Monday, January 31
National signing day approaches
We'll find out on Wednesday, national signing day, where everyone is headed. In the end, Texas will have a plethora of fresh talent heading to Austin, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that Mack lands a couple of these elite players who are the subject of so many rumors.
Aldridge has tear in hip
With Saturday's blowout loss to Kansas, the grim reality for the Horns is that this group of guys is limited and doesn't have much of a chance to make a deep tourney run. While that's no reason not to remain excited about the rest of the year, the Horns now clearly look like they're a year away. Now can someone please make sure that P.J. is going to class?
Kansas 90 Texas 65
It's time to regroup, ideally reload, and look forward. Texas doesn't play again until Saturday when a mediocre, Iowa St team visits Austin. A week off could not come at a better time. Gibson and Taylor need to work on taking care of the basketball. Paulino and Harris need to get healthy. Buckman and Klotz need to find and fine tune their low post games. And maybe most importantly for this team's March success, Williams and Dowell need to find their offensive games. Williams was a McDonald's All American last year in Alabama. Athleticism can take you far in high school basketball, but there have to be some raw offensive moves there somewhere. Dowell, although not McDonald's material, was no slacker either. We can not play seven deep come March. He must develop on both ends of the floor and harness his athleticism into basketball talent.
It doesn't look like we are reloading anytime soon. The rumors in Austin are Aldridge is out with a serious hip injury that will sideline him until the fall. I have heard nothing official to confirm that, but we also aren't hearing that he could be back in one week, two weeks, a month, etc.
So we have to look forward and play with the pieces we have. The next five games, Iowa St, at Colorado, Kansas St, the Ags and at Baylor are all winnable. We must get offensive production from more than one big man and Gibson and must continue to play our 2-3 zone with periodic man to man pressure. If we can do those things and play tough while staying out of foul trouble, we should be able to get through the next three weeks okay.
Andrew has done a nice job summarizing this weekend’s mismatch, so I’ll take this space to share my personal experience of the game. First of all, if any of you are thinking about coming up to Washington, D.C., you really ought to. I had the pleasure of watching the game with Wells Person and his wife, err… girlfriend, at their gorgeous home in Northeast D.C. Both he and I have lots of extra room in our homes, so if you guys are looking for an excuse to visit Washington, you definitely have a place to stay. (He also makes some ridiculously good stuffed mushrooms. I don’t even like mushrooms and I inhaled his.)
My girlfriend and I got over to Wells’ in time for the 7:30 Georgetown-Boston College game. We were hoping for the double upset whammy – Georgetown hands BC its first loss of the year and then the Horns devour Kansas on the road. We were sorely disappointed.
Georgetown scored four points in the first minute and a half, then didn’t score another point for ten minutes. BC never managed to blow out Georgetown, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Jeff Green, Georgetown’s super freshman, who I’ve touted on this blog, looked lost and was absolutely manhandled by BC’s Craig Smith.
The Georgetown debacle ended just in time for the Texas game, which was interesting for about five minutes, at which point it became painfully obvious that we were grossly overmatched. Nevermind the fact that Kansas looked extraordinarily sharp. Texas looked like a JV squad, turning the ball over, allowing Kansas to get to the rim at will, and struggling to get quality shots on offense.
I entered Saturday night hoping to see both of my teams play brilliantly against higher ranked teams. Both of my teams had their core weaknesses exposed, while the better teams capitalized on those weaknesses and played like conference champions. If not for the great food, company, and libation, it would have been a lousy Saturday night. As it was, things turned out quite well. Thanks, Wells.
Thursday, January 27
Change your bookmark
Thanks to all who are reading, especially those of you who are joining in with comments.
About this blog
This is a participatory blog and readers are encouraged to join the discussion by adding comments (found at the bottom of each posting) or, if they have a take they'd like posted on the main page, to email their commentary to the authors.
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In September of 2005 Travis Richmond joined the ATL family and is now a regular co-author with Peter and Andrew.
We hope you enjoy this blog and visit frequently. Hook 'Em
Peter, Andrew, and Travis
I hate Mike Brey
On a roll
Rick Barnes said Williams reminds of him of James Thomas—oriented exclusively toward rebounding and defense. While that wasn’t such a bad idea for Stone Hands Thomas, this year’s Horns need Williams to try to contribute more on offense when he’s on the floor. With our now depleted front court needing all the help it can get, it’s time for Williams to understand that he’s got to look for opportunities to score when he’s out there.
