The students are already lining up at Allen Fieldhouse for Saturday's showdown between third-ranked Missouri and No. 4 Kansas, the finale of a bitter rivalry and one that could ultimately decide the regular-season Big 12 champion.
There's only one problem: Both teams still have a game before
the big showdown.
The Tigers host surging Kansas State on Tuesday night before the
Jayhawks visit Texas A&M on Wednesday. Both are dangerous opponents who could take a bit of the pizzazz out of what could be the
biggest regular-season game since the Big 12's inception.
Kansas coach Bill Self jokingly said that he won't mention
Missouri to his team except to tell them that he won't mention
No. 4/5 Kansas (22-5, 12-2) heads into the final two weeks of Big 12 play at Texas A&M (13-13, 4-10), Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 to start a three-game six-day stretch. The Jayhawks will then host Border Showdown foe Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. on CBS. Kansas and Missouri sit tied atop the Big 12 standings at 12-2 with four league games to play. Kansas takes a four-game winning streak to College Station, Texas, while Texas A&M looks to rebound from a 71-62 loss to Missouri on Saturday.
No. 4/5 Kansas is 14-0 at home, 6-2 in road games and 2-3 on neutral courts this season. Kansas averages 74.9 points per game and allows 60.4 for a +14.5 scoring margin, which ranks second in the Big 12. KU leads the Big 12 in rebound margin at +6.4, field goal percentage defense at 37.8 and is tied with Missouri in assists per contest at 16.0.
The Jayhawks are led by national player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson, who is the only player in the Big 12 to average a double-double with 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. A three-time Big 12 Player of the Week this season, Robinson has nine double-doubles in 14 conference games, including four of his last six. His league-leading 18 double-doubles on the season rank second nationally. Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor, who was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Jan. 16, leads KU in conference games with a 17.9 scoring average. He leads KU with 137 assists and 45 three-pointers made in 2011-12. Taylor is scoring 16.6 ppg overall. Junior center Jeff Withey averages 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds for the season, but in his last four games he is averaging 17.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 5.8 blocked shots. He is 63.6 percent (21-33) from the field and 80 percent (28-35) from the free throw line. He was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Feb. 13 and leads the Big 12 with 3.4 blocked shots per game. His 57 blocked shots in conference play are twice as many as any other player in the Big 12. Junior guard Travis Releford, who was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Jan. 9, averages 10.0 ppg in league play and 9.1 in all games. Junior guard Elijah Johnson is second on the team with 42 three-pointers and leads KU with 42 steals this season. Johnson scores 8.6 points per game and is second on the team with 98 assists.
Senior guard Conner Teahan, an Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honoree, is third on the team with 41 three-pointers this season while averaging 6.4 points per game. Sophomore forward Justin Wesley is a regular who averages 1.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest. Junior forward Kevin Young (3.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and freshman guard Naadir Tharpe (1.0 ppg, 19 assists) are also KU regulars.
About Texas A&M
Located in College Station, Texas, with an enrollment of 49,129, Texas A&M will host Kansas for the final time as members of the Big 12 Conference on Wednesday as the Aggies will join the Southeastern Conference in 2012-13. Texas A&M is 13-13 overall and 4-10 in Big 12 play after its 71-62 loss to No. 3 Missouri on Feb. 18 in College Station. A&M is 11-5 at home, 1-6 on the road and 1-2 at neutral sites in 2011-12. The Aggies are coached by Billy Kennedy who is in his first season at A&M and is 224-192 in his 14th season overall as a head coach. A&M averages 61.4 points per games and gives up 60.2 for a +1.2 scoring margin. The Aggies are solid on the boards with a +2.2 rebound margin and lead the Big 12 in scoring defense (60.2).
