It is entirely possible that when we look back upon this season, Texas’ best victory purely from an NCAA tournament resume building perspective will end up being its 20-point win at Kansas State to open the conference season. And now the Longhorns get the chance to face the Wildcats again and go for the season sweep. But it isn’t likely to be easy.
The last time these two teams played, the Longhorns had the advantage of facing a depleted Wildcats squad. That is not the case any longer. Dean Wade is back, and coach Bruce Weber’s squad has won eight of its last nine games. This streak includes impressive victories on the road over Iowa State and Baylor, as well as a home win over Kansas. And one rather perplexing loss to a Texas A&M team that one might charitably describe as “bad.”
The result of this is that after dropping their first two games of the conference season, the Wildcats now find themselves with an 8-2 league record and are sitting at the top of the Big 12 standings.
So what is different this time around for K-State? Did I mention that Dean Wade is healthy? I did? OK, let’s mention it again; since getting back on the court the versatile senior big man has gone on a tear. He has scored in double figures in each of the past seven games, and he is doing it with his typical efficiency. Wade has been one of those players who throughout his college career just seemed on the cusp of being ready to consistently take over games, and now it is happening. He is a big problem for Texas, shooting from the perimeter, scoring around the basket, attacking the glass, and making plays off the bounce.
Beyond Wade being back, a lot of the normal Kansas State stuff is happening. The Wildcats are still hard to score on (they are one of two squads holding opponents to less than one point per possession in Big 12 conference play), and they still have experience and talent at every spot on the floor, but rather limited depth behind their top six guys. Barry Brown still puts the ball in the hole and Kamau Stokes still struggles finishing around the rim. Relative to expectations, Xavier Sneed is having an underwhelming season, but he’s still a good player.
Texas has its hands full tonight, but also has a great opportunity to pick up another significant win.
The game tips in Austin at 8 PM CST, and airs on ESPN2.