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Thursday, September 1

 

ATL Roundtable: Basketball or Football?

Today’s Topic: Who's got the better shot at playing in the NCAA championship game this year: Texas football or Texas basketball?

Andrew Wiggins
This one is easy: Texas basketball. Let’s start with the challenges facing the football team. The first is totally out of anyone’s hand. The college football champion is as much determined by polls and computers as it is on the field. I hate the BCS. I wish for chaos each year. I want four undefeated teams or nine teams with just a single loss. Even if we were to go undefeated, there is no guarantee Texas would play in the Rose Bowl. The strength of our conference and the strength of our schedule would probably put us in the top 2 but who knows. USC, Tennessee, Michigan, Louisville, etc all have at least as good if not better shots at running the table. Second, our schedule is no cupcake city. Our three toughest games are on the road: Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. Third, we still have unanswered questions at wide receiver and running back. I think we will be ok at back but wide out is still a serious problem. Last, one bad game and likely that is it. We aren’t allowed to just go through the motions at Missouri or any other Saturday and then get hot at the end of the season. The Horns must survive each and every game without a single loss.

There will be tremendous upside with the basketball team this year. Preseason rankings already have us in the top 2. First, March Madness allows any team in the field a shot. Win six straight games over three weekends and the nets are yours. No polls, no computers, no mystery. Everything is decided on the court. Second, our squad will be solid. We return four starters: Daniel Gibson, PJ Tucker, Brad Buckman, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Gibson is probably the best point guard in the country; Tucker will challenge for Big 12 player of the year; Buckman is an unbelievable banger that any coach would die for; and Aldridge was really coming around last year before his season ending injury. Third, we have a quality coach. Barnes has won conference championships and has already taken Texas to the Final Four. Texas will always be solid on defense with Barnes. We are also solid at the point and on the low blocks. The only question will be outside shooting. Last, unlike football, the basketball team can afford to fall asleep in Lubbock or Stillwater and still play for the national title. The football team has a legitimate shot, but the basketball team has a better one.

Travis Richmond
I agree with Andrew simply because of the format. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Texas basketball team will be in the NCAA Tournament basically every single year unless something crazy happens. We’re now one of those top 20 teams that will almost always in the big dance.

Some years, we’ll be a toss-up to win our first game, like last year. Other years, we’ll be a higher seed that would consider a first-round loss an upset. I think that applies this year. That means we’re one of 32 teams playing for the championship, and we need to win four consecutive games to reach the championship game.

The football team has to win 12 consecutive games (including the Big 12 championship) to play in the Rose Bowl. Of course there are a few that there is no way we can lose (Lafayette, Rice, Baylor) but there are others that are never gimmies (A&M, Tech) plus the two landmine games (Ohio State, Oklahoma).

I think it says a lot for the basketball program that we are even having this discussion. I never in a million years thought I’d see Texas expecting to make the Final Four and legitimately speak of winning it all. I was ready to give Rick Barnes a lifetime contract after taking us to the Final Four in 2003, and he’s done nothing to disappoint since then.

Here’s food for thought: Can any amount of success on the hardwood ever make Texas a “basketball school?” I already know the answer, and that’s why I will always have a little fear in the back of my mind that Barnes might leave one day for a place where basketball comes first.

Hopefully we’ll hang a banner before that day comes, if it ever does.

Peter Bean
This isn’t as much fun if we all agree, so I’ll make a case for the football team here. Let’s start with opportunity. Drew is right that an undefeated season does not guarantee a shot at the BCS title. Our new defensive coordinator can attest to that. This year, however, I think it’d be a lock. A running of the table would include victories at Ohio State, at Texas A&M, in Dallas against OU, and in the Big 12 championship game. I cannot fathom that Texas would be any lower than #2 in the computers. No matter what anyone else does. In this context, Texas does control its own destiny.

To the more important point: can we do it? I don’t see how a group this talented has any less of a chance to win its four or five big games than the basketball team does to win its NCAA tournament games. Reeling off five straight wins in the tournament against the best teams in the country is ridiculously hard. And there is zero margin for error. One loss, you’re done.

The football team could also conceivably lose one game and get in to the BCS title game—it’s happened plenty of times. One could certainly imagine Texas losing one of its three “premier” games (at Ohio State, OU, or Big 12 title game) and still finishing #2 in the BCS. It’s no sure thing, but it’s far from impossible. The system’s just wacky like that.

Furthermore, while I am sky high on this year’s Texas basketball team, we’re still young and largely unproven. Daniel Gibson will be better, Aldridge and Tucker will be back, and the team will undoubtedly be excellent. But, at least as of this moment, I’ll say that the football team has a better shot at being in the championship game than the basketball team.

Comments:
I vote on Texas hoops getting there. They've been on the cusp before and barely lost to eventual national champions.

Now, I'm going to play devil's advocate here, and tell you why Texas can go undefeated and NOT make the Rose Bowl.

SEC Champion, Big 10 Champion, ACC Champ and USC ... Tennessee, Florida and LSU all have much tougher schedules than Texas. So does Michigan and Ohio State and Miami. If they run the table they can possibly go. Big 10 is up this year with four contenders, perhaps even 2 of them finishing season undefeated.

Big 12 isn't that great with only a couple of real good teams and a bunch of mediocres.

FYI - Tenness plays at Florida and LSU in back-to-back weeks in September, then Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Notre Dame ... then a SEC title game. Florida gets Tenn, Ga., LSU, SC, Auburn, Florida State. See, schedule does matter. Texas gets a godsend with a tough non-conference game this year. They better win in Columbus if they want a chance cause beating up on their conference sked (save OU) isn't all that impressive.
 
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