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Texas preview: Q&A with a Longhorn

Since my previews are starting to feel a little formulaic and we're getting into the second part of the round robin scheduling, I decided to mix things up via a Q&A session with a Texas blogger. OK, so Jonathan Tjarks (or the Artist Formerly Known as Get Buckets) from SBNation Dallas actually deserves full credit for making things happen, but I want you to know it had my full support.

Anyway, Texas and Kansas State are playing a pretty important game tomorrow afternoon in Austin that could have huge NCAA tourney ramifications for both teams. For my thoughts on how important it is to the Wildcats as well as the answers to other questions and my prediction, check out Tjarks' post.

For how important it is to Texas, well, that happened to be my first question. Give a warm welcome to Mr. Tjarks, and read on.

AA: I've seen some Texas fans arguing this week that Saturday's game will decide whether UT makes the NCAA tourney or not. Factoring in how you think the Longhorns will fare the rest of the way, how much truth is there to this statement?

Tjarks: It's hard to overemphasize how big this game is for Texas. Not only are the Longhorns already 15-9, but their only "quality" wins are home games over Iowa State and Temple. If they can hold serve against K-State in Austin, it sets them up for a chance at a 10-win Big 12 season even if they drop games to Baylor and Kansas later in the year.

I can't see a scenario where Texas can beat the Jayhawks in Phog Allen in consecutive years, so realistically, they need to beat K-State and Baylor (who are looking vulnerable) at home, take care of business against the rest of the Big 12 and win one or two games in the Big 12 Tournament to feel comfortable on the bubble. It's doable but their margin of error at this point is pretty much zero.

For four more questions, answers, and Tjarks' prediction, click the jump.
AA: J'Covan Brown leads the Big 12 in scoring, but he missed 20 (!) shots in the first game against K-State. How much better should we expect him to play Saturday?

Tjarks: I have a soft spot for J'Covan. If I told you an undersized 6'1 black shooting guard was leading the Big 12 in scoring, you wouldn't picture a pure shooter who uses a high basketball IQ to overcome the fact that he can barely jump over a stack of paper. The level of growth in his game from his freshman season, where it looked like Barnes would have to cut him for general foolishness, has been tremendous to watch.

I didn't get a chance to see the K-State/Texas game, but I imagine J'Covan was being hounded by the Wildcats and was forcing up difficult shots b/c none of the freshmen could generate good looks at the basket.

In a home game, I expect Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan to alleviate some of his scoring load, and in an end of game scenario, I'm more confident with the ball in J'Covan's hands than any Longhorn since Durant and Augustin.

He's a black Jimmer Fredette, and if Kabongo comes back next season, I expect J'Covan to put together an All-American type season as a senior.

AA: Kansas State's main goals every game are to wear the other teams down with depth and nonstop harassment on defense. How vulnerable is Texas to these two things?

Tjarks: J'Covan, at 6'1, is the Longhorns best post player, and their other three primary ball-handlers are freshman, so they're definitely vulnerable to consistent ball pressure.

That being said, Kabongo was a McDonald's All-American for a reason, and he's definitely improved by leaps and bounds since the season began and even since the K-State game, where he had the worst TO game of
his career.

As long as he and Brown can stay out of foul trouble, I expect Texas to be able to handle pressure D. I can't say the same if Lewis, McClellan or Sterling Gibbs has to run the offense for any amount of time.

AA: Even in Wildcat Country, we've had some concerns with Frank's in-game persona and his unorthodox substitution patterns in games. What are your thoughts as an outsider?

I remember watching a Kansas State game that Brent Musberger was calling and writing down a huge list of vaguely homo-erotic things Brent was saying about Martin's on-court demeanor. From an outside perspective, I don't think him carrying on is that big a deal and it does give the Wildcats a bit for national fans to remember them by.

I can't say that I've watched enough K-State games this year to comment much on Martin's substitution patterns, but I'm really impressed with how well he has this team playing given their overall talent level. He seems to know what he's doing in terms of maximizing the talent at hand, the question is whether he can sustain the program's recruiting to be a consistent NCAA Tournament team.

Of course, it can't help that he's being compared to Bill Self, who I consider one of the top 2-3 coaches in the game, in spite of his history of NCAA flame-outs.

AA: After K-State tried desperately to give away the game at the end in Manhattan, I half-jokingly said I wasn't as worried as I normally would have been, since it came against Texas. Sorry for bringing up bad memories, but how much does the streak bother you and does it affect your expectations as you're watching the game?

Tjarks: Honestly not all that much. The only two losses that stick out in my mind are when the '09 basketball team lost the No. 1 ranking in Manhattan and when Colt got hurt in '06.

But living in Dallas, I don't know that many K-State alums so it's not like I have to deal with them rubbing it in my face like OU, OSU, Baylor, Tech, A&M or TCU people would do in the same scenario.

As your stereotypical elitist "T-Sippin" alum, I expect UT to dominate the Big 12 in everything, but I have a lot of respect for what the Wildcats athletic program has accomplished out in Manhattan, and it's a lot easier to take a losing streak against K-State than some of our former SWC rivals.

Tjarks' Prediction: A tightly-played 70-65 game with J'Covan carrying us to the win in the final two minutes.