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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Keegan

Column: ’Horns will be fired up for KU

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White hash marks painted on green turf don’t decorate all huge sporting events in Texas. Sometimes, the distance of the playing surface stretches 94 feet, not 100 yards.

For the 25th-ranked Texas Longhorns’ basketball team, this is one of those times. They’re on fire, but the way the Big 12 shakes out this season, defeating Kansas University is the only way for anyone to gain serious credibility.

The ’Horns are coming off of three consecutive victories against ranked opponents, a school first.

With a fourth in a row against Kansas today in the Erwin Center, third-place Texas would draw within a game of the first-place Jayhawks.

Mix in a home crowd that doesn’t get up for every basketball game but does relish the opportunity to witness an upset against a perennial powerhouse.

And then there is the urgency Texas coach Rick Barnes must feel working for a new boss, one who fired football coach Mack Brown, winner of the BCS title game Jan. 4, 2006. At some level, that alone must make the basketball coach crave a big victory that could make his players feel confident, give the fan base something about which to boast and buy him good will with bosses.

So why can’t I make myself believe that Texas will knock off KU and introduce suspense to a Big 12 race that is at once not yet half over and not at all feeling like much of a race?

It could be that no Longhorn strikes me as a candidate for first-team All-Big 12 honors. Or maybe it’s because this year, more even than most, trying to identify the second-best team in the Big 12 involves choosing from so many legitimate contenders for the silver medal. Yet, not one has flashed even a bit of a gold-medal shine to it.

The standings say Oklahoma — with a 6-2 record, a game-and-a-half behind KU — is the second-best team in the Big 12. Kansas took care of the Sooners in Norman already. Since losing Michael Cobbins, Oklahoma State hasn’t been quite the same and already has three Big 12 losses. Kansas State? Too young. Iowa State? Feels sort of that way, but then the standings show the Cyclones with a 3-4 conference record, two of the losses at the hands of KU. Baylor is 1-6.

It’s easier to become highly motivated playing against teams with star power. For that reason, the Longhorns’ lack of it might make them a tougher opponent.

They do have one McDonald’s All-American, 6-foot-9, 285-pound center Cameron Ridley, a far better sophomore than he was a freshman. He hits the offensive boards hard and averages 11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots. Power forward Jonathan Holmes averages 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds and makes his free throws (.779).

Freshman Isaiah Taylor and sophomore Javan Felix form one of the quickest backcourts in the conference. Both know how to get to the paint to score and create opportunities for teammates.

Taylor’s coming off a 27-point outburst at Baylor. A glimpse of things to come down the line, or a turning point? Too early to say. The Longhorns will be jacked for this one. Will KU? Athletes are taught to think big-picture. They’re trained to think “next possession” at all times. But they’re human, and it’s impossible not to cave to human nature at times. When the Jayhawks’ minds think about the Longhorns in a big-picture way, does the prospect of playing against them turn on the jets of their adrenaline? If not, they could lose a Big 12 game for the first time this season.

Comments

Suzi Marshall 9 months ago

Perhaps the UT team might be fired up about the game but the Austin folks on 6th street don't seem to know a game is being played tomorrow. Our waitress, a 20 year old UT sorority student, had no idea UT was playing Kansas Saturday. I also saw a UT Basketball advertisment to sell tickets to the remaining home games. Only the Kansas game is sold out with OSU and Baylor remaing on the home schedule. On the other hand, we were happy to see dozens of people wandering around wearing Kansas gear.

Looking forward to having lunch with all the Texas Hawks at Scholz Garten.

Dirk Medema 9 months ago

Did your waitress know that it was basketball season, or just that the signing period begins next week, and Spring ball in a month or so?

Any chance the Erwin Center becomes AFH-south? Miss that about Boulder.

Suzi Marshall 9 months ago

You're right about it being all about football in TX! Her exact comment when asked about the game was something like...."the spring game isn't until around April." I hope Weis can get our program turned around.

I'll let you know after game about AFH south. Last year the pre-game was great and we had about 4 or 5 k loud hawks at the game.

Gerry Butler 9 months ago

my thoughts exactly suzi as I stated on the other message this morning, texas like a lot of other schools fans attendance sucks, except when Kansas comes to play, then and only then will they sell out, this IS the game of the year for them. but if you have noticed even at schools like this at texas a lot of these fans will come, and sit and watch and just sit and watch it like its some tennis match once in awhile they may clap some like its a formal part real politely not the roar the deafening cheers like at allen, not the rowdiness like at allen, and good to hear we have our supporters there wish I were their but do to health conditions right now not possible for that, having said that still believe it will be a STIFF challenge but feel if we play as a group withstand some charges we will be fine GO HAWKS

Cole Hogan 9 months ago

This is so true. Just looked at stubhub, tickets for todays game down at UT are selling for 10 bucks, while the exact same game in a few weeks up her in Allen is currently the highest priced ticket at $130.

Caleb Longbine 9 months ago

where did you go? that sports bar on 6th st that has all the girls in biknis? lol i was there a few years back for a college broadcasting conference at the hilton, i managed to turn that into my spring break since i dont go anywhere for sb bc of march madness! lol.

Len Shaffer 9 months ago

So the Horns will be fired up to play KU? Couldn't that same headline be applied to every Big XII team for the last 10 years???

Dirk Medema 9 months ago

OU is the only challenger to win on the road in Big 12 play against another challenger, and that was against UT. Otherwise, challengers are beating challengers at home, and non-challengers home and away.

This should be an important game for Black & Traylor. Look for a run when our 2's come in, and our depth trumps any home court benefit.

It should be a good matchup for our backcourt as well. Too bad Conner isn't available.

Does Wiggs hit for 20+? A new career high?

Gerry Butler 9 months ago

personally I don't believe he gets 20 plus today, I think things will be even more balanced today, that's not a knock but just think more likely 15-18 pts tody stiff test but HAWKS PREVAIL

Greg Lux 9 months ago

This is a winner take all game for KU. With OU playing at ISU ( Vegas has ISU -10 ) where ISU is a heavy favorite. A Kansas win would probably give them a 3 game lead with everyone else playing for second place. This is the key game for KU winning the Conference.

Titus Canby 9 months ago

Agreed. This is a huge game in terms of the Big 12 race. Win and we're looking strong. Lose and we've just let everyone back into the race. I'd love to see us go 3 games up on the rest of the pack.

Beate Williams 9 months ago

I agree with Lux, this is a big game towards really clinching the championship even though the season is not half over. A win at UT will make the road much easier and could give this youngster such a push that everyone else should definitely "Beware..."

Eric TheCapn 9 months ago

Every sport is a big deal at Texas.

Robert Brock 9 months ago

Yeah. Football, Spring Football, Football Recruiting...you get the idea.

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