So it's been a week since the proclaimed paradigm shiftt. If Dexter Pittman gets more than 10 minutes this game, my bad. If he sits the bench while Bryan Davis works towards his double double, then you know the die is cast and Rick Barnes is embracing a perimeter heavy attack. Out with the old, in with the new. In the short term, Texas must keep pace with whatever weapons it has at its disposal by beating an upstart Aggie hoops squad at Frank Erwin's mausoleum.
Mark Turgeon has done an outstanding job of making the Ags competitive thus far in the 2008-2009 campaign. With solid wins out of conference vs. LSU and Alabama, the Aggies seemed to be on their way towards an NCAA berth. In conference, however, has been another story. TAMU rolls into Austin desperate for a conference win after dropping two in a row to conference heavy weights Kansas and Oklahoma by double digits. On to the aggie personnel.
The Aggies roll out one of the best perimeter players in conference in 6-7 small forward Josh Carter. Carter is predominantly a jump shooter who longs for the days he could camp out at the arc and let Acie Law probe, penetrate, and kick for the easy offense. Much like negative-amortization loans, those days are gone. Instead, Carter is forced to create on his own and as a result has seen his 3-point field goal percentage fall from up over 50% to a mediocre 36%. Sound like someone wearing burnt orange?
Carter is flanked in the backcourt by 6-3 junior Donald Sloan and 6-0 sophomore BJ Holmes. Sloan is a known quantity in that he'd love to penetrate and create first and foremost because he's a streaky shooter when forced to jack from deep. Outside of College Station he's a pass first point guard that need not be closed out aggressively on the perimeter. Keep him out of the lane in a game of Horse and you're likely to win before you get to "R". Holmes, however, is new on the scene, and he's coming to jack the ball up Loyola Marymount style. In half the games played this year, Holmes has taken 5 or more 3's per contest. He's hitting at 36%, but he's the type of player that always thinks the next J is going in. If he gets hot and hits a couple, he needs to be dealt with and fast.
Along the frontcourt, the Aggies sport uber-unathletic Bryan Davis. He's Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bellaire. The 6-9 junior post shoots a respectable 54% from the field, and feasts on position and touch to find his offense. He'll struggle offensively when superior athletes can play sound defensive position basketball and keep him off the glass for cheap second chance points. He's got a motor if you sleep on him, and he'll simply outwork you for offense if you let him. Keep in mind he was a virtual non-factor against Kansas and Oklahoma offensively and on the glass, and that bodes well for Texas.
Davis' frontcourt mate is 6-10 junior Chinemelu Elonu who shoots a torrid 65% from the field off of point blank looks and put backs. Texas must keep him off the boards and out of position to neutralize his offense.
The bench is comprised of guard Derrick Rowland and rail thin cajun forward David Loubeau. Rowland is looking to slash and get to the goal but he can also rise up and knock down threes if he gets streaky. Rowland is 6 for his last 9 from deep in conference play so he's obviously feeling it. Loubeau is looking to come in to board on offense and block shots on defense with his length. Offensively, he's miles away from being a player.
Keys the Game
Identity. Considering a linuep that includes Bryan Davis, one of TAMU's heavy hitters offensively, it will become apparent early on whether or not Rick Barnes and crew have actually made a commitment to going small in the short term. Davis gives Barnes some outs on the defensive end of the floor if Rick wants to get Big Dex minutes. It is conceivable, however, that Barnes could put Connor Atchley on Davis and have Johnson help off Elonu if he wanted to stay true to the perimeter attack shown vs. Tech. On the offensive end, matchups of Carter on an aggressive James, Elonu chasing Connor around the arc, and a slow footed Davis following Johnson to the elbow would seem to be a Longhorn wet dream. These seem to be matchups Texas would welcome on both ends.
Justin Mason. With all of the attention TAMU has to pay to AJ Abrams, Damion James, and Gary Johnson, Mason will certainly have the opportunity to freelance and find offense. JM's increased aggressiveness against Tech should be a good indicator of what the junior glue man can do in a spread the floor attack similar to what the Horns ran in 2008 which led pundits to believe Mason could run the point in the first place.
Defensing Josh Carter. Look if Carter doesn't absolutely go off the Aggies have little chance to win the ball game. Look for Barnes to throw a variety of bodies at the junior scorer in an effort to wear him down. Defensively I would expect a contingent of Mason, James, Ward, and even Balbay to try to check the talented wing. Offensively, I fully anticipate James to attack Carter in a variety of ways to try to draw fouls and wear down the Aggie star.
In any event, the game will validate things like what style Texas is going with and who's currently in the dog house. A conference win would be icing on the cake.