#1 Texas Longhorns @ #9 Kansas St. Wildcats
Monday, Jan 18, 2010, 8:00 PM CST
Bramlage Coliseum * Manhattan, KS
Ken Pom Ratings: Texas #4 / Kansas St. #9
Ken Pom Predictor: Kansas St. 82-81
Opponent coverage at Bring On The Cats
Texas gets its first true road test of the season tonight as they travel to Manhattan to take on Kansas State (15-2, 2-1). Winning anywhere in the Big 12 is tough, but tonight's may be the toughest Texas faces this season. Coming off short rest and a shaky first half performance against A&M, one definitely gets the feeling Texas may get handed its first loss of the season tonight. Plus, where raining on Texas' parade is concerned, Kansas State has been a monsoon of late.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Embrace the physicality. This contest is going to be physical. There are going to be a hundred fouls called, and a hundred more that aren't. If Dexter Pittman shows even a quarter as much frustration tonight as he did dealing with Bryan Davis on Saturday, we're in for a long one. And that goes for the whole team, really. Texas took a pop to the face from A&M and for the entire first half looked stunned that the Aggies weren't going to just let a better Texas team beat them. My guess is Texas won't have that problem tonight. Look for the Longhorns to be much better prepared for this rumble. It may not be pretty, but I expect we won't be soft, either.
2. Make. Your. Free. Throws. Kansas State fouls and is fouled more than any team in the country. At this rate, more than any team ever. They're going to trot out big body after big body and just hammer away, making us earn it in a tough one. If either team has a good night shooting free throws, it's likely a game-deciding advantage. Both squads have been terrible at the stripe so far this year.
3. Penetrate and be decisive. The Wildcats play hellacious perimeter defense--they're physical, aggressive, and they play strong deny. We're not a great post-entry pass team anyway (no one is these days), and we'll get swamped and forced into taking way too many long, contested jump shots if our guards are not decisively penetrating tonight. Balbay and Bradley must-must-must be assertive as driving guards tonight, and...
4. Mason/Brown/Lucas. Three points here. First, this is a potential disaster for the team early in the game if Justin Mason is not going to give us anything as a penetrator. The last thing we need is a slow start in a hostile environment, so if Mason starts, he'd better be aggressive. Personally, I would start J'Covan Brown, but assuming Barnes is not going to, this is an opponent against which Mason needs to regain his confidence as a creator. He's physically stronger than both Brown and Lucas, which actually make him a candidate for a productive performance against Kansas State that surprises people. Call it a hunch: Mason plays well tonight. If Mason isn't giving us what we need early on, he needs to sit, and Brown needs big minutes, Lucas fewer. I worry about Lucas against these long, physical guards--it's a tough match up for him, and I'm not confident he's got the penetrating ability you need to be effective against the 'Cats.
5. Punish in transition. Kansas State is a terrific offensive rebounding team (they collect a national best 43.5% of their misses), as well as a highly turnover prone group (losing 22.1% of their possessions, 240th nationally). Both can be used against Kansas State to pick up easy buckets in transition, and I'd like to see Texas looking for quick outlets and aggressive breaks up the floor with Balbay, Bradley, and Brown when the opportunities arise.
Prediction: Texas 76 Kansas State 74