Wednesday, January 26
Texas 80 Texas Tech 73
This is a terrific win, for a number of reasons. To begin with, Texas Tech, while not the most talented team in the league, can be a very tricky team to beat if you don’t bring your A-game. They’re offensively efficient, and aggressive and physical in their defense. Texas did a great job of working the ball inside and then finding the open shooter if things got clogged inside. Gibson hit all six of his three point attempts, while Paulino hit three out of four.
Yesterday I predicted that Barnes would get this group together and we’d win. (I also predicted a 77-71 final score; not bad, if I may brag a bit.) I have to admit, I was nervous, though. Losing two impact forwards like Tucker and Aldridge would sink some teams. Throw in the fact that three of the eight players in our rotation are freshmen, including the point guard, and there’s plenty of cause for concern.
But Daniel Gibson has shown that he’s clearly not an ordinary freshman. I distinctly remember during the preseason when Wiggins said, “Bean, he’s going to be special. He’s not only going to be the best rookie in the Big 12—he very well might be the best freshman in the country.” Clearly, Gibson is all he was hyped to be and, in my eyes, more. I knew how skilled he was, but his leadership and ability to dominate a game are beyond my initial expectations. Gibson said he was coming to Texas because of T.J. Ford. He also said that he intended to do what Ford could not—bring a national championship to Austin. Next year could be a very good one for Texas…
Lastly, since I’m talking about incredible freshmen: I dearly miss getting to see my Longhorns play in the Drum all the time, but I still need my fix of college hoops. I’ve been following the Georgetown Hoyas closely this year, for a number of reasons. They have a very, very interesting and young team, and are led by an absolute beast of a freshman, Jeff Green. Remember that name, kids—he’s already special and is just getting better. If you get the chance to watch him play, you’ll see what I mean. At a well-built 6’9” tall, he can step out and hit the three or pound you inside. He plays tenacious defense and is as good a pro prospect as I’ve seen up close in a while. (Thank you, Erin)
I love Bobby Knight. He is one of the best ever. He gets more out of his players than maybe any other coach. He has won conference titles, national titles, and is a Hall of Famer. But last night he had what can only be described as a Knight Moment. I watched the Tech game last night on television instead of attending because of a prior engagement. The Erwin Center looked full for the second game in a row. Hopefully, this trend will continue.
I watched in awe of our sharp shooting from the outside and was very pleased with the effort and the win. But I was even more shocked with Coach Knight after the game. While shaking Barnes hand, he began to berate him about something. This is far from the customary almost walk through handshake and the “Good game” sound bite. There may not be a coach who is easier to yell out than Coach Knight. Even minor sports fans know of his outbursts. And true sports fans remember the chair throwing incident, him head butting a player during a game, him “choking” a player during practice, him accosting a student who referred to him as Knight rather than Coach Knight at Indiana, and more recently him letting his frustrations boil over at the Texas Tech Athletic Director while shopping at the local grocery store.
Coach Knight was apparently offended by some verbal comments directed at him or at his players by UT students during the game. But the game was over? What was Barnes to do, chase the alleged hecklers up the stairs and put them in detention? Heckling is part of the game. I am proud that we have filled the Drum the last two games. I pray the fans continue to file in. Yes, fans do go over the line and some verbal abuse should be curtailed, but the post game handshake between two excellent basketball coaches is not the time or the place. Great game, amazing outside shooting, good teamwork, and a quintessential Knight moment. Can you really ask for anything else? I still love Coach Knight.
Tuesday, January 25
Early 2005 rankings
Preview: Texas vs Texas Tech
Longhorn fans, watch this game closely. Tonight’s game against Texas Tech (11-4) will tell us a lot about what this group can do for the rest of the year. It’s a game that, with Tucker and Aldridge, we could have easily won two weeks ago, but as things stand today, will be a real battle. This year’s Tech team doesn’t feature Andre Emmett (finally), but they have three players who average 13 points or more per game. They lead the Big 12 in scoring, averaging nearly 83 points per game. They are well-coached, disciplined, and demand a good performance from their opponent if you hope to beat them.
