United Supermarkets Arena will be the center of the college basketball world on Saturday, as the eighth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks travel to Lubbock, Texas to take on sixth-ranked Texas Tech.
Head Coach Chris Beard and his Red Raiders have been victims of the injury bug in recent weeks, as Coach Beard tore his ACL in practice in mid-January, and now Tech has dealt with a foot injury to star player Keenan Evans.
Evans’s injury has been a thorn in the side of the Red Raiders in their past two games specifically, in which Tech is 0-2 against Baylor and Oklahoma State on the road, with Evans scoring six points in both games combined.
Kansas has taken advantage of Tech’s recent struggles, having won three in a row and turning a one-game deficit into a one-game lead in the Big 12 standings.
With three games to go, focus now shifts to the rematch of the Big 12’s top dogs this weekend.
In the first bout between the heavyweights, Tech accomplished a rare feat, leading Kansas for the entire 40 minutes and beating the Jayhawks by double digits in Allen Fieldhouse, while out-rebounding KU by 15 and holding them to just 6/26 from three-point range.
When the two square off once again, far more will be at stake than the previous game. The Kansas Jayhawks have won or shared the Big 12 regular season title for 13 straight seasons, and the winner of Saturday’s game will likely determine if that streak will live or die.
If Kansas is able to return the favor and beat Texas Tech on their own floor, the Jayhawks will once again clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title this season. However, if Texas Tech is able to sweep KU, a feat that has never been accomplished with Bill Self at the helm, the Red Raiders will once again draw even for first, leaving a two game sprint to the finish between them.
ESPN’s College Gameday will be on-site for the biggest conference game of this season, putting Kansas at center stage for the second consecutive Saturday, and Bill Self understands the magnitude of the game. “This atmosphere Saturday will double or triple the best atmosphere we’ve played in so far this year away from home,” Self said. “There’s too much to play for. It should be a lot of fun.”
Kansas and UCLA sit atop the college basketball rankings, tying for the record of longest streak of consecutive conference championships, but a win Saturday would elevate Kansas to the longest streak in the history of college basketball, surpassing Coach John Wooden’s unbreakable mark.
Tip-off is set for 3:15pm on ESPN with Dan Schulman and Jay Bilas on the call.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Devonte’ Graham (Kansas SR – Guard) averages 37.2 minutes and 17.6 points per contest. Graham has scored in double figures in seven straight contests, putting up 23 against Oklahoma on Monday night and sinking 5/11 from three. Graham could pass Kansas great Tyshawn Taylor for 16th all-time in scoring with just 12 points, as Devonte’ currently has 1,569 to his credit.
Keenan Evans (Texas Tech SR – Guard) has put up 17.6 points per game this season for Texas Tech, but has managed just six combined in his last two games. Evans’s ailing foot injury has slowed his, and his team’s, production over the last week. It certainly appears that the Red Raiders will only go as far as Evans will take them, so his status is worth monitoring.