Kansas State is en fuego The Wildcats have won their last four, including wins over Kansas, Missouri and former bubbler Nebraska. Not counting hideous teams (read: teams below 200th in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, Iowa State and Texas Tech), Kansas State has put up its three best offensive games of the year in that stretch. The Wildcats are also playing fairly inspired defense. No one should be surprised that Jacob Pullen is behind the hot streak: Pullen is averaging a sick 29 points a game over the four game stretch. Curtis Kelly joined in the fun against Missouri, looking engaged for the first time in a long time. Long story short: this team is really dangerous right now and starting to live up to that preseason hype.
Texas is moving the opposite direction. Don't panic yet, but start paying close attention to the Longhorns. Texas' trademark this season has been stifling on-ball defense and solid team rebounding. Colorado (led by scoring machine Alec Burks) absolutely blitzed Texas Saturday in the second half to overcome a 22 point deficit and knock of the Longhorns. Nebraska also wasn't fazed by the Texas defense. But more troubling still has been the Longhorn offense. In the two losses, Jordan Hamilton reverted to his inefficient form from last season, going a combined 10-38. While Texas relies heavily on Hamilton to score, it's far more important that he's efficient: on nights where he's being double-teamed or the shots just aren't falling, he needs to learn to find open teammates (it's not like the Longhorns are short on talent). Texas has plenty of options, it just needs to remember to utilize all of them.
If Texas wasn't coming off a loss, I would pick Kansas Sate hands down. I'm tempted to pick them anyways, but I almost guarantee the Longhorns will be in peak form. Check after the break for a final prediction and reasons why each team has a chance to win.
Why K-State can win:
- Even without Judge and Asprilla, the Wildcats have a very athletic frontcourt in Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly who should at least neutralize Tristan Thompson. The key is whether they come out focused.
- Jacob Pullen is the real deal (preseason All-American and Big 12 POY). He's been very aggressive lately, and it's paid off. Don't think Texas keeps him under 20.
- Momentum. It's clearly in their favor. If they can come out strong and hit Texas in the mouth early, I'm not sure the Longhorns will recover.
Why Texas can win:
- Despite recent struggles, they still have the best on-ball defense in the country, and K-State isn't known for superb shot selection.
- K-State may have Jacob Pullen, but Texas has the frontrunner for Big 12 POY in Jordan Hamilton.
- The Longhorns should be fired up after losing two of three games on the road and looking for a big win to get back on track for that top line.
Prediction: Kansas State 75 - Texas 76 (never bet on momentum). The game is at 8:00 PM on ESPN.
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