For Texas, it’s time to show that they can win with the remaining squad. I expect Knight to spend a lot of energy making life difficult for Gibson, perhaps using some trapping or full court pressure to disrupt his ability to control the floor. This means Taylor and Harris are going to have to do a good job of hitting their open looks and taking advantage of open space on the court.The Horns have been outrebounded in back to back games as well, which has to change if we expect to win. Wiggins was absolutely correct in his analysis of the weaknesses of our now-depleted front line, so it’s up to everyone on the floor to work hard for rebounds. Barnes has always impressed me with his ability to handle adversity and get wins when he needs them. Texas needs this one, and I expect them to pull it out, 77-71.
Monday, January 24
Gibson embraces new role
Oklahoma 64 Texas 60
This was a game Texas-con-Tucker could have won. Texas-sans-Tucker wasn’t good enough. This is probably going to be the story for the rest of the conference season, and I expect road wins against the Big 12’s top teams to be few and far between. Given the importance of road victories in RPI and tournament seeding, the loss of Tucker is magnified.
The bright spots for Texas were that Daniel Gibson was outstanding and the Horns nearly won the game. Oklahoma has won nine in a row and is terribly difficult to beat in Norman, but Texas was ahead by seven at one point and could have easily won the game with a bit more offense down the stretch. I thought we’d lose by 10 points or more, and a close loss in our first game without Tucker is at least a bit encouraging.
Nevertheless, it’s going to be a rocky road ahead for Texas, especially with Aldridge still out. The next road test is a trip to Lawrence to play Kansas, who will be fiery after getting blown out at Villanova on Saturday. It's hard to see the Horns leaving town with a win.
The Horns lost a tough one in Norman on Saturday, 64-60, but this one was lost when Tucker was declared ineligible and Aldridge went down at Nebraska. Texas is forced to now play with only eight legitimate players and one of those, Dowell, is available for very few minutes. This means the Horns now have one post sub, Williams, and one sub for the three backcourt positions, Paulino. We no longer have the luxury of really defending the low block and not worrying about fouls. Our lack of depth has forced Barnes to make adjustments. The obvious one is to play a 2-3 zone to protect Buckman and Klotz from foul trouble and force the opponent to beat you from the outside. Barnes loves man to man. He said he couldn't remember starting a game in a zone defense as the Horns did at home against Ok St. They followed Monday night's win by playing zone exclusively against the Sooners. And for the first 35 minutes it worked well. OU was ice cold from the outside and UT seemed like they might escape with a huge victory. But McKenzie and Lavender hit two threes in the final two minutes to put the Sooners ahead for good.
The 2-3 zone is a double edged sword though. Yes, it protected Buckman and Klotz and successfully forced OU to rely on the outside shot. OU shot a pitiful 6/28 from behind the arc. But the weakness of the 2-3 is on the defensive glass. OU out rebounded the Horns by 6 and took seventeen more shots from the floor. Even though the Sooners shot below 40%, they made just enough shots to win. Look for the Horns to continue to play almost exclusively zone until they get Aldridge back. And that may not happen until next season.
A tough loss but a positive effort. Hopefully, we can convince ourselves we are capable of winning without Tucker and Aldridge. I agree with Bean, road wins will be extremely difficult from here on. We must continue to win at home starting with Tuesday night against Texas Tech.
Friday, January 21
Tucker ineligible for remainder of season
Texas will now face the rest of the Big 12 season and the postseason without its best player, PJ Tucker. Tucker started the season slowly after moving to the small forward position and being forced to learn how to play facing the basket. And just when Tucker was starting to really come on strong, his season is done. The NCAA requires student athletes to gain credit for at least six course hours per semester. Apparently, Tucker failed his fall semester. There have been rumors of his impending suspension for days now but the truth is not any easier to take.
My first reaction is disappointment. Disappointment that a truly promising season seems to have taken a huge step backwards just when the Horns seemed to be rolling. We are three games into the conference season and the Horns already have a tough road win and a signature win against Oklahoma State (who I believe is the best team in the conference). My next reaction is confusion.
