Texas looms as Kansas’ biggest threat to an unbeaten season

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Kansas is coming off one of one of its finest performances of the season, an 85-65 thrashing of Baylor in which the Jayhawks scored at will (particularly in the first half) and defended the Bears reasonably well despite a comfortable margin that usually doesn’t foster much defensive effort in teams. (Why defend when you’re not gonna lose?)

So it’ll be interesting to see how the unbeaten Jayhawks (18-0) fare in what should be their toughest home game of the season, a Saturday showdown against Texas. A win would allow Kansas to clear its tallest hurdle to an unbeaten regular season (until the finale at Missouri).

The Longhorns (15-3) dismantled No. 11 Texas A&M on Wednesday, which begs the question: If the Jayhawks could barely beat the likes of Nebraska, USC and UCLA at home, how do they handle Texas?

It starts with limiting sophomore swingman Jordan Hamilton (Texas’ leading scorer and most efficient scorer), then ensuring freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph don’t get comfortable. They’re three of the Big 12’s most talented young players, and all likely headed to NBA.

Who will Bill Self use? For that, let’s turn to David Hess’ latest project over at The Audacity of Hoops – the defensive score sheet.

Hess has been charting Kansas’ last few games, noting the defensive stalwarts and the weak links. The Baylor chart is probably the most instructive because the Bears have players like LaceDarius Dunn who are similar in talents to guys like Hamilton.

Mario Little scored best vs. the Bears, but only played seven minutes. Tough to gauge anything from that. Brady Morningstar guarded Dunn most of the game and scored reasonably well, all things considered. The guy Self won’t use? Freshman Eljiah Johnson. He’s been Kansas’ worst defender in three of the last four games.

Also of note was Kansas’ defensive pressure. From Hess:

Only 5 of Kansas’s 18 forced turnovers (28%) were solo efforts, compared to 5 of Baylor’s 14 (36%), meaning Kansas once again relied mores on teamwork to force their turnovers, compared to opposition.  The one game so far where that hasn’t been the case was against Nebraska, who I thought played a phenomenal defensive game.

Of course, I haven’t even talked about which Texas players will try to slow down Marcus Morris or his brother, Markieff, inside. But hey, I can’t rip off David’s entire post. Go read it.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.