Texas-Kansas Preview


Although Kansas has already clinched an eighth straight Big 12 title, there is still a lot riding on its season finale.

Bill Self's team is hoping to land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and it would also love to avenge last season's home loss to Texas.

The third-ranked Jayhawks look to win their 29th consecutive home finale Saturday night when they face a Longhorns team that may need a signature win to bolster its NCAA tournament chances.

Kansas (25-5, 15-2) secured a share of the Big 12 crown with last Saturday's 87-86 overtime win over Missouri, then earned its fourth straight outright conference title with a 70-58 victory at Oklahoma State on Monday. Senior Tyshawn Taylor led the way against the Cowboys with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting two days after scoring 24 in helping the Jayhawks rally from a 19-point second-half deficit.

"I think if you asked us at the beginning of the year, our goal was to always win a Big 12 championship," Taylor said. "We prepared like we wanted to win."

Taylor is one of the favorites to win Big 12 player of the year honors along with teammate Thomas Robinson.

Robinson averages a conference-best 11.8 rebounds per game and is third in the league in scoring at 17.8 per game, just ahead of Taylor's 17.1.

Taylor and fellow seniors Jordan Juenemann and Conner Teahan will take the court Saturday for their final game at Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks have won 28 straight home finales since 1983.

Taylor is 68-3 in home games - including those in Kansas City - during his time at Kansas, but the only loss in Lawrence came to the Longhorns.

At Allen Fieldhouse last season, then-No. 10 Texas beat second-ranked Kansas 74-63 to end the Jayhawks' 69-game winning streak on that court. Taylor finished with four points on 2-of-8 shooting in Kansas' lone loss to the Longhorns in 10 meetings in Lawrence.

He fared much better in Austin on Jan. 21, finishing with a team-high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting in a 69-66 victory. Jeff Withey made a layup and free throw with 37 seconds to play and Robinson added a late free throw to help Kansas escape.

The Jayhawks were able to overcome another big night from Texas junior J'Covan Brown, who finished with 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds - but was just 7 of 26 from the field.

Brown, the league's leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, has regularly given Kansas problems, averaging 23.0 points in four meetings - his highest scoring average against any Big 12 opponent.

"J'Covan always goes nuts against us so we will have to do a good job there," Self said. "I hope the building is juiced and we can play off of that one last time."

While the Jayhawks conclude the season with hopes of moving closer to a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, the Longhorns (19-11, 9-8) are trying to impress the selection committee and simply make the tournament.

Texas, which has made 13 straight NCAA appearances, has played well down the stretch winning six of eight, but has struggled all season against top competition - going winless in seven contests against ranked opponents.

Brown is still confident the Longhorns can pull off the upset Saturday.

"When I walk into Lawrence, I'm going to walk in there like I walk into any other gym," he said. "We're going to walk into there together, we're going to have (swagger), we're going to fight and show the world that we can be right there."

The Longhorns avoided what could have been a devastating blow to their tournament hopes Wednesday, rallying from 12 points down against Oklahoma for a 72-64 victory. Brown scored 22 points and freshman Sheldon McClellan finished with a season-high 24.