Durant the Focus

Kansas aims for an outright Big 12 title on Saturday but to do it Bill Self's team will have to contend with the nation's top freshman, Texas' Kevin Durant.

There is a buzz in the air in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are on the cusp of an outright Big 12 regular season championship, but to do it they’ll have to contend with Kevin Durant and the Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns have won six straight and are coming off an emotional double-overtime win against Texas A&M. You get the sense Rick Barnes’ young team smells blood.

KU has a seven game win streak of its own heading into this one. The Jayhawks certainly weren’t at their best on Monday night but they did grind out a critical road win at Oklahoma on Monday.

Rest assured both squads will come into this one fired up and well-prepared, and Big 12 fans will be treated to a game matching up two teams that appear to be peaking at the right time.

KU’s final preparations on Friday included a two hour-plus practice and a film session. I don’t want to give away any game plans, but it’s safe to assume that Kevin Durant was a major part of the conversation. It’s also pretty much a given that a variety of players will end up guarding the 6-9 freshman, who to me is hands down the most talented player in the country.

This just happens to be another week that freshmen stole the headlines in college basketball. Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young put up 25 against Carolina, Scottie Reynolds dropped 40 on UConn Wednesday night, and the Texas trio of Durant, Damion James, and D.J. Augustin combined for 77 of the Longhorns’ 98 points in Wednesday’s win against the Aggies. Just to name a few.

Kevin is looking to write his own headline on Saturday, one that says, “Freshman Leads Texas to Share of Title”. As one person so eloquently put it Friday, “Durant has had bunch of 30-point games this season but hasn’t dropped 40 on anyone. Sure hope tomorrow is not the day.” Ain’t that the truth. Durant has put up at least 20 in every one of his Big 12 road games this season and could be playing his final regular season game as a collegian.

The dilemma with Durant is who to put on him? Teams have tried using guards and tried using big men to no avail. He’s a tough matchup for anyone. Julian Wright at 6-8 has the length and athleticism to get a crack at Durant, but he won’t be the only one who gets a shot at the nation’s best freshman. You have to figure Darrell Arthur and even Brandon Rush will end up spending some time on the versatile Durant.

You don’t stop a guy averaging 24.9 points, and 11.5 rebounds with one player, and let’s not forget the talent that surrounds him on a very good Texas team. The Longhorns like to use a multitude of pick-and-pop scenarios. Durant is equally effective from long range as he is in the post. Barnes finds ways to isolate Durant and utilize his fine playmaker Augustin. The key to stopping Augustin is finding a way to keep him from turning the corner. Easier said than done that’s for sure. How KU handles ball screens could play a major role in this game against the high octane offense of Texas.


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