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Big XII Semifinals: (1) Texas vs. (4) Oklahoma

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The top seeded Texas Longhorns (27-5, 13-3) are back on the hardwood just 24 hours after concluding their quarterfinal win over Oklahoma State. For the second straight game, the Longhorns will face a team, in Oklahoma, that they have already defeated twice this season. Texas won 64-54 in Norman in mid-February and 62-45 in Austin in late-February. The tip time is 1 pm and the game will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN+. The winner will square off with either Kansas or Texas A&M on Sunday for the Big XII tournament title.  

The preview points out the ‘Horns’ recent dominance of the Sooners. Texas has defeated OU on five straight occasions and in 10 of their last 13 outings. A win would also put the Longhorns in the tournament finals for the third straight year.

What is at stake?
I firmly believe that the Longhorns have already locked up a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament but a win this afternoon would eliminate any doubt. The Sooners are also safely in the tournament. With an RPI of 26, OU is looking at a seed in the 6-8 range.

Keys to the Game:
1) Health of Gary Johnson. If Gary can play, the Longhorns will be in good shape. Not only would the ‘Horns be a full player deeper but they would be competing with their best post scorer. Texas would also be in better shape to push the tempo with Gary on the floor.  If Johnson can’t play, then Rick Barnes will need quality minutes from Clint Chapman, Alexis Wangmene, and Dexter Pittman. Texas will not need these three youngsters to take over the game. However, Barnes will need them to rebound, play physical post defense against the Griffin boys and Longar Longar, and screen effectively on the offensive end.

2) Get AJ involved early. This was a key yesterday and after his 0-for-5 shooting performance from three, it remains a key today. We’ve mentioned this many times already, but Texas is so much more difficult to defend and defeat with AJ is hitting his jumper. Now would be great time for AJ to score 18 points on 6-of-8 from the floor.

3) Limit Blake Griffin. It is unclear how healthy B. Griffin is right now. He missed the last two regular season games and played just 15 minutes on Friday. Even if he is only 50%, B.Griffin is still OU’s best player and the key to their offense. Texas will probably defend him in two ways: with a collapsing 2-3 zone that dares the OU guards to make threes and by doubling him on every catch in the low post. The Texas 2-3 zone was very effective yesterday against OSU in the second half. AJ Abrams and DJ Augustin did a nice job of forcing the Cowboys to initiate their offense from very high on the floor. Texas was able to get their hands in passing lanes, create turnovers, and take control of the game. Our zone does have holes, though. The Longhorns oftentimes have difficulty limiting offensive rebounds when they go zone. I expect Barnes to switch defenses regularly, both to frustrate the Sooners and to allow his starters to rest some when playing zone.

If Texas can limit Griffin’s effectiveness, score some points in transition, shoot the ball well from behind the arc, and limit second looks, they should win going away. But if Texas allows OU to slow the pace or is ice cold from three or gets into foul trouble, then we’ll likely see another tight, hard-fought game exactly like we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.