How could this happen? With all the tutoring available, with the tailor-made class schedules, and with the near endless oversight by Barnes and his assistants, how do you allow your best player, or any player, to become academically ineligible? I have said before, I think Barnes is the best coach at UT. He has excelled in all areas since becoming the Horns top man: Big 12 regular season titles, three straight Sweet 16 appearances, and stellar recruiting. But how do you let this happen?
My final reaction is to look forward. What will the rest of the season hold? With Aldridge out indefinitely, Texas is now without two starters. Assuming Lamarcus doesn't return soon, we will likely start Gibson and Taylor, Harris on the wing, and Buckman and Klotz down low. Bench help in the backcourt from Paulino, on the wing with Dowell, and down low from Mike Williams. The deepest team in the country doesn't seem so formidable anymore. That is not to say the season is lost. Lamarcus could return soon. Klotz has shown brilliance both last year and this year in Maui.
Buckman is a load down low when he stays out of foul trouble and Williams will hopefully blossom with more minutes. Dowell is finally healthy and was another part of the nation's best recruiting class. Taylor and Harris can knock down any open look and Paulino is still said to be the team's best shooter. But my analysis leads back to Gibson. If he is able to play like he did against Ok St, especially in the first half, this team will be fine. But if his freshman learning curve is stunted and he resorts to matching assists with turnovers, this team will struggle.
Every game in the Big 12 is tough--home and away. The schedule does allow the Horns some time to gel once again. Yes we play at Oklahoma and at Kansas in the next two weeks, but the other four of our next six are at home. And we don't get OSU or OU again until the last two games of the season. All is not lost with Tucker gone and Aldridge down, but we will find out quickly how much character this team really has. Hook Em.
This is shocking, indeed. I share the same disappointment and befuddlement that Andrew does. How in God's name does something like this even happen? I'm dumbfounded that Barnes and his assistants didn't prevent this, and shaking my head in disappointment with Tucker for being so Oklahoman (I can use that as an adjective, can't I?).
Texas is clearly worse on the court for this. Tucker is our go-to scorer and emotional leader. He provides energy and creates havoc around the rim. While this is still a team with plenty of talent that should make the tourney, the prognosis is a lot less bright than it was just a few days ago.
Tuesday, January 18
Syracuse, Robinson hire Applewhite
Everyone loves Major, so it's sad to see him go, but something tells me he'll be back. There may be some outcry that Brown let him go, but this makes sense, really. Major can be given more responsibility and room to learn at Syracuse than he can at Texas, so why not let him go for a few years? After he gets his feet wet as a quarterbacks coach, I'm certain he'll be an offensive coordinator somewhere. And then when Mack decides to call it a career and retire, who will be primed to be UT's most popular head coach hire ever? Major...
He'll be back.
Texas steals Auburn Defensive Coordinator
This is a real feather in Mack Brown's cap. For all the criticism he endures for his struggles in big games, he has built a monster of a program. When you can steal away a top SEC team's defensive coordinator, not to be your head coach, but to be your own defensive coordinator, you've really got something special going.
The disappointment over the loss of Greg Robinson, who was hired to be Syracuse’s head coach, immediately dissipates for Horns fans. Chizik is not only Robinson’s equal; he is, in many minds, superior. Texas fans now only have to wonder if Greg Davis can ever figure out how to score against Oklahoma. If so, Texas could finally find itself with a chance to play for the national championship. Texas had never played in the Rose Bowl prior to this year. Why not make it two in a row?
Texas 75 Oklahoma State 61
Texas closed the half on a 15-2 run to take a 12 point lead into the break. The Cowboys stormed out of the second half with hot shooting and stifling defense to pull within three points, but Texas went on another run, scoring 10 straight points and never looking back.
The big story here is the dominant performance by Gibson. The loss to Texas A&M (in which he missed 10 of 11 shots), in conjunction with his first half shooting struggles against Nebraska, clearly forced Gibson to alter his approach to the game. Where he had been too willing to settle for outside jump shots, forgoing attacks to the basket, Gibson has learned to penetrate forcefully, which gives him better opportunities to use his athleticism and quickness to score and opens up the floor for his teammates. T.J. Ford was so dominant a point guard not because of his outside shooting (which was average) but because he could break down the opposing defense with his penetration. Gibson is not as quick or as good a passer as Ford, but he’s a better scorer and shooter. This new development in his game makes him a far more complete and dangerous player.
