Or at least these are the questions that loom for me. Feel free to post yours and provide answers. Considering the topic, we'll be grading on a curve.
What is the Horns' Core Rotation?
Last season the Horns lost any chance to establish a rotation during their 17-0 start by playing waves of players and winning wars of attrition instead of simply outplaying opponents with core group of 7 or 8 players. Inexplicably or explicably if you believe the chemistry problems, they shortened their bench in conference play which exposed a lack of identity and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lack of identity risk is certainly there for next season's squad not due to an abundance of talent but an abundance of questions. Which guards will play and what will their roles be? Are any of the frontcourt upperclassmen outside of Gary Johnson ready to step up? Are the freshmen ready? Are the injured healthy?
If I’m Barnes I let that fish run for a few weeks into the season before I start reeling it in. If you haven’t shown promise by the fourth or fifth game on the season and you’re an upperclassmen it’s time to step aside. Darwinian bench shortening should be the norm.
Come January, I’d like these guys to emerge as the core rotation:
Ward, Joseph, Hamilton, Thompson garner the most minutes. Johnson, Balbay, Chapman, and Williams are mixed and matched off the bench depending on opponents.
For instance, Chapman or whoever emerges from the Wangmechaphill monster gets significant minutes against teams with traditional frontcourts. Johnson gets starter minutes at the four against 3 guard teams that provide relief for us on the glass allowing Gary and Hamilton to be on the floor together.
How do you hide Jordan Hamilton on defense?
Speaking of Hamilton, we’ve got to find outs for him on the defensive end. He’s the first or second scoring option for the Horns next season, one of the top 3 playmakers, and one of the team’s best rebounders if not the best. But he plays defense with the intensity of a New Jersey toll booth attendant and all of Jordan’s covers seem to have a toll pass.
We’ve talked about hiding him in a zone which allows you to get Gary Johnson on the floor against bigger teams, but this will cause problems for us on the defensive backboards. Unless you’re into watching tall black dudes play volleyball against our Emmanuel Lewis/Gary Coleman frontcourt, this isn’t a viable option game in and game out.
We could play with 3 guards sliding Hamilton to the 4 which would guarantee his ability to stay in front, but this would make us vulnerable on the glass and put a tremendous amount of pressure on Thompson to man the paint as a physically immature freshmen.
The other option is to play Williams at the 3, put Gary Johnson on the floor at the 4 and bank on staying in front of everyone to maintain our perimeter shell which should provide the frontcourt of Williams, Johnson/Wangchaphill, and Thompson favorable blockout positioning.
Or we just play Williams more against teams with super scoring small forwards or third guards. Problem here is you limit your ability on the offensive end by pulling Hamilton.
Hopefully Jordan has taken this offseason seriously and is prepared to give a better effort guarding people. If not, I wouldn’t hesitate to marginalize his role on the team to one of scoring specialist or a Vinnie Johnson type role.
What should we expect from the Freshmen?
The freshmen duo of Thompson and Joseph are going to need to provide significant contributions in all sorts of ways for this Texas team to compete for a tournament bid. For Thompson, the health of Varez Ward, the signing of Cory Joseph, and playmaking emergence of Jordan Hamilton towards the end of last season is a godsend. With 3 solid perimeter scorers and playmakers on the floor, Thompson won’t be asked to do anything more than be an interior specialist.
Rebound, defend, and finish is Tristan’s rallying cry for the 2010-2011 season, because the Longhorn’s won’t be running offense through the young man. That’s a good thing for a kid that needs 15 pounds of muscle and has a head that has to be swimming at this point.
It’s a different story for Cory Joseph. He’s going to be asked to do different things in different roles.
CoJo is going to have to hunt his offense when Texas elects to run some pick and roll or pick and pop to manufacture offense. Luckily the screen/roll game is Cory's bread and butter and he’ll excel at it until teams adjust to it by blitzing the ball screens to take the easy play away from him. Barnes better be preparing counter sets off of the ball screen game with the young man in mind, because good teams aren't going to let him come down and get comfortable shooting open shots or dime-ing to the screener.
Joseph is also going to be asked to play a lot of "straight-up" point which means he'll be asked to facilitate, create, and defer so guys like Ward and Hamilton can get involved and stay involved in the offense. In our random screen game or set game, Cory is going to be asked to defeat his defender off the dribble head-up which isn't Cory's strong suit. But it's something that teams ask their point guards to do because opponents won't let you ballscreen them to death. Hell, some opponents zone, too.
Finally, Cory is going to have to play off the ball at times to allow guys like Varez Ward and Dogus Balbay to play to their strengths which is creating with the dribble. This means Cory will need to get comfortable moving without the ball and become more of a catch and shoot player or the offense will stagnate.
As much as playing in the screen/roll game is a strength for Cory, playing the off guard may be a weakness. But in order for the Horns to be as dynamic as they can possibly be on the offensive end, it’s a role Cory will need to improve on.
As you can probably tell, there aren’t a lot of good answers to these three questions. We’ll just have to wait and see. Or cover your eyes entirely. I wouldn’t blame you.