The Longhorns are almost out of a grueling stretch of their schedule, but perhaps their toughest test awaits them this weekend. After dropping games to No. 7 West Virginia and No. 6 Baylor, Texas (7–11, 1–5) travels to Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday to take on the No. 2 Jayhawks (17–1, 6–0).
Kansas is playing as well as any team in the country. After losing to Indiana in the season opener, the team has rattled off 17 straight victories, winning those games by an average margin of more than 15 points.
Senior point guard Frank Mason III facilitates the Kansas attack. The senior leads the team in scoring and assists, averaging over 20 points and five dimes a contest.
Mason has seen a huge increase in efficiency this season. Despite attempting three more shots per game than last year, the guard’s shooting percentage has gone up. Mason is draining a scorching 52 percent of his buckets, a huge increase from his 43 percent clip a season ago.
Texas will combat Mason with a group of guards that might not include sophomore Tevin Mack, whose availability is still in question. Mack, the team’s leading scorer, was suspended indefinitely last week for a violation of team rules.
Since Mack’s suspension, freshman guard Andrew Jones has stepped up his play, averaging 16 points per game over the two-game span. Head coach Shaka Smart has praised the guard’s development
“I think Andrew has really grown in a lot of ways,” Smart said. “He’s not afraid to be assertive. He’s aggressive and he’ll attack on the break. He’s still learning now at the college level when to attack the basket or attack the rim or shoot a three as opposed when to give the ball up [in transition]. But I think he’s learning.”
The Longhorns also hope to get more production out of senior guard Kendal Yancy, who logged only 10 minutes in Tuesday’s loss to Baylor after missing four games due to injury.
Texas’ biggest struggle this season has been shooting the basketball, ranking last in the Big 12 in shooting percentage. This doesn’t bode well against a Kansas team that plays a stifling brand of defense. The Jayhawks rank second in the conference in field goal percentage defense, holding teams to a paltry 40 percent from the field.
Freshman forward Jarrett Allen stands out as a positive outlier amongst his teammates. Allen has been on a tear of late, averaging 18 points on 60 percent shooting over his last three contests.
The freshman is the one clear-cut advantage the Longhorns have over the Jayhawks. Kansas lacks a big man with Allen’s combination of silky smooth offense and efficient rebounding. If the Longhorns are to pull out the upset Saturday, the freshman will likely play a large factor.
Kansas head coach Bill Self was very complimentary of Allen.
“Jarrett is on a serious uptick,” Self said. “He’s played as well as any [Big 12 big], you know, if you take [Johnathan Motley] out of the equation. He’s played very well of late.”
Tipoff time for the Longhorns and Jayhawks is scheduled for 1 p.m.