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UT's Jordan Hamilton poses a tough matchup for the Jayhawks.
Senior Dogus Balbay starts for the Longhorns, though he gets the playing time of a bench player, averaging only 16.8 minutes per contest. That's in large due to his limited offensive game. Balbay is a poor outside shooter, and rarely takes shots outside the painted area. He's also a liability at the foul line, where he connects on just 54% of his attempts. A product of Turkey, Balbay is basically on the floor as a defensive specialist, and a good one he is. He's long for a 6'1'' player, moves his feet well and is adept at keeping his man in front of him. If the Kansas backcourt struggles offensively, it will likely be in large part to the ability of Balbay to frustrate the Jayhawks' primary ballhandler.
A highly touted recruit, freshman Cory Joseph has lived up to the hype early in the year for the Longhorns. He leads Texas in minutes per game, scores 11.2 points a night and does a solid job running the show for coach Rick Barnes. Joseph is an adept deep shooter, as evidenced by his sterling 42% mark from beyond the arc. However, he's equally good at getting to the rim and making plays for himself or others, where his long 6'3'' frame greatly plays to his advantage. One of the best and most consistent – if relatively unknown – first year players in the nation, Joseph will be instrumental in determining whether or not Texas can weather a hostile Allen Fieldhouse crowd and lead his team to a surprise win.
After a rough freshman campaign, swingman Jordan Hamilton is living up to his lofty recruiting ranking as a sophomore by leading UT in scoring at 19.7 points per contest. At 6'7'' and thickly built, Hamilton has prototypical size for an NBA wing. He combines that with deep, deep range on his jumper, routinely connecting on multiple three pointers a night. Though he's not an explosive athlete, Hamilton uses his size to get closer to the basket and rise over defenders for easy shots from mid range. He doesn't get to the paint a lot via the dribble, but will mix it up down low, as evidenced by his average of 7.1 rebounds per game. Defensively, Hamilton is nothing to write home about, though his reach can bother opposing shooters on close outs. If Texas is to win in Lawrence and break the nearly decade-long trend of the home team winning in this series, coach Barnes will need a big performance out of Hamilton. If the first months of the season are any indication, he just may be up to the challenge.
To cover Balbay, Kansas coach Bill Self will likely use his worst perimeter defender. When the starting lineups are on the floor, that means freshman Josh Selby may get the assignment. He's certainly no slouch on that end, but is KU's least experienced player and means a lot to the Jayhawks on the other end of the floor. Based on play in games, this makes the most sense. However, don't be surprised if Selby gets a shot on Joseph due to his great athleticism. Elijah Johnson will get some time guarding Balbay when in the game, as well.
Tyshawn Taylor will undoubtedly begin on Joseph, where his length, quickness and activity could bother the freshman. Self has been asking for more out of Taylor on this end of the floor recently, and Saturday will be a great opportunity for the junior to prove his worth by shutting down UT's best playmaker.
Similar to UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt, Kansas doesn't have a starter ideally suited to cover Hamilton. However, senior Tyrel Reed did a fantastic job against Baylor's 6'10'' Anthony Jones earlier in the week, and will likely draw the starting assignment. Denying Hamilton the ball will be key for Reed, as he is giving up nearly five inches to UT's top scorer. His experience, energy level and underrated strength will be instrumental in keeping Hamilton in check early. Brady Morningstar has been used to defend opposing wings with size in the past, and will likely get a lot minutes bothering Hamilton. He, like Reed, gives up lots of size, but will try to compensate with activity, quickness and fundamentals. Travis Releford may be KU's best defender and is the most natural foil for Hamilton at 6'5'', but has been injured. If he plays and is in the guard rotation, he could prove influential in slowing down Hamilton.