1) Beware the Morrii
Texas has struggled at times this year with both physical and skilled big men. That's bad news in that Kansas twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, nicknamed by Kansas fans as the Morrii, represent arguably the top combination of skill and power that you'll see. Just ask Baylor. The twins shot a combined 19-24 from the field, including 2-5 (40 percent) from behind the arc in dicing up a supposedly athletic and tough Baylor frontcourt. Marcus scored 25 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Markieff scored 19, grabbed nine boards and had four assists and two blocks. Marcus is the more skilled player and is more versatile offensively, but Markieff excels at the dirty work, pounding the boards and grinding things out. They represent Kansas's biggest challenge for the Longhorns Saturday.
2) Jordan Hamilton has no equal
The biggest matchup in Texas's favor appears to be Jordan Hamilton. A smooth and savvy scorer, Hamilton can find different ways to get the ball and get his shot. Kansas, meanwhile, typically plays with three guards, lacking a player with Hamilton's length and size. The one player who would seem to be a natural foil for the sophomore — Kansas wing Travis Releford — is coming back from an ankle injury. Don't be surprised if Releford sees some time on Hamilton, as he's an excellent defender with the requisite length. But Hamilton should have an advantage in almost any matchup he faces.
3) Pound that glass
The Jayhawks snatch up 37.1 percent of available offensive rebounds and boast three players — the Morrises and backup forward Thomas Robinson — who are big-time threats in that area. Marcus and Markieff both rank among college basketball's top 285 players in offensive rebounding percentage, while Thomas Robinson's 20.6 percent would be third in the country if he played slightly higher minutes. Texas, meanwhile, is even higher in the stat, winning 37.8 percent of boards. Tristan Thompson ranks 13th in offensive rebound percentage, while Alexis Wangmene is a sneaky threat off the bench in that area.
4) Inside vs. Outside
The Longhorns enjoy bombing away from the outside, with two players in Hamilton and freshman Cory Joseph who shoot the three at a better than 41 percent clip. J'Covan Brown and Jai Lucas have also shown an ability to knock down the triple. But they'll go up against the country's No. 1 three-point defense in Kansas, one holding opponents to 25.6 percent from three-point land. The Longhorns shoot 37.6 percent as a team, making them a top-60 squad from behind the arc. But if Texas is especially effective from deep, Kansas is super effective from up close. The Jayhawks make a staggering 58.4 percent of their two-point attempts, good for second in the country. But Kansas will have to work extra hard for those buckets on Saturday against a Texas defense that is fourth in the country in two-point defense.
5) Role Players
It seems like almost every big game has a role player who steps out of the shadows and helps to propel his team to the win. For Kansas, Robinson and Tyrel Reed appear to be the best options. With Texas likely sagging to keep the Morrises from getting easy buckets down low, Reed could find some open shots from behind the arc. Robinson is a great bet in any game because of his energy level and the fact that he's a terror on the offensive glass. Somebody like Brady Morningstar could make an impact in other ways, either by defending Hamilton well or by making the hustle plays and the great passes. For Texas, the best pick seems to be J'Covan Brown, who actually uses the second-highest percentage of Texas possessions. Brown can score in bunches, and he's a great change of pace from Joseph and Dogus Balbay. Like Morningstar, Balbay could also create an impact by doing the little things and excelling on defense.