KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Three things to watch when Kansas faces Texas.
Big men on big men
You won’t find many matchups with more skilled big men than the ones going to be on display Saturday when Kansas and Texas meet for the Big 12 tournament title. Kansas’ twins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, have the size advantage over Texas’ Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson, but the Longhorns have the league’s premier swing man in 6-foot-7 Jordan Hamilton. Johnson will draw the task of trying to shut down Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Morris. In the semifinal against Colorado, the Morris brothers each scored 20 points for the first time in the same game. They combined for 40 points and 21 rebounds. Thompson scored 13 in the Longhorns' win against Texas A&M on Friday and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. Making matters more interesting is the chippiness between the groups. Markieff Morris talked a little trash to the Longhorns waiting in the tunnel between games on Friday night, and the Longhorns reciprocated.
There’s no doubt about it, this game will ultimately be decided in the paint. Win the glass and win points in the paint, and the title is there for the taking.
Kansas has stumbled to early deficits against Oklahoma State (seven points) and Colorado (12 points) before rebounding for wins, though it took a miss by the Cowboys at the buzzer for the Jayhawks to advance.
The first time the Jayhawks played Texas, they sprinted to an 18-3 lead in the opening minutes before losing, 74-63. That loss ended Kansas’ 69-game winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse. The atmosphere in the Spring Center will be similar this time around, but Kansas might find making a comeback much more difficult against top-10 team Texas. A good start will be important, and most often that means getting the Morris twins touches early on.
Big 12 titles are nothing new for Kansas, which is 7-1 in championship games. The Jayhawks have won the tournament in four of the past five seasons. Texas, meanwhile, has never won the Big 12 tournament, and neither has any other team from Texas. The Longhorns are 0-5 in championship games. They’ll get a sixth try tonight, with a chance to make a little history and reserve a spot in Texas hoops history as a team that’s done something no other Longhorns team has been able to achieve.