Hoops: No. 3 Horns Visit Dangerous Colorado

For the first time in school history, the Texas men’s basketball team is snagging first place votes in the latest major wire service polls as if it were, well, football. The Horns are No. 3 in both the Associated Press and ESPN-USA Today (coaches poll) released Monday.

Hard to believe, but Texas would be the top-ranked school in NCAA basketball (basketball!) if it weren’t for that 90-87 setback at Kansas. Even so, Saturday’s 78-65 thumping of then ninth-ranked Oklahoma State not only ended the nation’s longest winning streak but impressed enough pollsters to where Texas received 15 (of 82) first-place AP votes, while five of 31 coaches casting ballots listed the 14-3 (5-1 Big 12) Horns as the nation’s top-ranked team.

Texas is a half-game behind Oklahoma and OSU in the league standings but remains the Big 12’s highest ranked team in the national polls. The Sooners (15-3, 6-1 Big 12) check in at No. 5 (AP) and No. 7 (coaches), followed by Oklahoma State (No. 11 AP/No. 12 coaches), Kansas (No. 12 AP/No. 11 coaches) and Missouri (No. 21 AP/No. 22 coaches).

Now, Texas will take its lofty status on the road to improved Colorado (12-7, 2-4 Big 12) Tuesday where the Buffs are 8-1 at home, including a shocking upset win over Kansas. Colorado’s only home loss was a 71-70 setback against nationally ranked Georgia last December 3.

"They (Colorado) are a great example of one of those teams that have improved a lot from a year ago," head coach Rick Barnes said. "Obviously, this will be a very tough ballgame for us. There are no ‘gimme’ games in this league. The fact is you have so much respect for the coaches in this league because they know how to keep games close, and when that happens anything can happen down the stretch."

Tuesday’s game at the Coors Event Center promises to be a battle of the boards. Colorado is the Big 12 pacesetter in defensive rebounds, averaging 27.83 defensive boards per game. Texas, however, leads the conference in offensive rebounds (17.0 rpg) and rebounding margin (+8).

Texas center James Thomas is the Big 12 rebounding leader through January 30 (11.2 per game) while the Buffs boast 7-0, 250-pound sophomore center David Harrison who leads the league in blocked shots (2.89 per game).

"(Harrison) is obviously a year older and in better shape than he was last year," Barnes said. "He’s very skilled, and he can score down low as well as anybody in our league. He can also face-up from 15-feet. He can really disrupt the game (defensively). Last year, we didn’t have an answer for him."

Harrison tallied 18 points (6-of-7 FG, 6-of-8 FT) in Colorado’s 104-95 loss in Austin last season. He is averaging 13.6 ppg this year while junior F Michael Morandais paces the Buffs with 16.9 ppg.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. (CST) and the game will not be televised.

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