No. 4 Kansas State (21-10, 9-7) vs. No. 5 Texas (21-10, 9-7)
Thursday, Mar. 12 at 3:00 PM EST
Spread: Texas -2.5
Backcourt Advantage: Even
The Wildcats needed overtime to beat Texas 85-81 in Austin on Jan. 31. In that game, K-State guard Denis Clemente (15.6 PPG) scored a career-high 44 points, tying the Wildcats' single-game record set by Michael Beasley last year.
Clemente was red-hot from the field, knocking down all six of his three-point attempts.
Texas senior A.J. Abrams (16.5 PPG) will lead the Longhorns into the second round of the Big 12 tournament. He had a quiet 10 points in the 67-56 first round win over Colorado, but chipped in on the defensive end with five steals.
Abrams had a poor performance in his first meeting with Kansas State, scoring only 15 points on 5-for-21 shooting. For the game, the Wildcats went an astonishing 10-for-15 from long range, while Texas was just 4-for-17. That proved to be the major difference in an otherwise even game.
As long as Clemente or fellow guard Jacob Pullen (13.4 PPG) doesn't catch fire again, the Longhorns should be able to keep pace with them on the perimeter.
Frontcourt Advantage: Texas
The quickness of junior swingman Damion James (15.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG) and the size and toughness of junior center Dexter Pittman (9.8 PPG) will give the Longhorns an advantage over the Wildcats inside.
James led the Longhorns with 19 points and 12 rebounds in his first meeting against Kansas State. Pittman is emerging as a star for Texas. He is coming off his best game of the season, a 26-point, 10-rebound performance against Colorado in the first round.
Kansas State has some decent depth in the frontcourt, but will be overmatched by Pittman. It will take a group effort from Darren Kent, Jamar Samuels, Luis Colon, and Ron Anderson to slow him down inside.
Both teams need a win here to cement their qualification into the NCAA tournament. Texas has the better regular season resume, so a loss here may not keep them out, but Kansas State is definitely in a must-win situation.
This should be a very tight game throughout, but I expect the experience of Abrams, James, Pittman, and senior center Connor Atchley to be the difference in this game as the Longhorns find a way to win in the end.
Shaun's Pick: Texas -2.5