Junior guard Elston Turner leads Texas A&M in scoring at 14.3 points per game, with 57 three-pointers made and an 81.0 free throw percentage in 2011-12. Junior guard Khris Middleton is next in scoring at 11.8 points per game and he is second on the team with 5.1 rebounds per contest. Senior forward David Loubeau is next in scoring at 10.8 points per contest and he pulls down 4.6 rebounds per outing. Junior forward Ray Turner leads Texas A&M in rebounds with 5.4 per game to complement his 9.1 scoring average. Freshman guard Jordan Green (4.0 ppg, 22 steals) and senior guard/forward Zach Kinsley (2.3 ppg) round out A&M's last game starters. Senior guard Dash Harris, a regular starter in 2011-12, hurt his foot in the first game against Kansas earlier this season. Harris leads the team with 81 assists and 27 steals, while contributing 5.8 points per game.
Junior guard Naji Hibbert (4.3 ppg) and sophomore center Keith Davis (1.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, team-best 17 blocked shots) are regulars for A&M off the bench.
The Kansas-Texas A&M Series
Kansas and Texas A&M are meeting for the 20th time in a series that dates back to 1967. KU leads the overall series 18-1 and has won the last seven meetings. The first game of the series was played in 1967 in the Sunflower Doubleheader in Manhattan, Kan., with KU winning 78-52. Ever since, the series has been during the Big 12 era. The teams have met in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship in two of the last four years - 2008 and 2010 - with Kansas winning both meetings and eventually claiming the league tourney titles. Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, Kansas is 17-1 against A&M. Prior to Texas ending KU's school-record 69 home-game winning streak last season, Texas A&M handed Kansas its previous home loss on Feb. 3, 2007. Kansas is 5-0 against Texas A&M in Reed Arena.
Kansas overcame a 30-28 halftime deficit to defeat Texas A&M 64-54 in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 23. Thomas Robinson led KU with 18 points and 10 rebounds to notch his 14th double-double of the season. Senior Tyshawn Taylor added 17 points and three steals, while junior Jeff Withey scored 10 points and had eight blocked shots in the game. Texas A&M's Elston Turner led all scorers with 24 points.
--Kansas leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense at 37.8, which is 16th nationally. KU has led the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense in five of the last six seasons, all under head coach Bill Self.
--KU leads the conference in rebound margin at +6.4. The Jayhawks have led the Big 12 in rebound margin in each of the last five seasons, all under Bill Self.
--Kansas also leads the Big 12 in rebound defense (30.9), blocked shots (5.7) and is tied for first in assists at 16.0. KU also ranks in the top three in scoring (second at 75.0), field goal percentage (second at 48.6), rebounding (second at 37.3), scoring defense (second at 60.4), steals (third at 7.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (second at 1.2).
--Kansas' 20-game home court winning streak leads the Big 12 and is tied for fifth nationally. The 20-game streak followed a school-record 69-game home court winning streak. KU is 89-1 in its last 90 games at Allen Fieldhouse.
--Kansas has tied or outrebounded 22 of 27 opponents this season, including seven of the last 10 games. KU has nine games with a +10 rebound margin, including a season-best 50-21 (+29) vs. Oklahoma State (2/11).
--Six different Jayhawks - Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Conner Teahan, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey - have led Kansas in scoring through 27 games.
--KU has shot a higher percentage than 25 of 27 opponents this season. KU shot 56.3 percent against Texas Tech (2/18) and has shot 50 percent or better in four of its last six games and 12 times this season.
--Kansas has blocked five or more shots in 13 games this season, including a season-high 13 against Florida Atlantic (11/30). KU had 12 blocked shots against Long Beach State (12/6) and Texas A&M (1/23) and 10 versus Iowa State (1/14).
--After its 68-54 win at No. 6 Baylor (2/8), Kansas is 4-3 against ranked teams in 2011-12, 30-11 versus ranked foes since 2006-07 and 39-21 against ranked foes under Bill Self (since 2003-04).
--Kansas has 134 dunks to its opponents' 43 through 27 games. Thomas Robinson leads KU with 61 dunks, while Jeff Withey has 28.
