OPEN GAME THREAD: Texas (Big Monday)

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KansasStateTexas

Kansas State Wildcats (20-9, 8-6) AT No. 7 Texas Longhorns (24-5, 12-2)

Frank Erwin Special Events Center — Austin, Texas
Monday, Feb. 28, 2011 — 8 PM CST

ESPN | ESPN3.com

The Big 12's hottest team, riding a four-game winning streak and having won six of its last seven, now travels to Austin to take on the league's angriest team.

After winning its first 11, a school record, Texas has dropped two of three (and the one win, at least for a half, wasn't that impressive).

But no one knows anger like the Angriest Fans in America.

Despite their recent success and a profile that rivals No. 15 St. John's (both have nine overall losses, and while SJU has a few more signature wins, the Johnnies also have more bad losses than K-State), the Cats remain unranked, checking in at No. 29 in both polls.

In other words, the chip is back on the collective Wabashian shoulder.

Although all the national pundits say we will receive Texas' best shot because the Longhorns are mad, the fact of the matter is that they have been playing some bad basketball lately.

Two weeks ago, the story was that K-State had no chance against Kansas because the Jayhawks were playing great basketball. So which is it?

Is suddenly mortal Texas worthy of being a eight-point favorite where the Jayhawks only were a 3.5?

Although I agree Texas should be favored and expected to play better tonight than they did Saturday, I don't believe the game will be a runaway. Here are just a few reasons the Cats can win:

  • Frank Martin is 2-0 in "The Drum" as an assistant or head coach. And it's not like the crowd will be a factor.
  • Texas has a history of giving up big 3-point shooting performances to Cat guards at home, namely Cartier Martin, Denis Clemente and Fred Brown. Will Jacob Pullen be next?
  • In its only home loss this season, Texas was downed in overtime by a superstar guard, Kemba Walker. Can Pullen duplicate that performance?
  • If there's a player in the Big 12 that can out-defend Dogus Balbay, it's Pullen. If there's a bench player more mercurial than J'Covan Brown, it's Nick Russell. If there's a player who's more of an X-factor than Jordan Hamilton, it's Rodney McGruder. If there's a forward with a prettier elbow jumper than Gary Johnson, it's Curtis Kelly (when he's on). If there's a man who can challenge Tristan Thompson in every way possible and actually has a longer reach than him, it's Jordan Henriquez-Roberts. In short, I like the match-ups.
  • K-State's semi-burn pinch-post offense is similar to the way Nebraska plays, with an emphasis on tough-nosed defense and rebounding. And while the Cats won't run UT the way CU did, they also might benefit from Texas' tiring experience in high altitude 48 hours ago.
  • We're undefeated this season when Bob Knight and Brent Musberger call our games, with wins versus Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, Baylor and Kansas.
  • It's Texas. We own Texas. We've won three of our last four against them in the regular season. (However, if you include the loss in the 2009 Big 12 Tournament, we do seem to alternate wins in the series — which means the Horns might win this one, but lose to us next week in Kansas City. I can live with that.)

You can read my preview of Texas here or chat with Peter Bean and his Longhorn cohorts at Burnt Orange Nation.


Predictions:

  • BracketCat: Kansas State 75, Texas 68
  • GAMER: Texas 79, Kansas State 62
  • Pomeroy: Texas 73, Kansas State 61
  • Sagarin: Texas 81, Kansas State 72

From the K-State Sports Information Department:

Kansas State (20-9, 8-6 Big 12) begins the final week of the regular season with its fourth and final tilt on ESPN’s Big Monday, when the Wildcats travel to league-leading No. 7/8 Texas (24-5, 12-2) for an 8 p.m. clash at Frank Erwin Center.

The squad is 2-1 on Big Monday this season, knocking off Baylor 69-61 on Jan. 24 and No. 1 Kansas 84-68 on Feb. 14, after a 75-59 setback at No. 15/12 Missouri on Jan. 17.

It’s an all-important week for K-State as the team continues to build its resume for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with the final two regular-season Big 12 contests, beginning with the Longhorns and concluding Saturday against Iowa State (14-13, 2-12).

Monday’s game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, with Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Bob Knight (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sidelines) on the call.

It also will be available on the Internet at ESPN3.com.

Fans can listen to the "Voice of the Wildcats," Wyatt Thompson, and analyst Stan Weber throughout the 33-station K-State Sports Network, as well as free of charge online at www.k-statesports.com.

The Big 12 standings remain jumbled, with Texas and Kansas tied atop with 12-2 records, while Texas A&M sits in third place at 9-5.

K-State and Missouri are knotted up in fourth place with 8-6 league marks, while surging Baylor and Colorado are just a game behind in fifth place with 7-7 records.

The squads are battling for one of four first-round byes at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, set for March 9-12 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The Longhorns and Jayhawks already have secured the top two byes, with the Aggies needing just one win this week against either No. 2 Kansas or Texas Tech to claim the third spot, since they own the tiebreaker against both K-State and Missouri.

The fourth and final spot will go to one of four remaining squads, with multiple possible tiebreakers.

The Tigers play at Nebraska on Tuesday night before hosting Kansas on Saturday and the Buffaloes play at Iowa State on Wednesday before hosting Nebraska on Saturday, while the Bears play at Oklahoma State on Tuesday and host Texas before an ESPN Gameday audience Saturday night at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

K-State will meet a motivated Texas squad Monday that lost a 22-point first-half lead to Colorado in an eventual 91-89 setback at Coors Events Center on Saturday.

The Buffaloes shot 58.1 percent in the second half to rally from a 15-point halftime deficit, while the Longhorns only could muster 29.4-percent shooting after the halftime break.

The school, which will honor five seniors — Gary Johnson, Dogus Balbay, Jai Lucas, Matt Hill and Clint Chapman — in their final home game, is a perfect 7-0 in Big 12 home games, with an average margin of victory of 17.1 points.

Overall, Texas has lost just one home contest — an 82-81 overtime loss to Connecticut on Jan. 8.

The Wildcats lead the all-time series 11-9, which dates back to a 87-60 win in Manhattan on Dec. 8, 1971.

The Longhorns have won nine of the 15 meetings since the inception of the Big 12, including five of seven contests at Erwin Center.

However, the squad has received memorable performances in winning its last two visits to Austin, earning a 73-72 victory Feb. 3, 2007, and an 85-81 overtime triumph Jan. 31, 2009.

Current Washington Wizard Cartier Martin scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half, including the team’s last five points, of the win in 2007, while Denis Clemente tied Michael Beasley for the Big 12’s single-game scoring mark with 44 points in an exciting overtime victory in 2009.

Clemente went 13 of 25 from the field, including a perfect 6 of 6 from beyond the arc, to go with a 12-of-12 effort from the free-throw line.

The Wildcats have won three of their last four regular-season meetings with Texas, including a 71-62 victory over the top-ranked Longhorns in the last match-up Jan. 18, 2010, at Bramlage Coliseum, which also came before a Big Monday audience.

Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly combined for 37 points and 20 rebounds to propel the squad to victory, while Jacob Pullen and Rodney McGruder added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

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