With uncertain schedule ahead, Texas hosts Kansas in final regular season home game
Kansas G Christian Braun: “They beat us pretty bad this time, so this is a big one for us that we’ve got to get.”
Moments after it was over, Texas guard Matt Coleman III knew Kansas would remember what happened on Jan. 2 for a long, long time.
The Longhorns went to Lawrence, Kan., and administered an epic 84-59 beatdown, handing coach Bill Self his worst home loss inside Allen Fieldhouse.
“We will see them again,” Coleman said in the celebratory aftermath, “and they’re going to remember this.”
Texas fans may not remember much about it. That was the same day the school fired football coach Tom Herman. That news, which broke about 15 minutes before the Texas-Kansas game began, took up all available oxygen.
Self said Monday his players haven’t forgotten how the Horns were “very happy last time we played.”
Said Kansas guard Christian Braun: “They beat us pretty bad this time, so this is a big one for us that we’ve got to get.”
No. 14 Texas (13-6, 7-5 Big 12) needs to recapture some of that Phog perfection again Tuesday as this is UT’s last regular-season home game. The Longhorns still have five road games remaining, although four are still unscheduled due to COVID-19 postponements.
No. 17 Kansas (17-7, 11-5) has only two league games left. Self said these remaining games will help determine NCAA Tournament seeding, and he’d like the Jayhawks to finish second in the league standings.
“I’m confident that Baylor will win the league,” Self said. “I’m hoping they don’t go undefeated since we’ve got them at our place (on Saturday).”
Texas still must play at Texas Tech on Saturday. After that, it’s unclear. UT still has to play at Baylor, TCU, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Those are four huge games that could dramatically alter the Horns’ final regular-season record and NCAA résumé.
The Big 12 purposely built an extra week into the schedule before the league tournament on March 10-13. What games are made up and what games are canceled will be determined by the league office, Texas coach Shaka Smart said.
“It’s interesting, man. That’s completely out of our hands,” Smart said. “We’ve been told that they’re putting some formula into a computer and determining the schedule for the last week of the regular season.”
As Smart says, the Horns can only control what they can control. That means zeroing in on the Jayhawks, a team that’s won five straight and now surging.
Texas is coming off a frustrating loss to West Virginia on Saturday in which UT shot 70% in the first half and built up a 19-point lead only to blow it. The Mountaineers stormed all the way back and won 84-82.
Early in the second half, Texas guard Courtney Ramey went charging after teammate Andrew Jones over a lack of defensive hustle. Coleman had to step in and pull Ramey back. The Horns chalked it up to competitive fire. But West Virginia clearly saw an opening and outscored UT 34-18 over the final 15:52.
“Our guys have had a lot of conversations among themselves,” Smart said Monday. “I really appreciate the passion that they have for basketball. To me, the opposite of that is apathy. And that’s about the worst quality that you can have in a competitive setting.
“So I really appreciate their passion,” Smart added. “It’s our job to make sure that passion is directed in the right way.”
Smart noted it was a rough week in Austin with all the weather problems. Texas had only two full practices before the West Virginia game that was played in front of no fans.
Smart said he was grateful that some fans will be allowed into the Erwin Center for senior night festivities. This season, with COVID-19 restrictions, the Horns have a limited crowd capacity of about 2,400.
As of now, Texas is still projected to make the NCAAs with ease, although its overall seeding has slipped in recent weeks. UT has already given up home losses to Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia. A home win over Kansas would stem the bleeding.
It’s critical because the Horns can’t say for sure what lies ahead, scheduling-wise. Texas will play Saturday at Texas Tech and then play anywhere from one to four more games before going to Kansas City.
Best to focus on Kansas and nothing else.
“As always,” Smart said, “our main focus is ourselves.”