Scouting the K-State vs. Texas Showdown

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Not only is it against Texas, but the No. 1 ranked Longhorns. And, not only is it on ESPN, but it's "Big Monday." That's the task, or opportunity, that faces Kansas State Monday night at 8 in Bramlage Coliseum. For only the 15th time in K-State history, the Wildcats will be playing a No. 1 ranked team.

So, what is it that exactly makes the University of Texas the No. 1 team in the nation heading into tonight's ESPN "Big Monday" game against Kansas State in Bramlage Coliseum?

Wildcat assistant coach Brad Underwood says, "Their athleticism is unbelievable. Then the other thing that is very, very impressive is their size. Physically, they are an imposing team at the rim, plus they are versatile in they have guys like (Damion) James, who can shoot the 3, yet he's the all-time leading rebounder and can score in the post.

"If anyone is playing better in the country than James, it would be his teammate (Avery Bradley)," Underwood said. "As a freshman, he's been amazing."

In an 8 p.m. tipoff, No. 1 and 17-0 Texas will go to work against No. 12 (entering Monday) and 15-2 Kansas State. It will be the 15th time that the Wildcats will have faced a No. 1-ranked team with K-State having a 2-12 record to show for the first 14 meetings.

The matchup was set up Saturday when K-State out-scored Colorado, 87-81, and Texas eased by Texas A&M, 72-67, in overtime.

On offense, Texas is averaging 88.2 points per game, while at the other end is holding teams to just 64.3 points per game. Yes, that's an average margin of victory of 23.9 points per game. The two numbers have helped to provide the Longhorns a 17-0 start to the season, its best since the 1932-33 season, and the first No. 1 ranking in the history of the school.

"We have senior leadership for the first time since the Final Four team (2003), and Damion James and Justin Mason have really set a tone with the way they go about it every day," said Texas coach Rick Barnes.

Barnes' message to the team since becoming No. 1 has been this: "My first thought after being named No. 1 was that I didn't know who was No. 1 the second week of January last year, but I do know who won the national championship. It is pretty cool for our guys, though. It shows our program has grown to this point and it is a compliment to our program."

In scouting the starting-five of the Longhorns, here's Underwood:

DAMION JAMES, 6-7, Sr, 17.3 points, 11.2 rebounds: "He never lets you relax. Every second he's on the court he's in an attack mode at both ends of the court whether it's scoring or rebounding. There is no down-time guarding him. He's a senior … a grown man, and as well conditioned as anyone can be. He just goes every second that he's on the court. He plays with a revved up motor."

DEXTER PITTMAN, 6-10, Sr, 13.4, 6.8: "His game has grown as his body has shrunk. He really occupies the paint. It takes two men on him because he's so big and nimble. Keeping him from getting where he wants to be will be a challenge. You just cannot move him around. He'll be a real challenge."

AVERY BRADLEY, 6-2, Fr, 12.7, 2.5: "He's playing as well as anyone in the country in the last three or four games. He's shooting at an extremely high percentage (50 percent) for a guy who came in known as a defender. He's knocking down the 3, and he has as good of a mid-range jumper as I've seen this year. If he's not the No. 1 option, then he's 1B.

JUSTIN MASON, 6-2, Sr, 2.6, 2.0: "He's an under-sized forward, who is literally the last option, and I mean that in a positive way (35 shot attempts this season). He can make the 3, but is more of a slasher. He's a great defender and cleans up a lot of the messes from the other four. A very good athlete."

DOGUS BALBAY, 6-1, Jr, 3.6, 4.5: "He does a really good job of running, and initiating the offense. He's a hawk defensively. He's a kid who has made things easy for the other guys."

Overall Underwood said, "They're just great in transition. They play at a tempo that creates a lot of possessions. Offensively, they're pretty simple in what they do, but they do a great job of cleaning up missed shots to make every possession a pretty efficient possession.

They don't mind shooting it early (in the shot clock) and they want you to do the same thing."

And on defense, Underwood said, "We have to handle their ball pressure."

On K-State's team makeup, Barnes said, "They are very physical. I was watching some of their game, and they are very physical and fast. Like A&M, they really get after you on defense. They guard you, and they're going to get after you. They are physical on the inside. They've got some guards that can hang a lot of numbers on you."

A YEAR AGO:
Denis Clemente was blazing hitting 13-of-25 field goals, which included 6-of-6 on 3-pointers, and, 12-of-12 from the foul line for a 44-point outing. K-State needed them all in posting an 85-81 victory over Texas in Austin.

As to whether Clemente might be feeling good going into this Texas game, KSU coach Frank Martin said, "I would think so, but I would also think that Texas remembers that game. Denis wants to win, and he doesn't care how. If it takes four points or 44, that's fine with him. He just wants to win."

"Denis Clemente gave us 44 last year here at home, and that's still in our mind," said Texas junior Gary Johnson.


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