--Junior THOMAS ROBINSON, who recorded his Big 12-leading 18th double-double of the season with 24 points and 14 rebounds against Oklahoma State (2/11), has been mentioned on many national player of the year lists. He has four double-doubles in his last six games and nine DDs in 14 conference games. Robinson, who is 43-of-71 (60.6 percent) from the field in his last six games, has nine 20-point efforts this season. A three-time Big 12 Player of the Week this season, Robinson had career highs with 30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota (12/31). It was the sixth 30-20 in Big 12 history and first at KU since 1961 (Wayne Hightower vs. Missouri). Robinson is the only player in the Big 12 Conference this season who is averaging a double-double with 17.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg. His 18 double-doubles, like his 11.7 rebounds per game, lead the Big 12 and both are second nationally. Robinson’s 17.7 points are third in the league and he ranks second in field goal percentage (54.8) and ninth in blocked shots (1.1).
--Senior TYSHAWN TAYLOR has three 20-point efforts in his last six games: 20 at Kansas State (2/13), 21 at Missouri (2/4) and 21 vs. Oklahoma (2/1). He had his first double-double of the season at ISU (1/28) with 16 points and 10 assists. Taylor scored a career-high 28 points in back-to-back games against Iowa State (1/14) and Baylor (1/16). Named Big 12 Player of the Week Jan 16, he is second on the team with 16.6 points per game and is scoring a team-best 17.9 ppg in Big 12 games. In all games, Taylor leads KU with 137 assists, 45 three-pointers made and a 43.3 three-point field goal percentage. Taylor’s 16.6 ppg average is fifth in the Big 12. Also in the league, he is fifth in field goal percentage at 47.6, tied for fourth in three-point field goal percentage at 43.3, tied for 11th in three-pointers made at 1.7, fourth in assists at 5.1 and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.4. Taylor underwent knee surgery on Dec. 11 but returned to start the Davidson contest on Dec. 19, when he scored 15 points and had seven assists.
--Junior JEFF WITHEY is averaging 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds for the season but in his last four games, he is averaging 17.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 5.8 blocked shots. In that span, he is shooting 63.6 percent (21-33) from the field and 80 percent (28-35) from the free throw line. Withey was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week and the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week after he scored a career-high 25 points at No. 6 Baylor (2/8) and had 18 points and a career-high 20 rebounds against Oklahoma State (2/11). Withey has scored in double figures in nine of his last 11 games, including four double-doubles. Withey leads the Big 12 with 3.4 blocked shots per game, which ranks seventh nationally. He has a Big 12-best 57 blocked shots in conference play (4.1 bpg average). Withey has multiple blocks in 11 of his last 14 games. His 6.6 rebound average, which is second best on the KU team, is eighth in the Big 12 while his 83.7 free throw percentage is seventh in the conference.
--Junior TRAVIS RELEFORD, the Big 12 Player of the Week on Jan. 9, has scored in double figures in two of his last three games and 14 times this season. He is fourth on the team in scoring with 9.1 ppg in all games and is scoring 10.0 ppg in Big 12 contests. Releford opened Big 12 play with his first career double-double, recording 16 points and 11 rebounds against Kansas State (1/4). Both were career highs at the time. He then scored 28 points at Oklahoma (1/7). A lockdown defender, Releford has 29 steals this season.
--Junior ELIJAH JOHNSON has 11 games with 10 or more points this season, including five of his last 11 contests. Johnson is second on the team with 42 three-pointers made and is the team leader with 42 steals. Johnson has started every game this season for KU and is second on the team in assists with 101. Johnson is eighth in the Big 12 in assists at 3.7, third in steals at 1.6, fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.8 and 15th in three-pointers made at 1.6.
