ESPN College GameDay will have an hour pregame show from the Phog prior to the KU-Texas contest.
The Jayhawks (22-6, 11-4) will try to rebound after their 70-63 loss at K-State on Monday. With just three regular-season games remaining, Big 12-leader Kansas is one game up in the league race ahead of Iowa State, Oklahoma and West Virginia, who all have five losses.
UT (17-11, 6-9) has lost three straight games and is coming off a 71-64 defeat at No. 20 West Virginia on Tuesday. Texas averages 68.7 points and boasts a +8.2 scoring margin. The Longhorns lead the Big 12 in rebounding (40.3), rebound margin (+9.5, No. 3 nationally), blocked shots (7.4, No. 1 nationally) and field goal percentage defense (36.6, No. 4 nationally).
Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor leads Texas in scoring at 13.4 points per game while also pacing the team with 80 assists and 16 steals, despite playing in only 18 of 28 games due to injury. Freshman forward Myles Turner is next in scoring (11.2 ppg, team-high 6.5 rpg, No. 1 in league with 2.6 bpg), followed by senior forward Jonathan Holmes (10.5 ppg), junior guard Javan Felix (9.5 ppg, team-high 44 threes), junior center Cameron Ridley (8.2 ppg, 46 blocks), junior guard Demarcus Holland (7.0 ppg) and sophomore guard Kendal Yancy (6.0 ppg).
Texas is coached by Rick Barnes, who is 399-177 in his 17th season at UT and 601-311 in his 28th season overall.
Despite the Longhorns' woes, KU coach Bill Self knows the Longhorns pose a great challenge. Self has been very impressed with Turner’s play off the bench.
“Texas, they're a team that's a lot like us in that when they play well, they're terrific, and when they don't play well, they take a step back, a noticeable step back, which obviously we do the same thing,” Self said. “They've been a little bit inconsistent, as we have, as well.
“... (Turner) is playing great,” Self added. “When he's playing well, which he is right now, I think he went through a stretch over a three-or four-game period, I could be off a little bit, he's averaging 19 (points), 10 (rebounds) and five (blocks). He's playing a lot of minutes, but he's not playing 30 minutes either. He's getting a lot out of his minutes. He's playing closer to the basket maybe than what he was the first time we played him. He's hard to guard in there because he gets his shot off so quick, it's too quick that you can't trap it.
“And they still have as imposing of a team or front line as anybody in America with maybe the exception of Kentucky. So I like their team. They need to play well down the stretch, obviously. That's not me saying anything other than the obvious. But they're so capable of beating anybody. ... They'll be hungry playing us for high stakes on Saturday.”
LAST TIME OUT
KU played a great game in the last meeting with then-No. 17 Texas in Austin on Jan. 24, winning 75-62. Kansas led just 32-30 at halftime, but outscored UT by 11 points in the second half. The Jayhawks, who only committed three turnovers during the game, were led by freshman forward Cliff Alexander’s 15 points and nine rebounds. Three other ‘Hawks scored in double figures with Perry Ellis (14), Brannen Greene (14) and Frank Mason III (12).
UT’s Taylor was game-high scorer with 23 points while Holmes added 14. KU’s bench outscored Texas’ bench 31-8, while the Longhorns shot just 16.7 percent (3-18) from beyond the arc.
NEED TO IMPROVE
Self wants to see improvement from his team after its loss to KSU. He wasn’t pleased with the last 10 minutes of that game.
“I think it showed that we --'panicked' is not the right word -- certainly did not play with poise down the stretch offensively. Defensively, we didn't get stops. They made every play,” Self said.
“... The last 10 minutes was a combination of poor ball and body movement, their (K-State's) pressure bothered us and then, of course, we've got to play through our two best players in late-game situations. Frank wasn't a factor, and they were able to negate Perry for the most part down the stretch.
“Certainly, we've got to improve,” Self continued. “If one or two shots go down, it looks totally different. But they defended us very well.”
CRUNCH TIME IN THE BIG 12 RACE
Self knows it’s crunch time in the Big 12 race.
“Our league, it's hard. You've got four teams, going into the last eight days of the season, that can all win the league,” Self said. “If West Virginia wins out, they win the league. If Oklahoma wins out, they win the league. Iowa State would be the only team that potentially wouldn't win the league if they won out, but that would mean we'd have to run the table.
“It's pretty high drama. Certainly, it's a great league. I could be wrong on this, but the most wins any team has on the road (in Big 12 play) is four, if I'm not mistaken. I think that West Virginia has four and we have four, maybe OU has four. Certainly, it deserves to come down to the wire based on how tough it's been all year long.”
CELEBRATING 60 YEARS
Kansas will celebrate the 60th year of Allen Fieldhouse during the game. In addition to video and other tributes throughout the contest, the Jayhawks will wear retro uniforms, adidas designed Heritage Classic, which honors the 1988 NCAA National Championship team. That squad, of course, was led by Danny Manning, who averaged 24.8 points per game. Milt Newton (11.6 ppg) and Kevin Pritchard (10.6 ppg) were the other two Jayhawks who averaged in double digits that season.
And don’t forget Chris Piper. While he only averaged 5.1 points per game, he was an outstanding defender, relentless worker, and glue guy. Then-North Carolina head coach Dean Smith said Piper played the best post defense he had ever seen in the national championship game against Oklahoma.