Kansas and Texas have identical records at 20-6, but the perception couldn’t be more different.
In Austin, Rick Barnes could be the Big 12 coach of the year. In Lawrence, media are asking Bill Self about the more frustrating parts of the season. Such are the expectation levels in basketball, and you can bet if Kansas and Texas had the same record in football, the roles would be reversed.
The first meeting between these two schools was a pivotal moment in the Big 12 season. With an 81-69 win, Texas proved it was in the league race to stay. And with the loss, Kansas dropped its first Big 12 contest of the season after handling a run of NCAA Tournament-caliber teams in the league.
For the second time around, Self is anticipating a change in the narrative.
“There's something about how teams kind of raise their level the second time you play somebody if they've been handled pretty easily the first time,” Self said. “I don't know why that is, but it seems like it's always that way.”
What’s on the line for Texas
The Longhorns are playing with house money. Contending for the Big 12 title is more than anyone expected. What Texas needs more than anything is a respectable showing on the road. Texas lost its last two road games, by 9 to Iowa State and by 17 to Kansas State. Three of Texas’ last five regular season games are away from Austin.
What’s on the line for Kansas
The Jayhawks have a two-game lead in the Big 12 standings as they look to win their 10th consecutive league title. Even though Kansas doesn’t have a bad loss on its ledger — all six are to teams ranked 38th and above in the RPI — the Jayhawks might have trouble grabbing a No. 1 seed with seven or more losses.
Texas at Kansas
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPNU
Record: 20-6, 9-4 Big 12
Record: 20-6, 11-2 Big 12
Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Kansas 78-67
Braden Gall: Kansas 81-67
Mitch Light: Kansas 83-71
You’ll tune in to watch: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
The top freshman entering the season is starting to play like a superstar. The 64-63 win over Texas Tech was closer than KU would have expected, but Wiggins had several huge plays late, including the game-winning layup with 2 seconds remaining and a block in the final minute. The first meeting against Texas was one of his most ineffective of the year as the freshman was 2 of 12 from the field.
Pivotal player: Javan Felix, Texas
The Longhorns aren’t the most prolific or efficient 3-point shooting team in the Big 12, but Javan Felix will take some shots. Felix is 14 of 33 from 3-point range in the last three games. The formula for a road upset is 3-point shooting, and Felix is Texas’ best hope.
Biggest question: How will Texas defend Joel Embiid?
Kansas’ other big-name freshman returned from injury to score 18 against Texas Tech. In the Longhorns’ last game, Iowa State dominated inside, outscoring Texas in the paint 40-17.