K-State vs. Texas pregame

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Junior guard Justin Edwards goes for a layup in the first half of the Wildcats' 57-68 loss to the #9-ranked Jayhawks in the first installment of the Sunflower Showdown on Jan. 31, 2015, in Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

K-State hasn’t been doing all that good as of late. Thankfully for the Wildcats, neither has Texas.

Whereas K-State has dropped three-straight games and dealing with suspensions, Texas – preseason favorites to challenge Kansas at the top of the Big 12 conference – have lost four-straight games and are positioned eighth in the standings.

The two meet Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum looking to rectify their recent forms. Here’s how the two teams matchup and who has the advantage where:

Front court: Texas

The Longhorns’ season may not quite be as they envisioned it, but their post play certainly has. Three of Texas’ top-five scorers are forwards. The trio includes a senior, freshman and junior — all big bodies who are able to score inside and grab rebounds.

K-State is a smaller team inside, even with Stephen Hurt and Brandon Bolden in the mix. The Wildcats have struggled to adequately get the ball down low and attack the rim against taller opposition. Texas will be the toughest foe in this regard, so expect the Longhorns to have a clear advantage in the front court Saturday.

Back court: Texas

The back court was a toss up before Wednesday’s announcement that Marcus Foster and Malek Harris were suspended for violating team rules. Without Foster, K-State is lost offensively. Wildcats head coach Bruce Weber doesn’t seem all that optimistic that Foster will be available Saturday, which doesn’t bode well for K-State’s chances.

Texas hasn’t been superb in the front court this season, but sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor and junior guard Javan Felix have been a solid duo averaging 13.8 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.

Even with Foster, K-State’s attention to the big men down low should leave Longhorn shooters open all afternoon. That’s a clear advantage for the visitors from Austin.

K-State X-Factor: Nino Williams

K-State often succeeds against taller teams because Nino Williams has the ability to pull defenders out of the paint with his deadly 10- to 15-foot shot. Unfortunately for K-State, Williams has struggled since injuring his knee against West Virginia last week. That has allowed teams to sag off a bit and key in on senior forward Thomas Gipson.

If K-State hopes to knock off Texas Saturday, Williams will need to return to form and have himself another big day, especially if Foster and Harris remain suspended. If he’s able to hit a few mid-range shots early on, Texas will be forced to step out of the paint, which should free up Gipson down low for some easy looks.

Texas X-Factor: Demarcus Holland

Demarcus Holland’s junior campaign has been good, even great at times. Holland is averaging 7.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Quality production from a player who isn’t in the limelight.

The problem is, Holland has disappeared several times this season.

Against Oklahoma State Wednesday, Holland went 4-4 from behind the arc to compliment his 14 points. In the five games prior, Holland averaged just 3.8 points per game.

Texas has the tools inside to get the job done. It will need its full compliment of players playing at their best, however, around the perimeter to down K-State on the road. That includes Holland.

Matchup to watch: Thomas Gipson vs. Cameron Ridley

The height advantage goes to Ridley, but the physique advantage is all Gipson. This one could be like watching two rocks attempting to move each other, but that’s all the fun, isn’t it?

Tate Steinlage is a junior in mass communications.

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