Artwork courtesy of Aaron Rench. Follow him on IG @youarelookinglive
Picture it: Sicily, 2005. You were rocking your yellow Livestrong bracelet with your collar freshly popped. Your bleached tips were on point. You were the envy of your friends with your shoes with wheels on the bottom of them. And Bill Self was in his 2nd year at Kansas. Led by Wayne Simien (Wow! A Wayne Simien sighting!), the Jayhawks won a thriller over Oklahoma St in Allen Fieldhouse in late February. That win would ultimately propel them to a share of the Big 12 Regular Season Conference Champions (with Oklahoma).
Since then, it’s been much of the same (sans the bleached tips). Another year, another Kansas Big 12 title. You could set your watch to it. Thirteen conference titles in a row to tie UCLA for most ever in history. A win Saturday and they would all but certainly break that record. But this year could be different, courtesy of Texas Tech.The Red Raiders come in a game behind Kansas in the standings. However, earlier this year, Tech handed the Jayhawks their worst home loss under Bill Self when they tortillaed Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. Now the game is in Lubbock, where the Red Raiders are 16-0 this year and winners of 17 in a row at home, the second longest streak in the country (South Dakota State has 20 consecutive home wins).
Kenpom has Texas Tech ranked #10, Kansas #11. Vegas has the Red Raiders as a -2 point favorite. Tech is 3rd in the country in adjusted defense. Kansas is 13th in adjusted offense. Strength versus strength. The key will be on the boards. Neither team is a particularly good rebounding team (ranked 130+), but in the first match-up, a game in which Texas Tech never trailed, the Red Raiders had 18 offensive boards (and a 44-29 advantage rebounding overall), while the Jayhawks were limited to just 8. Extra possessions will be YUUUGE in a game this close.The Jayhawks are led by a senior back court of Devonte’ Graham & Svi Mykhailiuk, averaging 17.6 & 15.4 pts/gm respectively. Graham will be the key. He has played 40 mins/gm in 11 out of his last 12, only coming out of the last game where they powerbombed Oklahoma by 89* points. Despite him playing the entire game, he rarely gets in foul trouble. If he picks up a couple of cheap ones early, it could drastically change the game.Starting guard Keenan Evans leads the Red Raiders’ attack. He wasn’t particularly overwhelming in the first match-up, only going 4-16 from the field. However, his ability to drive, make plays, and pick up fouls (Mykhailiuk fouled out in the first game between the two) will be crucial, if the Red Raiders are to break the Kansas stranglehold on the Big 12.The game is the biggest match-up of the day, and Game Day will be there. Bill Self said he expects it to be double or triple the atmosphere of any game the Jayhawks have played in this year. Emotions and tortillas will be flying high at United Supermarkets Arena. The Jayhawks almost certainly won’t be rattled, as they’re senior backcourt should steady the ship during rough times. However, as long as the Red Raiders’ big men, led by C Norense Odiase, can cancel out the Jayhawks’ C Udoka Azubuike (great name) on the boards, combined with the home court advantage, Texas Tech will win this game.
Prediction: Texas Tech 70 Kansas 65
* – approximate.
PS – Shout-out to the 3 people that got the opening Sicily joke.