Peter Bean has an outstanding write up of our season opener that you should absolutely read.
I actually thought Boston was primed to upset us here in Austin. A small conference champion returning several starters with a knack for draining threes going against a team with little inside presence and six of our nine scholarship players are true freshman. That's the stuff of early season upsets in college basketball. See Cleveland St thumping #7 Vandy.
Dominating 36 point Texas win. So, good instincts, me.
Jeff Van Gundy was the color guy for the broadcast and though I like JFG, it's pretty clear he'd like to be doing NBA broadcasts. A portion of the broadcast was spent detailing why NBA rules are better than college and how new coaches shouldn't experience probation when they're taking over for a crooked coach (in reference to Oklahoma). Thanks Jeff, but I prefer college continuation rules in which you're not rewarded with an And 1 when you're fouled at the free throw line, take two steps, and dunk and I don't think you quite get that colleges aren't little NBA franchises. Wait, maybe I don't get that they ARE. He has a point.
Back to the game...
From a team perspective, we are very quick and we come to play on defense. Excellent ball handling in our two lead guards, Gibbs has a handle, and Jonathan Holmes can handle a little as a front court player. It might be tempting to press us for our inexperience, but I don't think it's a viable long term strategy. Quickness and ball handling means we'll win the TO battle most nights (we were +14), but we'll be slaughtered on the boards.
Offensively, we're continuing to build on what we started last year with the Utah Jazz offense and I liked some of what I saw. We have some instinctive players that understand screen and replace and the sheer number of shooters and creators we can put on the court creates pressure on the defense. But anyone expecting consistently slick offense from freshmen need an expectations check. This will be an entertaining, hard-playing bunch, but we will get our heads kicked in by high level opponents. We'll live and die by the three pointer and turnover defense.
If we make the NCAA Tournament, Barnes earned every penny of his pay check.
J'Covan Brown was fantastic. Trim, crafty, calculating. The best under-the-rim old man game we've seen at Texas since Joey Wright (and probably better than Joey). He had 28 points and 8 assists, but the way he did it impressed me more than his numbers. All within the offense. At no point did you get the feeling he was dominating the ball or attempting to "get his." He scored from every part of the court: putting guys on his hip for his J'runner, 15 foot pull-ups, three 3's, and - a new development - a sweet little post-up game to torture weaker defenders. His passing was RIDICULOUS. He sees the court like a point guard and gave several teammates easy buckets. His growth in maturity, conditioning, and demeanor is noticeable. Best offensive basketball IQ in this league. At one point in the game he was fouled and decided Kabongo should take the free throws for him, but the officials intervened after his teammates laughter gave him away. He also likes to wield six guns after made 3s in addition to a never-ending stream of trash-talking. So yeah, he's still a little J'crazy.
Julien Lewis is a junkyard dog. I liked him coming in, but I like him ever more now. I thought he'd be an advanced glue guy with junk ball scoring ability, but he's more than that. La Marque toughness paired with a surprisingly developed 3 point shot from the corner and defensive tenacity. Will rebound. He has a good body and is a really mentally tough kid. Scored 18 points in 20 minutes on 4/7 three point shooting.
Myck Kabongo had a solid debut. He had 6 points and 7 assists (against 2 turnovers) in only 22 minutes. Great ball handler, strong understanding of how to maneuver the defense. He'll be a good defender soon. He's a tad in love with his own dribble. He will make the simple play and he has zero selfishness. Deadly in transition. Went into the paint without a plan a couple of times, but he'll learn. He's really a different point guard from either DJ or TJ. I don't have a useful comparison for you.
Jonathan Holmes surprised me a bit. 7 points in 20 minutes. Legit 6-7, 235 and offensively skilled. He popped a three pointer and showed the ability to show outside. That makes for some pretty versatile offense 1-4. Downside: 2 rebounds.
Alexis Wangmene is pretty much the same guy with some improvements across the board, but he'll be a key asset as a positional defender, screener, and rebounder. He had 4 points, 7 boards and 5 blocks in 26 minutes. Aside from his shot blocking, his screening was consistently excellent and he does a great job of making people feel his wide body.
Clint Chapman has shown offensive flashes since he's been here and did so again with a nice face up dunk from the wing, but it remains to be seen whether he can be a rebounding asset. Six points, four boards, 3 blocks, 19 minutes. Both he and Wangmene controlled the paint defensively, but I see very little chance of them doing so against upgraded opponents. North Carolina, holla.
Sheldon McClellan is a good looking basketball player. 6-4/6-5 with a good frame. He has legit spot up shooting ability and gave effort on defense. He has a potential skill set greater than spot-up 3 guy and I hope he realizes it.
Sterling Gibbs is the least talented guy in the freshman class, but I liked his minutes offensively. He popped a three pointer, had three assists, and showed the ability to play both guard spots. He'll be a useful 10-15 minute per game reserve combo-guard.
Jaylen Bond has a strong body, probably goes 6-6 or so, and showed he's a force in transition with a tomahawk jam. He struggled with fouls, looked lost in set offense, and looked like he was playing his first game. He'll keep playing, so the light will have plenty of chances to turn on.
Pressure defense/Turnovers, Ballhandling, Perimeter shooting, Team speed
Experience, Rebounding, Interior defense, Scoring in the paint, size
I like watching young teams get better. In all sports. It makes the journey all the more rewarding.
I've learned that some Longhorn fans do not.
So if your basketball analysis centers on "We're Texas! I don't care who we have out there - we should beat Team X!" this may not be the season for you. If however, you enjoy watching a bunch of freshmen playing hard in an entertaining brand of basketball, this team will be of interest.