There are some concerns for this team, despite the tremendous victory. Aldridge did not play and is out indefinitely, while P.J. Tucker may have failed himself off the floor for the remainder of the season. Due to privacy laws, the university will not be able to announce Tucker’s status until later today. Losing Tucker for the season would be devastating. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that he’s in this situation. I’m hoping for the best, but I don’t know how a rumor like this even gets started if there isn’t something to it. My best guess is that Tucker is out for the year. Texas can still be a good team without Tucker, but it has no chance of making any kind of serious postseason run without him. Keep your fingers crossed…
I went to the game last night at the Erwin Center. The atmosphere was perfect. I don't know if it translated to television, (the Drum has a tendency to look cavernous), but the fans were out of their seats, the students were excited, and the players were loving it. This was a signature win for this year's squad. We missed an opportunity to play UNC in Maui and came up just short at Wake Forest. Unless we beat Kansas on the road or make a serious run in March, this will be the best team we play and beat this year. OSU went to the Final Four last year and returned everyone except Tony Allen. This is an experienced, well coached, and extremely talented team. But last night we were the better team.
I couldn't be prouder to be a Longhorn fan. I only hope that this wasn't the climax of our season though. I have a bad feeling. Aldridge watched the game from the bench on crutches, rarely even standing up. PJ played one of his best halves in two years. Gibson dominated the first half with drives to the bucket and streaky outside shooting, but it was Tucker who drove us home. Barnes made a conscious effort to get PJ the ball in the second half by benching struggling Buckman and allowing Tucker to play power forward on the low block, where he is still most comfortable. PJ had 15 points, all in the second half and accounted for countless other buckets through assists and activity around the basket. I hope once again that was not his swan song for the season. We need Tucker and Aldridge to compete with the top tier teams in the Big 12 and to hopefully make a run at our fourth straight Sweet 16 performance.
Texas 63 Nebraska 53
A warm welcome back to Andrew, who has been on vacation...
Texas found a way to win in chilly Lincoln, 63-53. The Horns started as cold as the air in central Nebraska. They were quickly down 11-0 and looked like the same cold shooting team from earlier in the week at College Station. Luckily for Texas, the Cornhuskers cooled off and the Horns outlasted them with timely second half scoring from Daniel Gibson.
I haven't seen Texas play the last few games because I was on vacation. I was impressed with the wins last week at home against UNLV, Memphis and Baylor, but then equally unimpressed with the loss against the Aggies. Bean and I have both written about the over-reliance on the outside jump shot, primarily from behind the arc. Texas was outhustled this afternoon, appeared to be outrebounded (ended up tied at 29), and largely outplayed save performances from Gibson and Aldridge. The most disappointing stat to me was 4/18 from three point land. Gibson went 0/4 and Harris, although scoring in double figures, went 2/8. If we don't get production from Klotz, Buckman, and Tucker on the inside and our outside shots don't fall, we will lose more than our fair share of Big 12 games, especially road ones.
Positives: Gibson went successfully to the basket in second half when his jumper was not falling and took over the game in the final ten minutes. Aldridge played brilliantly. This was his best game of the year. I remember seeing him run the floor clumsily in one of the pre season games and thinking to myself, how in the world did this guy think he was ready for the NBA? But he has become aggressive on both ends, rebounding and blocking shots, and has controlled the paint. Without these two freshman, Texas loses. Thank Coach Barnes for solid recruiting. Overall, an ugly victory, but a Big 12 road victory is huge, no matter what it looks like. This one could end up being very costly though. Aldridge left the game late in the second half with a not impact injury to his left knee. Let's hope for the best. We need him.
Aside, the fans in Lincoln were great. I don't know the exact attendance, but the fans were loud and engaged. The announcers mentioned that many ofthe students slept outside last night for front row tickets. That is not that unusual except the temperature in Lincoln was -17 last night. If they can do that for a basketball game in football haven, Nebraska, shouldn't we be able to do the same here in Austin? Looking forward to our toughest home game of the season against Oklahoma State on ESPN's Big Monday. I will be there. If you are in Austin, please join me. Tickets are still available.
