorns (19-4 overall, 8-2 Big 12)
Time: 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6, 2023
Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: ESPN | Radio: Jayhawk Radio Network via Learfield
We’ve reached the point where a whole bunch of Big 12 Conference teams are probably actually rooting for the Kansas Jayhawks in their Big Monday battle with Texas at Allen Fieldhouse.
The reason is simple. If the Jayhawks win, everyone around them stays in the race. Chaos is good for the KUs and Baylors and Kansas States of the world right now and bringing the 8-2 Longhorns down to 8-3 leaves the door wide open for any one of six teams to win the Big 12 regular season title.
If Texas wins, though, the Longhorns will maintain their two-game lead on four of the five Big 12 contenders with just seven games to play.
Add to that the fact that UT’s next three games after Monday night come against the three teams currently at the bottom of the Big 12 standings, and it’s not hard to see how the potential is there for the Longhorns to run away with this thing in the next week to 10 days.
Nothing is a given in the Big 12 Conference this season. And you’ve heard countless coaches in the league talk about how there are no nights off and anybody can beat anybody on any given night. So, it’s a little brazen to say with any amount of certainty that Texas will win those next three games.
If they do, though, and if they beat the Jayhawks on Monday night, they’ll move into the final four games of the Big 12 race with at least a two-game lead over most of the field.
The only team that can stay closer than that is Iowa State, which currently is just one game back. But the Cyclones’ upcoming stretch includes road games at West Virginia, K-State and Texas and they close the regular season at Baylor.
According to Draft Kings, the Longhorns are now the even-money favorite (+100) to win the conference.
Iowa State is second at +350, KU is third at +450, Baylor comes next at +600 and TCU (+1200) and K-State (+1600) round out the list of true contenders.
According to Kansas coach Bill Self, the Longhorns also have one of the best rosters in all of college basketball.
“I think their talent level is definitely top-10 talent without question,” Self said after Saturday’s loss at Iowa State. “Maybe top-five. They’re super-athletic, as athletic as any team in our league. They’re fast and, of course, (senior guard Marcus) Carr’s having an All-American type year. They’ve got a really good team. It’ll take a big effort on our part (to win).”
That makes this one as close to a must-win for Kansas as anything can be. And it’s not just a must-win for the Jayhawks. The rest of the conference is likely rooting for Kansas, well. Maybe not with foam fingers and crimson and blue face paint. But definitely with enough interested and energy invested that if the game goes the way of the Longhorns, the rest of the conference will walk away at least a little down about the result.
Texas enters Monday night ranked No. 9 overall in the KenPom.com rankings, with the potential to move into the AP Top 25, when the new weekly poll comes out on Monday.
The Longhorns own the nation’s 13th most efficient offense and 27th most efficient defense, which ranks in the top 100 in 2-point field goal defense, block percentage, steal percentage and non-steal turnover percentage.
The Longhorns’ overall turnover defense, which forces give-aways on 22.6% of opponents’ possessions ranks 27th nationally, meaning that KU is going to have to do a heck of a lot better job taking care of the ball in this one than it did against Iowa State on Saturday in Ames.
After that loss, Shane Jackson wrote a little about KU’s turnover issues and the correlation between high-turnover games and KU losses in Big 12 play.
Here’s the catch with Texas, though. Not only do the Longhorns take the ball away from their opponents, but they also don’t give it away very often themselves. UT ranks 76th nationally in offensive turnover percentage, coughing it up on just 17% of its possessions, nearly two full percentage points below the national average.
This is a deep, talented, physical, athletic and versatile team coming to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night. And it will be a real threat to snap KU’s 39-game home Big Monday winning streak.
Kansas leads the all-time series with Texas 36-12, including a 19-2 record in games played in Lawrence and a 17-2 mark at Allen Fieldhouse, but the Longhorns have won three of the last four meetings between the two programs, including a season sweep during the 2020-21 season and a split last season.
KenPom.com lists KU as a 3-point favorite, with a 60% win probability, and several sports books listed the Jayhawks as a 3.5-point favorite when the line first came out on Sunday.
G – Dajuan Harris Jr., 6-1, 175, Jr.
G – Kevin McCullar Jr., 6-6, 210, Sr.
G – Gradey Dick, 6-8, 205, Fr.
F – Jalen Wilson, 6-8, 225, Jr.
F – KJ Adams, 6-7, 225, Soph.
G – Tyrese Hunter, 6-0, 175, Soph.
G – Marcus Carr, 6-2, 175, Sr.
F – Timmy Allen, 6-6, 210, Sr.
F – Dillon Mitchell, 6-8, 205, Fr.
F – Dylan Disu, 6-9, 225, Sr.