No. 11 Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season title for 10 consecutive years. The last time someone other than the Jayhawks won the conference, freshman forward Myles Turner was in the third grade. Let that sink in for a minute.
Yes, it’s been a while. But, in the preseason, many deemed this year as the one in which Kansas’ conference dominance could come to an end — not because the Jayhawks lacked the depth and talent of previous years, but because Texas finally seemed capable of dethroning the reigning conference kings.
Saturday at 1 p.m., the Longhorns have their chance to make good on those predictions.
Of course, it won’t be easy. The Jayhawks boast depth and balance few teams in college basketball can match.
Kansas poses threats both inside the paint and around the arc. Turner and the rest of Texas’ big men will have their hands full between junior forward Perry Ellis, who leads the team with 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and freshman forward Cliff Alexander. Kansas also boasts an impressive trio of guards: sophomore Frank Mason III, freshman Wayne Selden Jr. and freshman Kelly Ourbre Jr.
Texas just might have a shot, as they seemed to be clicking on all cylinders in the last two games. The Longhorns won convincingly over No. 18 West Virginia and on the road against TCU after a pair of ugly losses early in conference play.
Following an up-and-down start to the season, junior center Cameron Ridley seemed to have found himself in the last two wins. He totaled 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in the two victories after scoring only seven points in the previous two games. After the win over West Virginia, Ridley said his goal against Kansas is to replicate what he did against the Mountaineers.
“[I want to] just come in the game with the same confidence and play as hard as I can,” Ridley said. “You play hard and good things happen, so that’s what I’m going to keep focusing on doing.”
The Longhorns need a strong performance from Ridley to combat the Kansas big men. Same goes for sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor against the Jayhawks’ loaded backcourt.
After making only 19-of-40 field goal attempts in his first four games back from a broken left wrist, Taylor exploded against TCU on Monday for 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while racking up seven rebounds and six assists. The Longhorns could use a similar performance Saturday to bring down Kansas.
The Big 12 has waited a long time for someone to finally dethrone Kansas as the conference’s tyrant. Saturday, the Longhorns might do just that.