Texas Basketball: What's on the Line for Longhorns vs. Kansas?

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Texas Basketball: What's on the Line for Longhorns vs. Kansas?
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

For one of the few times this season, the Big 12 will not the steal the spotlight on Saturday night as the conference's biggest game takes place at the same time of the Syracuse-Duke showdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

While the game between Texas and Kansas has been moved to the backburner of ESPN telecasts, that doesn't mean the game fails to carry plenty of importance for the Longhorns. 

No one thought that Rick Barnes would have his team in second position in the Big 12, just two games behind the Jayhawks, with five games left in the regular season. 

There is no doubt that the Longhorns will be playing in the NCAA men's basketball tournament in almost a month's time, but there still remains a bit of mystery about what seed they will get. 

Texas can go a long way in helping the selection committee out with their decision by going into the storied halls of Allen Fieldhouse and leaving with a victory. 

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Winning in Lawrence, Kan. on Saturday will not be an easy task for the Longhorns to achieve, but they will reap the rewards in March if they pull off the unthinkable. 

Let's start with the immediate impact that this game will have on the productive season that Barnes and his team have put together. 

Texas is currently two games behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings, and a win on Saturday would raise the pressure at the top a bit more heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. 

If the Longhorns win against Kansas, they would have a realistic possibility of tying for the regular-season crown because of their easy schedule and a treacherous trip to Stillwater, Okla. that the Jayhawks must make on March 1. 

Remaining Schedule After Saturday for Kansas and Texas
Kansas 20-6 (11-2) Texas 20-6 (9-4)
February 24 vs. Oklahoma February 26 vs. Baylor
March 1 at Oklahoma State March 1 at Oklahoma
March 5 vs. Texas Tech March 5 vs. TCU
March 8 at West Virginia March 8 at Texas Tech

espn.com

If all the stars align in its favor, Texas could earn the top spot in the Big 12 tournament, which would earn it a game against either Texas Tech or Oklahoma State based on the current standings. 

That motivation would be enough for any team to try and disrupt the home cookings of Kansas, but there is more on the line.

Texas will do a massive favor to its resume with a win over the eighth-best team in the nation, a victory that would be its sixth over a ranked team this season. It would also mean the Longhorns would have swept the team with the most difficult schedule in the nation. Texas defeated Kansas back on February 1 in Austin, Texas. 

The Longhorns will certainly head into Lawrence, Kan. with confidence that they can beat Kansas again, and this time around their major advantage in the paint could be even bigger. 

Play in the paint is the one of the best attributes of this Texas team, who averages 42 rebounds per game, a stat that is good enough to claim the fifth-best spot in all of Division I. 

Kansas' main big-play threat inside, Joel Embiid, has suffered a few injury setbacks in recent weeks, and he will not be 100 percent when he takes the court on Saturday night. 

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

If the Longhorns can exploit that weakness early and often, they could have an upset brewing in Lawrence, Kan. in the first half. 

With everything to play for on Saturday, expect the Longhorns to come out of the locker room with a purpose and give Kansas the best game they can.

Whether or not they can upset Kansas again remains to be seen, but you have to like the chances of this Texas team to get the job done.

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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