After its 72-65 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, KU is 22-7 and 13-3 in the Big 12. The Jayhawks have won the league outright with two more regular-season games remaining. A date at West Virginia on March 8 wraps it up before the Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
SCOUTING Texas TECH
After winning three straight, Texas Tech (13-16, 5-11 Big 12) has lost its last five games, including its most recent 59-49 setback at Baylor on March 1. It doesn't getting any easier for Tech on Wednesday, where the Red Raiders are 0-11 all time in Allen Fieldhouse.
Senior forward Jaye Crockett leads the team with 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Junior forward Jordan Tolbert is next in scoring (10.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg), followed by junior guard Robert Turner (9.6 ppg, team-high 77 assists and 40 steals), sophomore guard Dusty Hannahs (8.3 ppg, team-best 40 three-pointers), redshirt sophomore guard Toddrick Gotcher (7.6 ppg) and senior forward Dejan Kravic (7.0 ppg, team-high 37 blocks).
The Red Raiders average 69.4 points per game and rank third in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 68.1. Tech leads the league in rebounding defense at 29.7 and has a +3.1 rebound margin, while second in the conference in free throw percentage at 73.2 percent.
Texas Tech shoots 46.0 percent from the field and 32.0 percent from three-point range while holding foes to 43.6 percent shooting and 33.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Coach Tubby Smith is 13-16 in his first season at TTU and 524-242 in his 23rd season overall.
SELF ON TECH
Despite its record, KU coach Bill Self knows Tech is a dangerous team which nearly upset Kansas in Lubbock on Feb. 18.
"They play everybody close, and they've had some tough losses," Self said. "Going back to our game, that was a tough loss (for TTU), and it's a one-possession game in Ames right before we played them, which was a tough loss (for them). But certainly Tubby has done a great job. Their front line is probably one of the better front lines in our league, without question. Crockett is a hard match-up, and they guard. And if you remember right, they milk the clock. They'll try to score quick if they can, but if not, they'll shoot it under seven on the shot clock many possessions. We did a poor job of finishing the possessions, so we've got to be much better at that. (They're a) great, great offensive rebounding team."
LAST TIME OUT
In a gritty, grind-it-out road game against Tech where there were nine ties and 13 lead changes, KU won 64-63 as freshman guard Andrew Wiggins made a game-winning layup with 1.7 seconds left. Wiggins was game-high scorer with 19 points while freshman center Joel Embiid added 18. Tolbert, one of five TTU players in double figures, led his team with 16 points.
KU helped win this game at the free throw line, where it shot 22-of-30, compared to just 9-of-14 for Tech. The Red Raiders, though, kept it close by hitting 6-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Embiid will miss the next two games with an injured lower back while Black takes his place in the starting lineup. Black said he's not going to try to do anything special in a starting role, just play his typical workmanlike game.
Self is confident in Black.
"We're one of the very fortunate teams in the country that can lose a good player and have basically a three-year major-college starter step in and (fill that role)," Self said.
SELF ON THE SENIORS
Self eloquently spoke about his senior class at his Tuesday press conference. They will all start Wednesday night with Wesley and Roberts making their first official starts of their Jayhawk career. Roberts, a 5-11 walk-on guard, has played in five games this season and scored one point. For his career, he has logged 39 games with seven points. Roberts earned Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honors recently.
Wesley, a 6-9 forward, has played in 12 games this season and scored one point. For his career, he's played in 69 games (38 as a redshirt sophomore) while scoring 53 points.
Black, a 6-9 forward and transfer from Memphis, has started nine of 27 games this season while averaging 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per contest. He's shot a team-high 66.2 percent from the field.
"I think I'll remember Tarik being an unbelievable teammate and a great leader and certainly a guy that has impacted our ability to win," Self said. "But he's got something about him that I think every kid yearns for. He's ultra-positive; his attitude is very, very good; he's got energy; and he's always trying to make others better. I'll remember that.
"I've known Niko the longest, obviously. (Niko's dad, Norm, is a KU assistant who was on Self's staff at Oral Roberts from 1995-97, as well as joining Self's staffs in Tulsa, Illinois, and also an assistant in Self's first year at KU in 2003-04 before returning to Kansas in 2012). I think I even spanked Niko when he was about 3 or 4 years old, a couple of times, when we used to babysit him. But he's awesome; he's part of our family and has been for a long time. Certainly, (I'm) real proud of him and what he's done since he's been here. Not just how much he's helped us from a scout team standpoint, but he's really been a great ambassador and certainly a great teammate as well."
And then there's Wesley, who portrayed Wilt Chamberlain in the movie "Jayhawkers."
"I think Justin is maybe the coolest kid on our team," Self said. "To go from being the first big off the bench three years ago as a sophomore and playing in the national championship game to not playing much at all since then; his attitude is the same as it was back then. He's going to get his degree and then, of course, we've helped spearhead what could be a very, very wonderful acting career as well.
"I think that all three have played a role in how good we've been, and all three have played a role, to be honest, in my personal happiness because I've enjoyed being around all of them."