Texas will get its fourth crack at putting back-to-back conference wins on the board this season when No. 13 Kansas State comes to Austin Saturday night (7 p.m., LHN).
Will Texas fare better against K-State with Myck Kabongo on the floor?
The Longhorns took care of business during the week with a win at doormat TCU, but now things get a lot tougher. Beginning with K-State, Texas' next four opponents - KSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor - all rank in the top 60 in the RPI.
Texas (12-14, 4-9 Big 12) is 2-1 since the return of Myck Kabongo, but the Horns haven't been vastly improved with their sophomore point guard back in the lineup. It took a last-second three to force overtime in an eventual win against Iowa State, and Texas was up only five with two minutes to go on a TCU team that's won just one conference game. There was also that 26-point beatdown in Lawrence last weekend.
That said, Texas' realistic goals haven't changed over the last three games. The Horns still don't have a chance to do anything in the regular season to assure themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They still need to use these last games essentially as a preseason as their only hope for meaningful March basketball is a run through the conference tournament in Kansas City.
Win or lose over the final five games of the season, Texas just needs to be focused on what it can do to give itself a chance to win four games in four days starting March 13.
"This is about us trying to get better at what we do," Rick Barnes said on Friday.
Quick Look at No. 13 Kansas State
Kansas State (21-5, 10-3 Big 12) comes into tonight's contest tied with Kansas atop the Big 12 standings.
First-year KSU head coach Bruce Weber inherited a guard-heavy lineup from Frank Martin and has done a very good job of getting those players to all pull in the same direction and keep the Wildcats not only relevant, but in serious contention for the Big 12 regular-season crown.
"He's got a group of guys that have been around," Barnes said of Weber. "They're older, they're a little wiser and they've really bought in to what he wants, and they're doing it."
The Longhorns will be without Cameron Ridley tonight due to an eye injury, a perfect game for the center to miss against K-State's guard-heavy lineup.
Kansas State' top four scorers are all guards, and there is only one forward - Thomas Gipson - among the top seven Wildcats in minutes played.
The player to watch remains Rodney McGruder. The senior guard is sixth in the Big 12 with 14.8 points per game. Though he only scored seven in the K-State's 26-point win over Texas in late January, he's the kind of player that can drop 20 in a flurry.
Point guard Angel Rodriguez is also dangerous as he averages over five assists and ten point per game.
The last time these two teams met, in Texas' first real test after Jonathan Holmes was injured against Oklahoma, Gipson killed the Horns inside with 17 points and seven rebounds. Even with Ridley out, Holmes being back in the lineup should help the Horns contain what little inside presence the Wildcats have.
G Rodney McGruder, 6-4, Sr. (14.8 pts (44.1% FG, 34.3% 3s), 5.3 reb, 2.0 ast)
G Angel Rodriguez, 5-11, So. (10.7 pts (36.1%, 31.8% 3s), 5.1 ast)
G Will Spradling, 6-2, Jr. (8.7 pts (40.6%, 37.0% 3s), 2.8 reb, 2.6 ast)
G Shane Southwell, 6-6, Jr. (8.1 pts (44.9%, 45.0% 3s), 3.7 reb, 2.5 ast)
F Jordan Henriquez, 6-11, Sr. (4.7 pts, 4.6 reb, 2.0 blk)
F Thomas Gipson, 6-7, So. (7.6 pts (49.0% FG), 5.3 reb)
G Martavious Irving, 6-1, Sr. (4.5 pts, 2.2 ast)
F Nino Williams, 6-5, So. (4.9 pts, 3.6 reb)
F Adrian Diaz, 6-10, So. (3.1 pts, 1.9 reb)
F D.J. Jonnson, 6-8, Fr. (2.4 pts, 2.8 reb)
G Omari Lawrence, 6-3, Jr. (2.5 pts, 1.6 reb)