until Texas vs Kansas

Wednesday, March 16


Texas vs Nevada Preview

Texas gets a tough first round draw in WAC champion Nevada, who some of you may remember from a year ago, when they made a nice run to the Sweet 16 before falling to national runner-up Georgia Tech.

This year's Nevada team is every bit as good as last year's, the only difference being that this year, everyone knows it. They feature a 6'11" center named Nick Fazekas who averaged (gulp) 21 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. He's kind of a skinny guy, but he has great moves around the basket, a soft touch with the ball, and an agressive attitude about scoring. Forwards Buckman and Klotz will have their hands full, and Texas will have to be strategic about how it handles him inside.

Texas can't afford to be too agressive with Fazekas and get into early foul trouble. If Buckman, in particular, is forced off the floor early, the Horns are in big, big trouble. Barnes has several strategic options here. One is to play a packed in zone and make the Wolfpack score from the perimeter. At least on paper, this doesn't look like a bad strategy. Nevada shot a miserable 27% from beyond the arc this year. Texas has had some success with the zone this year--this looks like an opponent that might struggle to scroe against it.

The other option is to concede the 20-25 points to Fazekas and try to smother everyone else in man-to-man. Nevada is a physical team that likes to score inside and beat you on the boards. The primary weakness of a zone defense is that you give up a lot of offensive rebounds, so Texas could potentially be better off playing man to man and trying to control the glass, as we usually do.

In evaluating the two strategies, though, I think we have to go with a zone defense. We're too thin to play man-to-man and risk foul trouble, and rebounding is more about a commitment to working hard for position than anything else. I think Barnes would be wise to stick with the zone we've been forced to play (and gotten better at playing), try to frustrate Fazekas inside, and send five guys to the defensive boards every time. If the guards for Nevada have a sensational night and burn us with deep three pointers, what can you do?

Offensively, it will be imperative that the Horns get some fast break points, as our offense can really get bogged down at times in the half court. We'll need to do a good job of getting the ball inside to Buckman and Klotz, who are most efficient scorers. For Gibson, he needs to use his penetration to free up others to shoot, rather than spend a lot of time looking for his outside shot on the perimeter. Gibson is best when he's driving to the lane, drawing fouls, creating passing lanes, and getting others involved.

Nevada wants the game to be a brutal, half-court affair where they can use their size and strength to wear their opponent down. Texas can certainly play that game, and is less vulnerable to banging teams than teams with strong guard play, but still, the Horns will be better off if they can get the tempo of the game up a bit. The higher scoring this game goes, the better chance we have to win.

I've been predicting the scores for Texas games all year, with minimal success. You just don't know whether the Texas team that beat Oklahoma State twice or the team that lost to Colorado twice will show up. I'll stake my call on this: if Gibson plays like a freshman, we're going to lose handily, but if Gibson takes a step forward and leads this team like a veteran, I think we're a solid bet to win. I'm hedging, I know... I'll make a call: Texas wins it with a strong second half, 77-72.

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