At this point, there is a lot of chatter and rumors surrounding the future of the Texas basketball program.
But at least for tonight, it doesn’t matter at all. All that matters is what happens on the floor.
On the floor the Texas Longhorns face a stiff challenge, playing the Kansas Jayhawks in their home away from home in Kansas City. It is the most high leverage game of the season for Texas. Win and there is a pretty good chance that the Longhorns find their way into the NCAA tournament, despite all that has gone wrong in recent weeks.
Lose and an NCAA berth seems almost impossible.
It’s as simple as that. It’s a fork in the road for this team and perhaps for this program — or perhaps that latter fork has already been passed. But whatever thoughts you may have about the larger picture, there is still a game to play.
The Kansas Jayhawks have been beset by several problems this year. Kansas has lost several key players over the course of the season: Udoka Azubuike went down with an injury and LaGerald Vick has left the team to take a personal leave of absence. And then Kansas’ guard play just hasn’t been at the level that we have come to expect from the Jayhawks this season, as coach Bill Self has had to make things work with two freshmen doing the heavy lifting on the perimeter. Quentin Grimes has struggled. Devon Dotson has played pretty well, but there still is a massive drop off relative to what Kansas has enjoyed in recent seasons in the back court.
Thus, the Jayhawks have put a lot on Dedric Lawson, and he has handled things admirably. As was advertised coming into the year, Lawson is a craftsman on the block, beating more athletic players with angles, positioning, and footwork.
After Azubuike went down, Kansas experimented with small lineups for a few weeks, but with the departure of Vick they are back to mostly playing two big men together. Mitch Lightfoot and David McCormack are rotating through the front court, and Kansas has been much better defensively since playing this way; in the early conference season when Kansas played small with Lawson at center, the Jayhawks didn’t have a rim protector and vulnerable at the cup. Lightfoot and McCormack have improved this situation.
On the perimeter Self is running with Dotson, Grimes, defensive specialist Marcus Garrett, and athletic freshman Ochai Agbaji, with a dash of backup point guard Charlie Moore sprinkled in.
We have seen Texas play well against and beat this somewhat depleted Kansas squad already this year. With the return of Kerwin Roach II, there is some hope. But the Jayhawks are always tough to beat in Kansas City. It won’t be easy.
At this point, easy no longer matters; too many “easy” opportunities have been missed. All that is left is the hard way.
The game tips in Kansas City at approximately 8:30 PM CDT, and airs on ESPN2.