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No. 14 Texas to face short-handed Wildcats in Manhattan

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Kansas State currently only has seven available players for Tuesday’s Big 12 matchup.

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NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 14 Texas Longhorns (11-2, 1-0) will play their first conference road game on Tuesday in Manhattan against the shorthanded Kansas State Wildcats (8-4, 0-1).

The Wildcats are only expected to have seven players available with Davion Bradford and Markquis Nowell out due to COVID-19 protocols.

This is the second straight game Texas has gotten fortunate with depleted rosters, defeating a West Virginia team that was missing three players to open up conference play. With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, be prepared to hear the word “short-handed” about a thousand times until this wave subsides.

Kansas State opened Big 12 play against Oklahoma, who was also short-handed, but lost thanks to a last-second shot from Elijah Harkless.

Sophomore guard Nijel Pack leads KSU with 15.1 points per game and is shooting a team-high 42% from deep. The Wildcats boast a top-50 defense thanks to opponents struggling mightily to make threes — there’s likely some luck involved there for Bruce Weber’s team — and do a strong job on the defensive glass. Offensively, Kansas State shoots free throws well, but is otherwise average across the board except for poor offensive rebounding.

KenPom ranks Kansas State 63rd in the nation, last in the Big 12 even with a full roster. Meanwhile, the Longhorns are coming off a decisive 74-59 victory over the Mountaineers in new head coach Chris Beard’s conference debut with Texas as team is seemingly finding a higher level of rhythm offensively.

With a large number of teams being hit hard by COVID-19 protocols, Texas can take advantage of its health and its recent elevation in play, but it might be just a matter of time before the Horns have to deal with Omicron.

[5:52 p.m. Central update]:

How to Watch:

TV: Big 12 Now | ESPN+

Time: 6:00 p.m. Central

Radio: Texassports.com affiliates

Odds: The Longhorns are eight-point favorites over the Wildcats, according to DraftKings.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.