Texas Longhorns vs. Kansas Jayhawks
Line: Texas -3
Where: Moody Center, Austin, Texas
When: Saturday, 3/4 at 4:00 p.m. ET
No. 3 Kansas clinched yet another Big 12 regular-season title earlier this week, and it will be looking to add a season sweep of No. 9 Texas on Saturday afternoon.
The Jayhawks clinched at least a share of NCAA-leading regular-season title No. 64 with their 67-63 win against Texas Tech, and they won the title outright when Texas lost to TCU by two points on Wednesday. Head coach Bill Self has won 17 conference titles in his 20 seasons at the helm.
“I always envision us having good years…but if you would’ve told me before the year that this team would do what they’ve done this year, and accomplish what they’ve accomplished so far this year, I would’ve said that would’ve probably been a little bit of a reach,” Self said.
The Jayhawks lost three straight games in mid-January and were 6-4 in conference play on Feb. 4, but they rattled off seven consecutive wins down the stretch. They picked up an 88-80 win over then-No. 5 Texas as 4-point home favorites in the Feb. 6 meeting between these teams.
Oddsmakers opened Texas as a 3.5-point favorite for Saturday’s rematch, but the line quickly dropped to 2.5 on Friday afternoon. The total opened at 149.5, which is three points higher than the first meeting between these teams. By this morning, though, most spots had moved Texas back up to -3 or -3.5, while the total was back to 148.5 or 149 points.
Veteran Jalen Wilson scored 21 points and grabbed five rebounds in Tuesday’s win over Texas Tech, upping his scoring average to 19.6 points per game. Kevin McCullar nearly posted a double-double against his former team, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Wilson and McCullar provide much-needed leadership to a Kansas roster that ranks No. 230 in experience. They have covered the spread in four of their last five road games this season and five of their last seven games overall. Their defense has been their calling card throughout the campaign, as they rank ninth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings.
Freshman Gradey Dick led Kansas with 21 points in the win over Texas last month, while Dajuan Harris Jr. had 17 points. Dick is the team’s second-leading scorer (14.5) overall this season, joining Wilson, McCullar and KJ Adams Jr. in double figures. They are facing a Texas defense that is No. 20 in turnover rate, but it has struggled on the defensive glass.
The Longhorns are hoping to get back on track before the Big 12 Tournament after blowing their chance of winning a regular-season title with consecutive losses at Baylor and TCU. They are still riding a seven-game home winning streak, though, and they have the seventh-most experienced roster in college hoops.
Senior guard Marcus Carr is averaging a team-high 16.6 points, 4.1 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game, pouring in 29 points in the loss at Allen Fieldhouse. The Longhorns cut TCU’s 13-point lead to 71-68 with 1:02 remaining on Wednesday, but they were never able to get over the hump.
“We’re still playing for something,” Longhorns interim coach Rodney Terry said. “You’re playing for seeding; you’re playing to put yourself in the best position right now for the big prize. And I think we have as good a team in the country and have a chance to win a national championship.”
The college basketball futures market does not necessarily disagree, as Texas (18-1) joins Kansas (8-1) as two of the nine teams priced inside of 20-1 to win the NCAA Tournament at DraftKings. Kansas is 15-4 in its last 19 games against Texas, winning eight of its last 12 games in Austin.
The pick: Texas -2.5
This pick has everything to do with the scheduling spot for Kansas, which just clinched the regular-season title and has already locked up the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament. The Jayhawks do not have a ton to gain from this game, as a loss to a top-10 team on the road barely changes their seeding outlook. Meanwhile, Texas is desperate to get back in the win column following a frustrating two-game stretch, and the Longhorns are also eyeing revenge after losing to Kansas last month. They have won seven straight home games and are one of the most experienced teams in the country, so I trust them to be prepared for this game.