Thursday, January 13
Please love me
More recruiting rumors
Filling Robinson's shoes
Texas A&M 74 Texas 63
Texas had its eight game winning streak snapped last night at the hands of the up and coming Aggies of Texas A&M, 74-63. The Aggies (12-1), whose only loss was by 5 points to #2 Kansas, got 24 points from point guard Acie Law and held the Horns to a lousy 32% shooting from the floor. P.J. Tucker led Texas in scoring with 18 points.
This is a disappointing loss—no doubt about it—but it’s not totally shocking. I’ve said before that while this team is going to get better and better and be at its best in March, it is a young team that will hit its bumps in the road in the brutal Big 12 conference play. In its first conference road game, this young team got beat solidly.
Freshman point guard Daniel Gibson was terrible, hitting only one of his eleven field goal attempts and managing one assist. Kenton Paulino wasn’t much better in relief, coughing up five turnovers. Jason Klotz went 1-for-9 from the field. It was a return to the early Rick Barnes era with ugly half court offense and long scoring droughts.
While Texas can and will improve from this loss, this serves as a reminder that its going to be a difficult year in the Big 12 and Texas is going to struggle to win on the road. Yesterday’s optimistic hope for a #3 or #4 seed looks a little bit too optimistic after tonight’s loss. It will be interesting to see how Texas rebounds from this game. Texas next hits the road to play Nebraska before preparing for a home match-up against a very talented, physical, and experienced Oklahoma State team.
Get your college hoops fix
And you really just have to see these photos. Go Steelers!!
Wednesday, January 12
One in a million
Tuesday, January 11
Syracuse hires Robinson
This is disappointing, but not devastating. There are so many great defensive minds out there and Texas is as attractive a school to come to as there is. Any defensive coordinator who has head coaching aspirations will be eager to join the Texas staff.
Now if we can just find some sucker to take Greg Davis...
ESPN's Joe Lunardi is projecting Texas at a #5 seed, which seems about right. This relatively young Horns team is going to have a few bumps in the road in the brutal Big 12 schedule, and it's going to be tough to get their RPI ranking up very high without beating Oklahoma State or Kansas.
Still, Texas is well positioned to be anwhere from a #3 to #7 seed in tourney. It will be imperative to not drop to the dreaded #8 or #9 seed and force themselves into a second round matchup with a #1 seed. That looks unlikely, at this point. It's more likely that this team will continue to improve and win more conference games than people expect, bumping their seed up to the #3 or #4. That may be optimistic, but as I've said over and over, this is a team with limitless upside.
Where are the fans??
"Alief Taylor's Martellus Bennett — the state's top high school football recruit and the top-rated tight end in the nation — has verbally committed to play for the University of Texas, two sources close to the Longhorns' program confirmed Monday.
Bennett, the No. 1 prospect on the Austin American-Statesman's Fabulous 55, informed Texas Coach Mack Brown of his commitment during a phone call after the Longhorns' victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Bennett promised Brown that he would help bring Texas back to Pasadena next season, this time to play in the national championship game, a source said.
Bennett, a 6-foot-7-inch, 237-pound tight end, caught 42 passes for 487 yards and six touchdowns in his senior season. He also registered more than 100 pancake blocks.
He is ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in the nation — and the No. 1 tight end — by Rivals100.com. College scouts have marveled at Bennett's combination of size, speed and agility.
Bennett picked the Longhorns over Texas A&M — where his older brother, Michael, attends — and the University of Miami. He originally committed to Miami, then de-committed. Bennett could not be reached for comment Monday.
Texas' starting tight end this past season, David Thomas, will be a senior in the fall.
Ryan Perrilloux, the highly touted quarterback from Reserve, La., who also has verbally committed to the Longhorns, said Monday that he is excited about the prospect of playing with Bennett.
Perrilloux and Bennett have been in San Antonio this week, practicing for Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a national high school all-star game. They will both play on the West squad Saturday.
One of the juicier rumors floating around recruiting circles is that the nation's top-rated wide receiver — Fred Rouse of Tallahassee, Fla. — will bolt the Sunshine State to join Perrilloux and Bennett at Texas. Rouse, who is considering Florida State and Texas among others, also is in San Antonio for the all-star game. He'll play on the East team, and Perrilloux said he hasn't seen much of the wideout.
"But we're (Perrilloux and Bennett) working on him," Perrilloux said."
