After squeaking out a last-second victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday, the Texas Longhorns head to Lawrence to face the Kansas Jayhawks (23-6; 12-4). Bill Self's team is somewhat more vulnerable than most years, but is still putting the finishing touches on yet another Big 12 regular season championship. As the kids like to say, Shaka Smart's team will have its chance to shoot its shot. It will either be shooting that shot with a hobbled Mohamed Bamba, or without Bamba at all.
We will get into the preview below, but first we have something important to deal with.
Let's talk about Eric Davis and the broader college basketball scandal
Unless you just recovered from a coma (if you have, I am honored that one of the first things you would do is read this article), you have heard about the scandal currently gripping college basketball, involving an FBI investigation into money transferring from sports agents and shoe companies into the hands of coaches and players. And if you are reading this website, you probably already know that Texas guard Eric Davis has now become involved in this matter, as his name turned up on a leaked expense report filed by Christian Dawkins to the ASM sports agency. As a result, Davis sat out Saturday's game against Oklahoma State, and has been advised to seek legal council before speaking with Texas compliance officials. As of this writing, it is a little hard to know where this will go for Davis, and how long resolving his amateur status will take.
One initial question that Texas fans might have is: why Eric Davis? The answer to this question is simple geography. Christian Dawkins is from Michigan, where his father was the coach at Saginaw High School (winning a state championship on a team led by Draymond Green) before moving on to the college ranks as an assistant. Christian Dawkins was involved with grassroots basketball in the state of Michigan before working for ASM agent Andy Miller. It is no accident that many of the players named in the Yahoo report are from Michigan. A subset of these players were part of the same AAU program as Eric Davis.
An important caveat; we don't know if all of the information contained in Dawkins' expense reports is actually true. It may or may not be. There are plenty of good reasons to be suspicious of Dawkins, and to question if his expense reports are accurate.
It is also important to remember that we are seeing information from a single sports agency. There are many others; if this information is legitimate, this is likely only a tiny slice of a larger black market of payments occurring in amateur basketball. No one should need to stand next to a fainting couch as they grapple with this logical inference; there is so much money at stake for everyone in the system — agents, shoe companies, tailors, financial advisers, and basketball coaches — that these sorts of payments seem just a small cost of doing business, which is why they end up in boring detail on a mundane expense report.
Whenever people ask “where would you get the money to pay college athletes,” this particular investigation is showing quite clearly that there is plenty of it out there. There are people and companies willing to give or loan basketball players money, and even more would be willing to do it if it were not against the rules.
It would be quite easy for the universities to simply say: we aren’t going to pay you anything, but if anyone else wants to give you money it’s none of our business. If Princess Kay of the Milky Way can get paid to shill for the dairy industry while attending school, it is pretty easy to envision a world where student-athletes could, too.
A parenthetical aisde is that universities could probably find a way to pay athletes as well; in a world where schools are spending crazy money on weird and useless crap otherwise known as “facilities,” creating stipends for some of the athletes seems doable. Many universities are already providing full tuition benefits along with some sort of stipend to thousands of graduate students, meaning that a simple and workable model for paying student-athletes in an academic environment already exists. Paying players probably wouldn't do much to end the agent/shoe money black market, but it wouldn't hurt any either.
A quick look at Kansas
This particular iteration of the Jayhawks was at risk of dropping Kansas' never-ending streak of regular season Big 12 championships. But the fun for the rest of the league stopped when star Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans injured his toe, and the Red Raiders dropped three games in a row, handing the title back to Kansas.
The Jayhawks don't have a lot of depth, but they do have talent, particularly on the perimeter. Senior Devonte’ Graham is an absolute killer, while wings Svi Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick, and Malik Newman are all dangerous scorers. Inside, Udoka Azubuike is having an outstanding season. Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot both give Kansas solid play off the bench.
Want more on the Jayhawks? Check out the preview from the last time these two teams played.
What happened the last time these two teams met?
Texas and Kansas tipped off the Big 12 regular season, and the Jayhawks went 17-35 from three point range and won the game.
What has Kansas been up to since last facing Texas?
Aside from losing a little more often than normal, yet still winning the conference title, there are a few things to report about Kansas.
The last time Texas played Kansas, there were two players sitting out while their eligibility was being evaluated. Billy Preston, a five-star freshmen, was sitting after being involved in a traffic accident that raised questions as to how Preston had paid for or otherwise acquired the automobile he was driving at the time. Preston eventually got tired of waiting and took his talents to Bosnia. Meanwhile, freshman Silvio De Sousa has been cleared to play, after joining the Jayhawks after completing high school during the fall. De Sousa has barely played; joining a D-I team mid-year after leaving high school is tough.
What does this game mean?
I will defer the typical look at Texas' NCAA prospects to the next game preview. The Longhorns still have work to do to make the NCAA tournament, but a Saturday victory against Oklahoma State means that Texas has ways in that do not require winning at Kansas. Tonight's game is a chance for the Longhorns to play with house money.
The prospects for a win in Lawrence are not good, but on the off chance that it happens, it would transform the Longhorns’ postseason prospects.
The game tips at 8 p.m. CT, and airs on ESPN.