KU at Texas set for a 3 p.m. tipoff; will that game be a winner-take-all showdown in the Big 12 race?

Kansas forward KJ Adams (24) delivers a put-back jam past Texas guard Tyrese Hunter (4) during the second half on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

The Texas men’s basketball team did its part to hold serve in the chase for the Big 12 regular season title on Tuesday night, so now things get interesting.

With Baylor losing at K-State on Tuesday night, the Big 12 has basically come down to a two-team sprint to the finish, with Kansas and Texas tied at the top at 11-4 heading into the final three games.

Baylor and Kansas State are not mathematically out of it, but both teams are two games back with three to play and would need to win out and get a lot of help to finish on top.

So, let’s focus on the Jayhawks and Longhorns here and give a hat tip to whoever made the Big 12 schedule this season. As you all surely know, the final game of the regular season pits Kansas against Texas on Saturday, March 4 in Austin, Texas.

The game time for that one was finally made official on Wednesday. It’s set for a 3 p.m. tipoff on ESPN. Plan accordingly.

Could this race come down to that game? It certainly could. And it would be wonderful if it did for those who love serious drama and high stakes.

I wouldn’t bet on it happening, though.

For one, that would work out way too well for the Big 12, already clearly regarded as the best conference in college basketball. On that day, if it’s KU-Texas for all the marbles, the league would become the center of the college hoops world and nothing else that happens would matter.

Sorry Arizona and UCLA. That’s a nice game between Top 10 teams, but it’s not the de facto Big 12 title game. Sorry Villanova and UConn. Alabama-A&M and Tennessee-Auburn are both nice SEC games, but they would pale in comparison to Kansas-Texas.

The other reason I’m not sure we’ll get that winner-take-all, KU-UT showdown is because of the road Texas has to get there.

If you looked ahead early in the Big 12 season, you saw that this could jump out as a real advantage for Kansas. The Jayhawks have two home games against bottom-half Big 12 teams between now and then.

Neither will be easy. But if you’re KU, you’d absolutely take both of them — especially because they’re at home — in place of what Texas and several others in the Big 12 are facing in the next two games.

Let’s assume the Jayhawks hold serve at home, while also acknowledging that WVU and Tech are both going to come to town ready to fight. In order to get to that final game in a tie with Kansas, Texas would need to win at Baylor and at TCU in the next eight days.

Could it be done? You bet. Kansas just won at TCU the other night and the Frogs are still banged up. Baylor, meanwhile, already has dropped two home games in Big 12 play this season and also lost to Texas in Austin a couple of weeks ago.

So, it’s not impossible to think UT could win those games. And if they do, it would be advantage Longhorns heading into the finale against Kansas.

However, if they lose one or both of those, it’s KU who sits in the driver’s seat and, because of that, it’s advantage Jayhawks as things sit today.

Perhaps the most likely scenario of all of them has Texas splitting with Baylor and TCU, KU sweeping WVU and Texas Tech and the Longhorns needing to beat KU to claim a share of the Big 12 title.

That would still make for some pretty high drama in that KU-UT matchup in Austin, but it would be nothing compared to the winner-take-all scenario that we could get.


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