Things came rather easily for Kansas on Saturday and the stat sheet proved yet again that the Cornhuskers are no match for KU’s speed, athleticism, and overall skill level. Barry Collier’s team has now been outscored by the Jayhawks by 67 points in three meetings this season.
But Kansas will not be facing an overmatched Nebraska team tomorrow. The Jayhawks will instead go toe-to-toe with the Texas Longhorns, who delivered a beating the last time the two sides met. It wasn’t pretty in Austin back on February 25th as Bill Self’s team lost by 25 points.
To win a conference tournament title, Kansas is going to need to do a 180 in virtually every aspect of the game.
"I do think it's great that Texas and us get to play one more time and they certainly whipped us the first time, no excuses,” continued Self. “We're going to have to play at a lot higher level than we did that time in order to have a chance to play with them."
Self also stated that the Jayhawks need to find a way to get Texas to operate outside of its comfort zone. It won’t be easy and quite frankly, the last time out Texas looked quite comfortable flexing its muscles against Self’s young and inexperienced team. The Horns took advantage of the physical mismatch on the inside by hammering KU on the boards 36-19, and they beat the Jayhawks to every loose ball.
Improving their rebounding is a MUST for the Jayhawks in this one. Julian Wright failed to pull down a single rebound and fellow big men, Sasha Kaun, C.J. Giles, Darnell Jackson only had seven combined. Kaun performed well against Oklahoma State, and Jackson is coming off his first double-double of the season (13 points, 10 rebounds), but again, the prior competition does not measure up to the size and strength of the Longhorns.
LeMarcus Aldridge, and Player of the Year, P.J. Tucker did their share of damage back in February. Aldridge was 9-10 from the floor and had 18 points, while Tucker added 19 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals. Tucker is coming off 26 points, and 13 rebounds in the semis against the Aggies, he will need to be held in check.
Brandon Rush is probably still enduring nightmares from the first meeting with Texas when he went 1-8 from the floor. Rush nearly had an “oh-fer” and finished with only three points. Kansas cannot be without its first team all-league performer in a game of this caliber.
Kansas will have to do a better job dealing with Rick Barnes’ 2-3 zone. It would help the Jayhawks if the perimeter shots would come from the outside-in. Last time out the Jayhawks were 4-15 from three and never got comfortable.
KU does have the revenge factor working in its favor. That loss in Austin hurt and Kansas has a chance to win one that means even more. It will take superior effort but if the Jayhawks get to the loose balls and crash the boards they’re capable of winning this one.
The unfortunate part of this game is the time it takes place. Both teams will likely be seeded by the time this one concludes at 5pm, Eastern Time.