Kansas-Texas A&M Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Kansas' chances at an eighth Big 12 title in a row are expected to be on the line this week.
Overlooking Texas A&M may damage the fourth-ranked Jayhawks' championship hopes earlier.
With their most important - and hyped - regular-season game looming, the Jayhawks look to remain focused and continue their dominance of the Aggies in their final conference visit to College Station on Wednesday night.
Kansas (22-5, 12-2) has four games left in the regular season and holds a slight edge in its pursuit of another conference title. The Jayhawks are atop the Big 12 standings by one-half game on No. 3 Missouri, and both teams have pulled away from the pack.
The Jayhawks lost 74-71 visiting the then-No. 4 Tigers on Feb. 4, giving up the game's final 11 points, but have since won four in a row.
The regular-season conference title is assured to either the Jayhawks or Tigers, and their matchup at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday will have a lot to do with determining that. It may also give one team an advantage in trying to claim a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Kansas, which has a game in hand in the race, gained an edge after Missouri fell 78-68 to Kansas State on Tuesday, but Jayhawks coach Bill Self would like to avoid a similar fate against the Aggies (13-13, 4-10).
"I don't know if I read into the overlooking or that kind of stuff," he said. "I do know this: We will not mention Missouri except to tell them that we won't mention Missouri until after the game Wednesday, and then we can talk about it all they want to."
Despite winning 17 of 18 all-time meetings with Texas A&M, Kansas survived a mild scare in the latest matchup at home Jan. 23. The Jayhawks trailed at halftime, but Thomas Robinson's 18 points and 10 rebounds and Tyshawn Taylor's 17 points led to a 64-54 victory.
"We understand every game is important to win the championship. Every game matters to win the Big 12," Taylor said. "You can't play one team, beat them and you win. You have to hold serve at home, you have to get some on the road, and just play hard every night."
Kansas cruised to an 83-50 rout of Texas Tech on Saturday, shooting 56.3 percent from the floor - 9 for 15 from beyond the arc.
Robinson is third in the Big 12 with 17.7 points per game, while leading at 11.8 rebounds, and should be well-rested heading into this visit to Reed Arena since Self emptied his bench in the romp of the Red Raiders. The junior forward had 16 points, eight boards and five assists in 24 minutes Saturday.
The Aggies have lost 10 in a row to ranked opponents, and all six meetings this season following Saturday's 71-62 defeat to Missouri.
"You're playing two great teams back-to-back," coach Billy Kennedy said. "We competed well at Kansas. They've been great on the road.We'll have to play very well here to give ourselves a chance, but we've been playing well at home."
The Aggies have dropped three in a row at College Station for the first time since an eight-game skid from Jan. 17-Feb. 28, 2004.
Forward Khris Middleton is looking to build on his 15 points against the Tigers, but Texas A&M could use some improvement from Elston Turner. The junior guard made 2 of 10 shots to finish with seven points Saturday. He had a career-high 24 against the Jayhawks last month.
Texas A&M will leave the Big 12 for the SEC next season.
Updated February 21, 2012