Sitting at 8-6 in conference play, a ninth win and a record above .500 in Big 12 play likely punches the Longhorn's dance ticket. A loss on Monday and Texas (19-9, 8-6) has to travel to Kansas on Saturday needing a win to get in and not end the regular season with three straight losses.
Abrams took a hit to the head late in the game on Saturday and is questionable for tonight. Johnson, who missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, will likely play.
For the Bears (17-11, 5-9), it has been a disappointing season after making the NCAA Tournament a season ago. In fact, Monday night in Austin will be a game between the two most disappointing teams in the Big 12 as both were expected to be top four teams in the league headed into the season.
Senior guard Curtis Jerrells, an Austin native, and senior forward Kevin Rogers, leads Baylor. Jerrells averages 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists, but was contained in the first meeting between the two teams in Waco January 27.
Rogers, who played at Dallas South Oak Cliff in high school, is averaging 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
The Longhorns have won 23 straight games against the Bears and hold a 154-75 all time series lead.
The game is set to tip-off at 8pm central and will be televised nationally by ESPN.
A Look at the Coaches
Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 468-236, including 266-102 at Texas. Barnes is 128-46 in Big 12 games at Texas.
Scott Drew is in his sixth season at Baylor and has career-record of 94-102. Drew is 74-91 at Baylor and 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shoots 43.8% from the field, 32.2% from three and 66.6% from the free throw line.
The Bears convert 46.6% overall, 36.7% from the three-point line and 70.8% from the foul line.
The Longhorns surrender 41.0% shooting and own a +5.0 rebound advantage.
Baylor surrenders 43.4% defensively and checks in with a -0.6 rebounding margin.
The Longhorns are committing 12.4 turnovers per game, while Baylor is turning the ball over 12.9 times per contest.
The Longhorn Starters
G Dogus Balbay 6-0 So. (3.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists)
G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (17.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists)
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists)
C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (8.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks)
Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds), 6-11 senior Connor Atchley (5.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists), 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.6 points and 1.6 rebounds) and 6-2 junior Harrison Smith.
The Bear Starters
G Curtis Jerrells 6-0 Sr. (16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists)
G Tweety Carter 5-10 Jr. (11.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists)
G LaceDarius Dunn 6-3 So. (15.0 points and 4.4 rebounds)
F Kevin Rogers 6-8 Sr. (12.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks)
C Josh Lomers 7-0 Jr. (2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds)
What to Watch For
The Longhorns have to first bring intensity and energy to the game. That shouldn't be a problem knowing a win and the Longhorns are back in the NCAA Tournament.
Dogus Balbay will be the key on Monday night as Baylor likes to play fast and Balbay has a chance to push in transition and create against a poor defensive team.
Dexter Pittman will take the court tonight without a dominant height and size advantage when Josh Lomers is on the floor. Lomers, who started against Colorado, has been a player that has held his own in the past against the Longhorn's junior center.
Damion James needs to have another game like Saturday, but finish around the rim at a higher clip. One problem for James tonight is the fact that he left everything on the floor on Saturday playing more minutes than he normally does. It will be interesting to see if he has legs the last ten minutes of the game on Monday in what could be a quick tempo game.
Texas has to guard the three-point line much better than the last home game against Texas Tech. The Bears have a number of players that can hit the three and Texas must close out under more control than they did Saturday in Stillwater.
Texas had way too many flybys on Saturday that led to the Cowboys getting second chance scoring opportunities on perimeter rebounds.
Baylor sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn will launch the three from anywhere and the Texas defender assigned to Dunn simply can't rotate off.
The Longhorns bottled up Curtis Jerrells in the first meeting to the point of the senior guard watching the closing minutes from the bench. Jerrells will be ready to play tonight and will want his last game in Austin to be a special one. Jerrells and his Baylor teammates have never beaten Texas and a win would give the Bears something to hang their hat on during a tough conference stretch.
Texas has to be aware of Henry Dugat on the defensive end. Dugat is the lone quality defender on the Bears team and has terrific hands and anticipation on the defensive end. He can pick ones pocket or jump passing lanes and create transition opportunities.