Texas (+4) (-110) over Kansas
Following consecutive losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last month, Texas fans were growing impatient with head coach Rick Barnes. The Longhorns responded to the adversity with five straight wins, including impressive upsets over West Virginia (80-69), Iowa State (86-76) and Baylor (74-60). The Longhorns’ change in fortune had coach Barnes mocking the boo birds in Texas. “I guess I went from being dumb to being smart,” he said after Saturday’s win at Baylor. I like the fact that Barnes is 145-48 SU at home in the Erwin Center against conference opponents, while his teams are 11-3 ATS when playing with revenge against the Jayhawks (5-1 ATS at home). Let’s also note that Barnes is a perfect 12-0 this season against opponents with a win percentage of .799 or worse, while the Jayhawks are 5-14 ATS on the road after playing Iowa State and 0-4-1 ATS away from home before playing Baylor.
Texas is more than capable of winning this game as the Longhorns are 7.4 points per game better than average offensively (77.5 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 70.1 points per game) and 4.5 points per game better than average defensively (70.5 points per game to teams that would combine to average 75.0 points per game). More importantly, the Longhorns’ defensive intensity continues to improve as they have limited opponents to a mere 66.6 points on 39.2% shooting over their last five games. In contrast, Kansas continues to leak oil on the defensive end of the court where the Jayhawks are yielding 73.2 points over the last five games, which is 3.4 points per game above their season average (69.8 points per game).
I have also noticed a change in culture within the Texas basketball program as the players actually want to be taught and understand that individual entitlement does not belong on or off the court. “The one thing that we’ve always tried to stress with our players is we don’t want anyone that has a sense of entitlement,” coach Rick Barnes told ESPN. “We want players that understand work.” The Longhorns’ collective mindset is best exemplified by the fact that they have held opponents to shoot a combined 39.2% from the field, including just 25.9% from beyond the arc, in the past five games.
Teamwork, hard work and toughness now epitomize Texas’ basketball program, and the players give all the credit to the coaching staff. “I definitely think it comes from our coaching staff,” Javan Felix responded when asked where Texas’ business-like approach comes from. “They do a good job of staying like that in front of us. We adopted it. That’s just how we feel. We feel like we really haven’t done too much yet. We still have a lot of games left. We just focus on being the best we can be. That’s it. We go into each day and each practice trying to get better. We’re just looking for ways to get better and you can always do that no matter who you are.
Coming off three consecutive wins over AP top 25 opponents, the Longhorns now set their sites on avenging an embarrassing 73-43 loss at Kansas last season. Grab the points and invest with confidence.