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.
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