Guard play will dictate battle between No. 3 Kansas, No. 8 Texas

Kansas Jayhawks

An examination of his team’s last victory prompted an interesting observation from Bill Self.

The Kansas coach determined that 16-for-37 shooting from 3-point range not only gave the No. 3 Jayhawks decisive firepower, but it also proved to be an equalizer on the offensive glass.

“It gave us a chance to offensive rebound,” Self said, “because if it’s a long shot, long rebound, there’s no advantage with size. It’s just whoever is in the right place or quicker to the ball.”

After downing West Virginia in that Dec. 22 matchup, the Jayhawks (8-1, 2-0 Big 12) come off an 11-day break to face a third consecutive ranked opponent, No. 8 Texas (7-1, 1-0) at home in Lawrence on Saturday.

Size can be a deterrent for Kansas, especially when it subs out its lone big man David McCormack and plays with a five-guard lineup. Still, four of those guards have enjoyed double-figure games rebounding, sometimes capitalizing on put-back opportunities.

As for connecting from outside, the Jayhawks have various shooters who can get hot, though they can be streaky.

A case in point is Christian Braun. He didn’t make a field goal and scored just two points in the Big 12 opener at Texas Tech, then riddled West Virginia with 6-for-12 shooting from behind the arc.

“He may lose some confidence shooting the ball a little bit or whatever, but his mindset, he’s a pretty confident kid,” Self said. “If there was going to be somebody I would probably worry the least about because maybe he’s missed shots or something like that, it would probably be him because I don’t think his memory is very long.”

Ochai Agbaji leads the Jayhawks with a 14.8-point average, though their lineup features sufficient balance. Each of the Jayhawks’ five starters average at least 9.4 points.

Kansas has won eight straight since a season-opening defeat to top-ranked Gonzaga. A win over Texas would help establish another measure of early superiority in the Big 12, though one rival the Jayhawks have not yet played, Baylor, is actually ranked higher at No. 2.

Since Gonzaga blistered Kansas with 65 percent shooting, the Jayhawks have improved to the point they are allowing opponents a 39.5 percent clip while forging a rebounding margin of 9.3.

“I think now we kind of know how to guard together,” said defensive stopper Marcus Garrett. “We’re starting to talk more and we’re just starting to get comfortable with one another, guarding on the perimeter and down low.”

A veteran Texas backcourt featuring Matt Coleman (13.9 points per game), Courtney Ramey (13.1) and Andrew Jones (11.6) figures to give Kansas defenders a stiff test. Prize hometown recruit Greg Brown provides strength inside by averaging 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

“It’s an exciting team to watch,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s a team that can be really, really good. We’ve got a lot of room for growth. We’ve got some exciting individual players on our team that are fun to watch.”

Texas has not played since Dec. 20 when it opened Big 12 play by edging Oklahoma State 77-74.

–Field Level Media

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