AUSTIN — The Texas Longhorns have had to fight through the Big 12 gauntlet since the start of conference play on Jan. 1, but things are only going to get tougher as the league tournament begins.
No. 22 Texas (21-10, 10-8 Big 12) will face TCU (19-11, 8-10 Big 12) on Thursday morning at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City. The Longhorns won both games against the Horned Frogs during the regular season.
“We played some good basketball this year,” Texas coach Chris Beard said Wednesday. “We’re one of the best teams in the country, but we’ve yet to play a full 40.”
If the Longhorns play like they did against TCU in the previous two meetings, a full 40 minutes of production is well within reach.
The Frogs are the best rebounding team in the Big 12 (38.8 rebounds), but that didn’t seem to make a difference to Texas. Combined, the Longhorns out-rebounded TCU 71-59 in the two wins.
Still, the Longhorns will need to find some shooting consistency in order to go 3-0 against their in-state rival. On Feb. 23, Texas went an abysmal 1-of-14 from deep, but salvaged the win at home behind 24-of-29 makes from the free throw line.
But make no mistake. TCU is a NCAA tournament team that will likely find its way into the national tournament regardless of Thursday’s outcome. The Frogs bolstered their resume with two back-to-back upset wins over then-No. 9 Texas Tech and No. 6 Kansas late in the regular season.
TCU guard Mike Miles has had a fantastic season as a scorer. He averages the fifth-most points in the conference (15.1) and will look to continue his elite play deep into March.
Courtney Ramey and Christian Bishop
The sophomore has effortless separation skills that allow him to create wiggle room for whichever shot he desires. He’ll likely draw a defensive assignment from Texas guard Courtney Ramey, who just held the conference’s leading scorer, Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji, to 1-of-11 shooting for eight points on Saturday.
Though he wasn’t much of a factor in the first two meetings, TCU guard Damion Baugh is someone to keep an eye on. He’s a versatile player that has done it all for the Frogs this season, leading the team in assists (4.2) and steals (1.4) while also being second in scoring (10.6).
The Horns will once again need forward Timmy Allen (12.2 points, 6.5 rebounds) to handle the scoring load. If he continues his mini-slump from the past two Texas losses, Beard and Co. will look to rely on guards Andrew Jones and Ramey instead.
Ramey lit up the Kansas defense on Saturday, hitting a handful of clean jump-shots en route to a team-high 18 points, which tied his season-high as well.
Both teams will look to earn a higher NCAA tournament seed by having deep runs into the Big 12 tournament.
Thursday morning’s tipoff is set for 11:30 p.m. at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.
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