Big 12 Tournament Championship: Kansas vs. Texas Preview, Prediction
Here is everything you need to know about Kansas and Texas in our Jayhawks vs. Longhorns Big 12 Tournament men’s championship game preview.
Championship: No. 1 Kansas (27-6) vs. No. 2 Texas (25-8) 5 p.m. CT, ESPN
Season series (tied 1-1): Kansas def. Texas, 88-80, in Lawrence, Kan., on Feb. 6; Texas def. Kansas, 75-59 in Austin, Texas, on March 4.
Big 12 Tournament results: Kansas: def. No. 8 West Virginia, 76-61 (quarterfinals); def. No. 5 Iowa State, 71-58 (semifinals). Texas: def. No. 7 Oklahoma State, 60-47 (quarterfinals); def. No. 6 TCU, 66-60 (semifinals).
Winner gets: The Big 12’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Projected starting lineups
Kansas: G Gradey Dick, G Dajuan Harris Jr., G/F Kevin McCullar Jr., F Jalen Wilson, F KJ Adams.
Texas: G Marcus Carr, G Tyrese Hunter, G Sir’Jabari Rice, F Dylan Disu, F Dillon Mitchell.
Players to watch
F Jalen Wilson: Well, Heartland College Sports had a different selection for Player of the Year, but the Big 12 coaches did give him the award unanimously. Wilson had a season that will likely get him in the first round of the NBA Draft this summer. He averaged 19.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 assist per game. If you’re going to slow down Kansas, you have to slow him down first. And then, of course, you have to find a way to slow down the rest of this starting lineup. He’s been exactly what you would expect from a league player of the year and is coming off a 25-point game against Iowa State in the semifinals.
F Dylan Disu: If forward Timmy Allen is unable to play then Disu the player to watch inside, and he continued that renaissance on Friday against TCU. He scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in that game. He had 11 points and 11 rebounds against Oklahoma State on Thursday night. His play has been on an ascent the past few weeks as he’s emerged as a more efficient and consistent scorer. But in his last seven games he’s averaged more than 11 points and six rebounds per game. Disu never really got on track last season due to a knee injury that he had to rehabilitate the summer before. This season he’s avoided injury and been a consistent contributor who is seeing his numbers go up at the right time of the year.
That three-game losing streak in January is nothing but a distant memory now. That streak of losses to Kansas State, TCU and Baylor called into question the Jayhawks’ ability to win the Big 12. Well, after a win over Kentucky in the Big 12-SEC Challenge, the Jayhawks won eight of its last 10 Big 12 games to claim the Big 12 regular-season title and the No. 1 seed. To some, the Jayhawks are the potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas is without head coach Bill Self, who was taken to a hospital before the quarterfinal game with an undisclosed illness. Norm Roberts will be the interim coach because Self won’t return this weekend. Kevin McCullar’s status is worth monitoring. He didn’t start on Thursday after it was disclosed on Wednesday that he was suffering from back spasms. But, he did play vs. WVU. He started against Iowa State but only played a few minutes before leaving the game.
The Longhorns went through a coaching change at mid-season when Texas fired Chris Beard after he was charged with domestic assault. The charges were dropped, but by then Rodney Terry was the interim head coach and had the Longhorns in the race for the Big 12 regular-season title. At one point, Texas won five of six in January. The Longhorns ended the season with a 4-4 record in their final eight games, but the wins included victories over then-ranked Iowa State and No. 3 Kansas.
The injury to Allen adds some complexity to the Big 12 Tournament, but Texas is making it work. Sliding guard Sir’Jabari Rice into the starting lineup seems to be the right choice, but Disu is the driving force right now.
Kansas 75, Texas 70. Kansas is in a good groove. It will be a partisan crowd. The Jayhawks will be playing for Bill Self. Jalen Wilson will be the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.