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1/21/2014 12:00:00 AM
The Kansas State Wildcats are 14-4 and ranked 22nd on the AP Poll, and yet they find themselves underdogs as they visit the unranked Texas Longhorns on Tuesday.
The ranked road team could be running into a buzzsaw when it takes an unranked favorite on Tuesday night when those Kansas State Wildcats (14-4, 1-1 away) pay a visit to the Texas Longhorns (14-4, 10-2 home) at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, TX at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Texas as a home favorite for this contest with the current line at -5 with odds of -111.
Despite their rankings in the polls, these teams actually have identical 14-4 records and are very close on the Pomeroy Ratings, where Kansas State is ranked 40th and Texas ranks 44th. Add in what happened the last time the Wildcats played on the road where they were embarrassed 86-60 by Kansas and this line is really not as surprising as at first glance.
The Longhorns are a much improved team from a season ago when they finished with a losing 16-18 record, as they are already just two wins away from matching that total win output. Furthermore Texas has does this vs. a nice schedule that is ranked 43rd in SOS according to Pomeroy. Comparatively, Kansas State has faced an SOS ranked 115th.
Something else that stands out about the Wildcats is that while they are 10-1 at home this season with the loss coming opening night to Northern Colorado, the loss to Kansas was only their second true road game all season, with the other won being a win over a TCU team that is 0-5 in Big 12 play and ranked 210th overall on Pomeroy. Thus, this team has yet to prove itself vs. good competition away from Manhattan.
Also, while both of these teams grade out well defensively with Kansas State ranking an excellent 12th in the country in defensive efficiency and Texas ranking a very good 37th, it may actually be the Wildcats that have the tougher time scoring tonight with an offense that ranks just 146th in efficiency. Kansas State has been especially bad from beyond the three-point arc at 31.9 percent, which would make it harder to come back if Texas races out to a lead at home.
The Longhorns do not exactly shoot lights-out either, but they still rank considerably better than the Wildcats in offensive efficiency at 73rd, and they have proven themselves vs. stiff competition by beating two ranked teams already including then eighth ranked Iowa State 86-76 on Saturday. Furthermore, facing the likes of Michigan State and North Carolina during non-conference play has prepared Texas well for their Big 12 schedule.
Yes, Texas is extremely young while not having a single senior on its active roster, but this team has matured quickly due to the tough schedule and the four losses the Longhorns do have this season all came vs. teams ranked in the Pomeroy Top 50 including fifth ranked Michigan State and 11th ranked Oklahoma State. Kansas State playing on the road may actually be an easier assignment.
Taking all of this into consideration, look for Texas to make a push to enter the national polls with its second straight safe home win over a currently ranked team on Tuesday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Texas -5 (-111)