Note: I used input from my KU student brother on the Kansas team analysis below--I don't actually know as much about the 'Hawks as it would seem from the information presented.
Today was a hell of a fun day in KC as Texas was the complete package. The Horns played in the second half like a team that expects to be in San Antonio in three weeks. From a "fan experience" perspective, I got to be in the house while Texas won, OU got blown out, and the Aggies got their hearts broken--all in two games. That automatically makes it one of the very few best sports-watching days of my life. And it leads to what is essentially a road game in Sunday's championship against Kansas. Now that K-State and OSU are out, the Sprint Center has become Phog Allen East. That's not an exaggeration; the Jayhawks' home arena seats 16,300 and that is probably a few hundred less than the number of Kansas fans who will be at the game Sunday.
Against A&M Saturday, the Kansas defense was scary. They’re fast, they always look for the steal, and they did a good job of taking advantage of opportunities. Don’t be fooled by the score; A&M played one of their best games of the year, and KU did a great job of maintaining control and locking in a solid win. That said, if both teams play on Sunday the way they did on Saturday Texas should win the ballgame.
I honestly can’t make a prediction on this one. I’m wavering between perfectly confident and perfectly terrified, and to moderate it I’m reminding myself that either way, we’re in a terrific position to make a run in the tournament. I think about the way both AJ and DJ played today, and I feel invincible, but then I think about how Brandon Rush played, and I worry. Then I think about how average Connor was today, compared to how good the KU starting frontcourt is. Then again, I also saw a way that the depth of KU, which I’ve long considered their greatest strength over Texas, could serve as an advantage in this game.
They rotate in four post players. Their starters are the agile, long-range-shooting NBA prospects Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur. Their backups are the clumsy, weak, awkward, those-were-the-greatest-years-of-my-life Sasha Kaun and Cole Aldrich. Today, in a tensely competitive game against the Aggies, the four played about even time. Arguably what kept the farmers in the game is the ineptness of the latter two--the totally inept clumsy dudes. Bill Self is a philosophy coach to a fault, and if his predetermined game plan again leads him to play lesser athletes in clutch points of the game, that could be the place where Texas plunges in the knife. And if the Horns play tomorrow anything like how they played today, they’ll twist until pretend bird guts are strung all over the Sprint Center floor. By that I mean there's no such thing as a Jayhawk. There are jaybirds, and there are hawks. But no Jayhawks.
As all things appear equal, I choose to be an optimist. I think Texas will pull this one out because I have to think something, but I’d be surprised if this one ended up being decided by more than three points. Here’s to continued momentum. Here’s to newfound motivation (playing for a one seed with the Tennessee loss). Here’s to the hometown advantage being overrated. Here's to the beginning of a special March run. Here’s to the Longhorns.