Kerwin Roach's return means Longhorns will be 'at their best' against Jayhawks
An already tough matchup for the Kansas men’s basketball team got even more difficult.
During the Big 12 teleconference Monday morning, Texas head coach Shaka Smart announced that senior guard Kerwin Roach II will be reinstated this week. Roach, who leads the Longhorns in scoring, served a five-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
With Roach sidelined, the Longhorns (16-15, 8-10 Big 12) dropped four of their final five games. They are now in desperate need of a win, as no .500 team has ever made it the NCAA tournament as an at-large selection. Texas, which is the sixth seed, will face No. 3-seed Kansas (23-8, 12-6) at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“Certainly, he's a good player,” KU coach Bill Self said during his weekly availability Monday afternoon. “I have no feelings about that other than the fact that we're going to go against them (Texas) at their best."
Roach was certainly clicking before being handed his third suspension of his career.
Prior to his suspension, Roach was leading the team in scoring with an average of 15.0 points per game. He reached double figures in 12 consecutive games, including two meetings against KU, dating back Jan. 8. Over that span, Roach notched at least 15 points in 10 of his 12 outings.
In addition, Roach is third on the team in total assists (74) and second in total steals (31) even though he’s played just 24 of the team’s 31 games.
“The thing that concerns me is when those four or five guards (are) playing, when you add Roach to the mix, they are really good,” Self said. “They didn't have their best game the last game of the season, so they'll be turned up against us, which is the way it should be when it's a one-and-done type of situation.”
To say that the Longhorns are better with Roach would be an understatement. They went 2-5 without him, losing by an average margin of 10.2 points per game in their five defeats without Roach.
According Torvik’s effect of losing a player tool, the Longhorns are ranked No. 29 with Roach compared to No. 40 without him. To put that in comparison, Udoka Azubuike's absence dropped KU nine spots from No. 19 to No. 28 with the same tool. Without Marcus Garrett, Kansas is ranked No. 24.
Either way, Roach is clearly the go-to option, as he has posted a 26.4 usage rage and has taken 26.7 percent of the team’s shots, per KenPom.com.
Roach is also familiar with the Jayhawks, having faced them eight times in his career. He scored in double figures in each of the last four meetings, and is averaging 11.6 points per game in his six career starts against KU. Roach recorded 15 points during Texas’ win over Kansas on Jan. 29.
Even though those numbers don't indicate Roach has been unstoppable, it is clear the athletic guard can pose some problems for the KU defense when he’s playing well. Earlier this season, Roach took over in a win against North Carolina by scoring 32 points.
So make no mistake, with Texas now in desperation mode and its best player back in the mix, this postseason matchup won’t be a cakewalk for a young Kansas team.