No. 2 Texas prepares for Thursday’s top-10 showdown with No. 7 Creighton in Moody

Matthew Caldwell, Sports Desk Editor

Texas men’s basketball has reached its highest ranking since 2010, coming in at No. 2 in the latest AP rankings, right behind Houston.

The Longhorns are still undefeated after taking down then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16, but they will face a new set of challenges in their next two games against No. 7 Creighton on Thursday and No. 16 Illinois on Tuesday.

This week’s matchup with Creighton marks just the second time the two schools have met with the Bluejays winning the previous meeting in 1974. The matchup will also be the first top-10 showdown in the new Moody Center since Texas was No. 11 when the Longhorns took down the Bulldogs.

Creighton head coach Greg McDermott has spent 12 seasons in Omaha, Nebraska coaching the Bluejays and has consistently led a solid squad. This year, however, the team has true championship aspirations with the program’s highest ever ranking in the AP Poll at No. 7.

“Coach McDermott’s been doing this for a long time,” Texas head coach Chris Beard said on Tuesday. “His teams are explosive offensively. … They put a lot of pressure on you defensively. … It’s gonna be a challenging game.”

The Bluejays have notched a pair of ranked wins so far this season, both coming in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational in Hawaii. Both were thrilling games that came down to the wire, but Creighton ultimately handed No. 21 Texas Tech and No. 9 Arkansas losses before losing to No. 14 Arizona in the final of the early-season tournament.

Both the Longhorns’ and Bluejays’ rosters look much different from last year thanks to the transfer portal. Texas brought in transfers like sophomore guard Tyrese Hunter and graduate student guard Sir’Jabari Rice, while Creighton brought in senior guard Baylor Scheierman who currently averages 12 points per game.

The Bluejays leading scorer, however, is junior Ryan Kalkbrenner, who comes in averaging 16.1 points per game this season. The 7-foot-1 center has Beard’s attention.

“He does a lot of things for their team on offense and defense,” Beard said. “I always enjoy competing against great players.”

Senior forwards Dylan Disu and Christian Bishop will certainly have their hands full guarding Kalkbrenner. The former comes off arguably his best game of the young season after filling up the stat sheet. Disu tallied 6 points, four assists, three steals and 10 rebounds in Texas’ win over UTRGV in Gregory Gym.

Texas and Creighton will feature talented players all over the floor, including Disu, Bishop, Kalkbrenner, Scheierman and graduate student Marcus Carr.

“I think Texas vs. Creighton is going to be a special game,” Beard said. “We look forward to the opportunity to compete against who we think is one of the best teams in college basketball.”