Texas Tech-Kansas Preview
Kansas spent its week establishing a foundation for this season and next.
The weekend will be spent with a more immediate focus as the 12th-ranked Jayhawks kick off their home conference schedule Saturday against Texas Tech, which has rarely been competitive during a 10-game skid in the series.
The Jayhawks (12-2, 1-0) won 56-55 at No. 21 Baylor on Wednesday for the first victory in what promises to be a challenging season in the Big 12, where six teams are currently ranked.
"Our league is such a monster," coach Bill Self said prior to the win. "Every coach right now is a little uptight, I would think, just saying, ‘Oh, gosh, if we don’t play well this game or that game or whatever, you’re going to go home sad.’"
Jamari Traylor led the way with 13 points and five rebounds, and Wayne Selden Jr. made three late baskets to secure Kansas’ 24th consecutive conference-opening win.
Kansas followed that win with an off-the-court victory Thursday, landing its first commitment in five-star forward Carlton Bragg.
The touted recruit will fill Kansas’ freshman phenom role next season. For now, that title belongs to forward Cliff Alexander.
"I’m doing whatever coach tells me to do," said Alexander, who has averaged 8.0 points while shooting a team-best 52.9 percent. "Whatever he wants me to do, provide off the bench, that’s what I’m going to do.
"I think I’m having an OK year. I know I can step it up more though."
The Jayhawks have failed to top 60 points twice in their last four games, including a 77-52 loss at Temple on Dec. 22, and own the lowest scoring average of the Self era at 70.1.
Those offensive problems will face an additional challenge against defensive-minded Texas Tech (10-5, 0-2), which continues to trudge through a tough opening conference schedule. The Red Raiders fell 70-61 to then-No. 11 Texas last Saturday and 78-67 to 14th-ranked West Virginia on Monday.
"It takes a while at this level to understand one false step, one false move, it’s going to cost you," coach Tubby Smith said. "Good teams and good players are going to take advantage of you. It (has) happened to us consistently."
The Red Raiders rank ninth in the 10-team conference with 68.3 points and 14.3 turnovers per game. They turned it over a season-high 22 times Monday.
Texas Tech, however, is holding opponents to 38.5 percent shooting and 60.0 points per game.
"Tubby’s team, whether they be at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Tech, they’re teams that guard," Self said. "They make it hard on you to score, they don’t give up easy stuff. He’s a fabulous coach and he’s going to do a great job in Lubbock."
Texas Tech has played two neutral site games – both losses – and will head to Kansas for its second true road game. The Red Raiders lost 69-64 in overtime at LSU on Nov. 18.
Kansas leads the series 27-4 and has won by an average of 23.3 points during the 10-game streak.