Monday, January 10
Texas 79 Baylor 60
Texas used a barrage of 3-pointers to defeat the visiting Baylor Bears on Monday night, 79-60. Texas hit 11 shots from beyond the arc, including four from Daniel Gibson and five from Kenton Paulino. It marked the seventh time this year the Horns have hit at least ten 3’s in a single game. Baylor decided they weren’t going to let Texas pound them away inside and played a tight zone, challenging the Texas guards to shoot from outside and the Horns made Baylor pay.
This is why Texas is impressive this year—they have the ability to beat you inside or out. Taylor, Gibson, Harris, and Paulino can all hit the open jumper. In recent years’ past, teams were able to pack in a tight zone and watch as Texas struggled to hit the open long-range jump shot. This year’s team is full of quality shooters, which makes a tight zone defense strategy more problematic.
Equally impressive was freshman Lamarcus Aldridge, who scored 16 points and snagged 11 rebounds. Aldridge is improving rapidly and, according to Barnes, working diligently in practice on his game. The results are dramatic. Aldridge is quickly becoming a force on the inside and a problem for opposing defenses to match up with. Once he gets stronger and learns to control his body a little more, he’s going to be devilishly difficult to defend. The future is very bright for this young man, and for this Texas team.
Sunday, January 9
Texas 74 Memphis 67
Tuesday, January 4
Texas 89 UNLV 82
Tucker is not only back to his freshman form, but he appears to be even better. He’s still the quickest player to the rim in the country and he has an indomitable will to score. You really have to give Rick Barnes credit for finding this gem. Tucker was not highly recruited and he’s not even from Texas. That he’s here in Austin, and clearly the best player on the team, is a real notch on Barnes’ belt.
The only cause for concern here is Daniel Gibson's nine turnovers. There's no doubt that this Texas team is better than last year's and a big part of that is the presence of a true point guard. But Gibson is very much still a freshman but he's going to have to solidify his play during conference play if the Horns are going to be in peak shape for the tourney in March.
Texas now prepares for Dickie V madness and ESPN2’s debut of their hi-definition broadcast on Thursday night against Memphis. Here’s to hoping Horns fans show up in droves and make some noise.
Monday, January 3
Texas 38 Michigan 37
I’ve heard more than one person suggest that Texas would be best served with Young at wideout and someone else making the passes. After watching this game, I don’t know how that position is still tenable. I’ve been critical of Young’s passing before, and I still think he’s a below-average passer and his future in the NFL is at wide receiver (a la Hines Ward). Nevertheless, at the college level, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want this guy to touch the ball on every play. He may not beat you with a 300-yard passing performance, but he is a threat to score on every play, no matter where he is on the field.
Over in the NFL, people are equally critical of Michael Vick because he doesn’t throw like Peyton Manning. I’ve been equally skeptical, and it’s especially tempting because on some days Vick is just awful and the Falcons lose in the worst fashion. But the fact is that his unique athletic ability makes him the most dangerous player on the field every time he touches the ball. Defenses have to scheme specifically for the kind of threat he poses and even then, there’s only so much they can do. Vick may not be a great passer, but he’s a great player. It just so happens that it makes the most sense to play him at a position where most guys are immobile passing mechanics. That’s not his game, but it doesn’t mean we should think less of him. Quick: who’s the only player to quarterback his team to a playoff win at Lambeau Field? Yeah, Vick.
It’s time to say farewell to two Longhorns who will be remembered for a long time: Derrick Johnson and Cedric Benson. Vince Young stole the show in Pasadena, but the 2004 season belonged to these two stellar seniors. Without either of them, Texas never would have made it to the Rose Bowl.
Congratulations also go to Mack Brown for winning a big game. Michigan (nor any team in the Big 10, really) wasn’t a powerhouse this year, but this was undeniably a big game on a big stage against a strong opponent. I thought the offensive game plan for Michigan was pretty strong—keep Michigan’s mind on Benson while using Young’s athleticism in the open field. Brown was quoted in the LA Times in mid-December of saying that special teams worried him the most and that was indeed Texas’ biggest problem. The defense gave up 37 points, but part of that was the fact that Michigan was starting from midfield every possession. Congratulations to Brown on an 11-1 season and a BCS win. It really was a big victory for the Texas program.
And lastly, to all the Cal fans: fuck off.