I've got too many tables for a single preview post, so here's the breakdown: Part One: Team stats and Backcourts Part Two: Rush v. Tucker and Post players Part Three: Prediction
All stats will be from conference games only as the teams played significantly different non-conference schedules and I'm not near clever enough to adjust for quality of competition faced. (Nor am I clever enough to thoroughly cut-and-paste my introduction on the first try.) Stats glossary
Kansas has almost closed the efficiency gap with Texas. The Jayhawks are more reliant on their defense while the Longhorns have the best offense in the conference by a considerable margin.
There's not a lot of difference between the two teams in terms of field goal offense and defense or rebounding.
Texas has more of the possessions in their games end with a shot attempt than does Kansas. The Jayhawks and their opponents are more likely to turn the ball over.
It will be incumbent upon the Jayhawks to force Texas into more turnovers. An average Texas possession in conference play is worth 1.18 points to the Longhorns. Over a 67 possession game (Kansas plays at about 70 possessions a game; Texas plays at 64.), there's a difference of 3 turnovers between the turnover rate Kansas forces on average and the average rate at which Texas turns the ball over. That's three-and-a-half points the Jayhawks could gain on Saturday.
On the other hand, Texas will likely do a better job of keeping Kansas off the free throw line (their lack of depth forbids them from getting into foul trouble) than the typical conference opponent and could pick up an equal number of points versus the season averages.
Make no mistake, these are the two best backcourts in the Big 12.
Daniel Gibson and Mario Chalmers both have the ability to create their own shot.Gibson is more likely to find space for himself beyond the arc (two-thirds of his field goal attempts in conference play are three-pointers), while Chalmers shoots many more two-point shots and free throws.
Russell Robinson is a poor three-point shooter who also struggles to finish in the paint. He almost makes up for his poor field goal shooting with his excellent ability to get to the free throw line.
Kenton Paulino has taken full advantage of the attention his teammates have drawn this year, as well as the passing skills of Tucker and Buckman. I think he's an all-conference candidate, but he'll undoubtedly trail inefficient, volume scorers like Curtis Stinson and Terrell Everett in the voting.
Hawkins and Abrams are both good back up guards who rarely hurt their teams and, on a good night, knock down a couple of jump shots to provide some active help.
Robinson and Chalmers do more damage at the line than Gibson and Paulino. Robinson and Chalmers do more damage at the line more than PJ Tucker. Robinson and Chalmers do more damage at the line more than Brad Buckman. Robinson and Chalmers do more damage at the line more often than LaMarcus Aldridge. Robinson and Chalmers do a lot of damage at the line.
Texas doesn't typically allow that many free throw attempts, but they've been allowing more as the conference season has progressed.
Robinson and Gibson boost their value a bit by helping out on the boards. None of the other guards in this game typically do more or less rebounding than is expected of perimeter players.
The above numbers are more variable than the scoring or rebounding numbers. I think that has more to do with the systems the players play in than their relative abilities.
Kansas, as a team, assists on 64% percent of their field goals. Texas, as a team, assists on 56% of their field goals.
The Kansas guards turn the ball over more often than the Texas guards, but they play at a much faster pace (70.5 possessions per game vs. 64). The Kansas guards also create more turnovers than the Texas guards, but the Kansas guards play man-to-man almost exclusively while the Texas guards usually play as part of a 2-3 zone.
Kansas wins the backcourt matchup if
1) Robinson and Hawkins knock down their open three-point opportunities.
2) Robinson and Chalmers get to the free throw line.
3) The Jayhawk guards play the high quality defense which has stymied every guard in the conference (save Thomas Gardner in Columbia).
Texas wins the backcourt matchup if
1) Paulino, Gibson, and Abrams don't turn the ball over against the Kansas pressure.
2) Ball movement creates open three-point opportunities for Paulino.
3) Gibson is, on this night, a better offensive player than Robinson and/or Chalmers are defensive players.