--Senior CONNER TEAHAN scored 11 points against Texas Tech (2/18) which was his conference high. He has made 41 three-pointers, which is third most on the team. He is 7-for-15 (46.7 percent) from beyond the arc in his last five games, including 3-for-5 against Tech. Teahan scored a career-high 14 points versus LBSU (12/6) and has chipped in 13 points twice (at USC, 12/22 and vs. Howard, 12/29). He was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Second Team on Feb. 16.
--Junior KEVIN YOUNG scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Texas Tech (2/18). It marked the third time this season he has scored in double figures. He had seven points at Texas Tech (1/11) and again against Iowa State (1/14). He also pulled down seven rebounds at Texas Tech. Young's best performance of the season came against then-No. 2 Ohio State (12/10) with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He has pulled down four or more rebounds seven times this season. In 2011-12, Young is shooting 55.6 percent (35-for-63) from the field.
In the Polls
Kansas is ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press and No. 5 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls released Feb. 20. This is Kansas' seventh appearance in the Top 10 of either poll in 2011-12. KU has been ranked in each of the last 63 Associated Press polls dating back to the 2008-09 season. Included are 46 times when the Jayhawks have appeared in the AP Top 10. KU has been ranked in each of the last 64 coaches polls with 49 appearances in the Top 10. Kansas has faced six currently-ranked teams and is 4-3 against ranked foes (at tip) in 2011-12.
Robinson Looking to Join Elite
At 17.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg, junior F Thomas Robinson is vying to become the 12th player in school history to average a double-double in a season. He would accomplish the feat for the 16th time in school history, including the third in the Bill Self era. Robinson is also attempting to post only the third 12.0+ rebound season in KU history, joining Dave Robisch in 1970 (12.1 rpg), Wilt Chamberlain (17.5 rpg in 1958 and 18.9 rpg in 1957) and Clyde Lovellette (13.1 rpg in 1952). Jayhawks who have averaged a double-double in a season (rebounds started in 1950-51 and were started recording by the NCAA in 1955-56) include:
Cole Aldrich – 2009 (14.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg)
Wayne Simien – 2005 (20.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg)
Nick Collison – 2003 (18.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg)
Drew Gooden – 2002 (19.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg)
Raef LaFrentz – 1998 (19.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg)
Dave Robisch – 1971 (19.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg)
Dave Robisch – 1970 (26.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg)
Wayne Hightower – 1961 (20.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg)
Wayne Hightower – 1960 (21.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg)
Ron Loneski – 1959 (19.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg)
Wilt Chamberlain – 1958 (30.1 ppg, 17.5 rpg)
Wilt Chamberlain – 1957 (29.6 ppg, 18.9 rpg)
Lew Johnson – 1956 (10.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg)
Lew Johnson – 1955 (10.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg)
Clyde Lovellette – 1952 (28.6 ppg, 13.1 rpg)
Taylor To Join Elite Company
Senior Tyshawn Taylor continues to etch his name into the all-time Kansas career lists. A four-year starter, Kansas is 117-19 (86.0 percent) during Taylor's time in Lawrence with three Big 12 regular-season titles, two Big 12 Championship crowns and trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. His 115 all-time KU starts are 10th all-time. Statistically, against Duke, Taylor became the 54th player in school history to record 1,000 points. He currently sits 23rd with 1,382 points. He is eighth on the KU all-time assists list with 526. Taylor also ranks 18th with 153 career steals and his 38.8 percent career three-point percentage is 17th best at Kansas. Taylor is only the fourth player in KU history with the combination of at least 1,300 points, 500 assists and 150 steals in his career. He is in company with KU greats Darnell Valentine (1,821 points, 609 assists, 336 steals), Kirk Hinrich (1,753 points, 668 assists, 206 steals) and Adonis Jordan (1,373 points, 568 points, 181 steals) and when he reaches 1,400 career points, he will join only Valentine and Hinrich.
Kansas returns home to host Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. on CBS. The Jayhawks will then play at Oklahoma State on ESPN's Big Monday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. and return home for Senior Day against Texas on March 3 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.