Kansas prepares to face Longhorns

All year long there have been two questions looming over this Texas team before they visit Lawrence on Saturday:

How bad are the Longhorns?

How much better does Myck Kabongo make them?

The Texas team that will take James Naismith Court this weekend won’t be like the squad Kansas faced in Austin a month ago. This time, the Jayhawks will have to prepare for a versatile point guard that is capable of changing the makeup of the Longhorns.

TRAVIS YOUNG/KANSAN Freshman guard Naadir Tharpe looks for an open player while being defended by Texas freshman guard Myck Kabongo during the first half of the game. Kansas won against Texas 73-63.

TRAVIS YOUNG/KANSAN
Freshman guard Naadir Tharpe looks for an open player while being defended by Texas freshman guard Myck Kabongo during the first half of the game. Kansas won against Texas 73-63.

Kabongo adds speed, court-vision and a basketball IQ that takes the Texas offense to a much more dangerous level.

And now that Kabongo’s  23-game NCAA suspension for receiving — and lying about — impermissible benefits has been lifted, Kansas will be playing a rejuvenated and retooled group of Longhorns.

At least that’s what the idea is. There are still those who believe Texas’ chances won’t improve even with the sophomore’s return.

“The Myck Kabongo returning to Texas situation is overrated,” said ESPN Big 12 writer Jason King. “I think it’s being overplayed. I don’t think Myck Kabongo would have a made a huge difference for that team this season.”

Just don’t tell that to the Longhorns. In Kabongo’s first game back Wednesday night versus Iowa State, the reinstated guard had 13 points, seven assists and grabbed four rebounds. You could chalk it up to an emotional return, but considering the amount of coverage Texas will be getting on Saturday with ESPN College Gameday coming to town, he’ll likely still be motivated to prove himself.

But King’s argument isn’t that the Jayhawks shouldn’t worry about Kabongo, rather that Texas’ problems this season extend beyond the play of its point guard.

The Longhorns are second to last in the conference in the free throw percentage, last in rebounding defense and last in turnover margin.

A point guard can solve a lot of problems, but not all of them.

“He’s a good player,” King said of Kabongo. “But not an All-Star. He had a mediocre season as a freshman and I think it’s just an excuse Texas is using for a bad season.”

Yet Kansas coach Bill Self doesn’t seem to be taking Kabongo’s return lightly. He too calls Kabongo’s return dangerous for the Jayhawks.

That’s probably overstated.

In two games against the Jayhawks last year, Kabongo went 1-11 from the field with eight assists and four rebounds. Not exactly a game-changing stat line.

As King puts it, Texas has a lot of nice players, and a lot of role players but no studs. Which is quite a change for a program that’s recently produced NBA talents like Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson.

It’s not just all about production when it comes to Kabongo, however. It’s about the dynamic he brings to the Longhorns.

“We don’t have rhythm,” Texas head coach Rick Barnes said after Texas fell to Oklahoma State last Saturday. “We don’t have anything going. I realize some of it is because Myck plays point differently. All year long, we have tried to get consistency and we haven’t.”

There’s no doubt that Texas and its fans expect that consistency to return with Kabongo.

Even Barnes sets the bar high for the sophomore who King says has yet to reach elite status.

When he was asked to answer the two looming questions Barnes joked with reporters.

“I think we’d be 23-0,” Barnes scoffed. “Number one in the country.”

Reporting contributed by Ryan McCarthy.

Blake is a senior from Chicago, Ill., studying journalism on the news and information track. Read more from .

  • Updated Feb. 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm