USA TODAY Sports
First of all, let me say it was a real pleasure to welcome back Fran Fraschilla, once again calling color for Big Monday games. He is--bar none--my favorite color guy in the game (with respect to the trill Jay Bilas), and it was incredibly nice to hear his voice over the sometimes insightful but generally blowhard Bob Knight.
Oh yes, and there was a game too. At the 8:21 mark, the Texas Longhorns led the West Virginia Mountaineers 49-47. At the 4:38 mark, it was 54-53. Would it have been crazy to hope that the Longhorns would pull out a much needed conference road win? My head said no. My heart said...no. That's the type of season it's been.
It was a close game, but basically a poorly contested one. And still, the Longhorns could've--should've?--won. But again, they didn't.
What's most frustrating about this team is that each player flashes individually, but in spurts, and then goes into turtle shells or hibernation for much of the rest of the game. Ioannis Papapetrou hit two first half 3's and a nice layup; he scored just 2 points in the second half. Javan Felix had a nice mid-second half stretch to bring his team back, then got flummoxed when Bob Huggins rolled out junk zones and double teams off the screener. Jaylen Bond showed a nice basket cut and elbow jumper, but shied away from any semblance of post play.
The disease isn't limited just to the players. Rick Barnes did his team no favors by keeping Sheldon McClellan glued to the bench virtually the entire second half. Sure, McClellan wasn't having a good game, but he's basically the only player who can create his own shot. McClellan happened to be sitting when Texas went on its mini-run, which was great. Once Texas went into its funk at around the U-8 timeout, McClellan continued to sit, which was unacceptable.
Barnes' decision to continue the screen-and-roll game when Huggins switched defenses was equally perplexing. I'm sure he told Felix something about how to handle the situation, but either the words were misunderstood or went unheeded. Either way, that's as much on the coach as the player. Lastly, on the final free throw, when Texas desperately needed an offensive rebound tip-back, where was the Longhorns' best rebounder? That'd be Jaylen Bond, glued to the bench. OK, then.
Finally, a little mini-vent. I don't normally harp on the referees, as human error and a little home cookin' generally comes as accepted fact. But I was as livid as Coach Fran on how badly the refs judged a few clean blocks by calling them as defensive fouls. As a guy whose only positive rec ball contribution is basically standing inside looking tall, I was seething at those calls.
Texas plays Oklahoma St. this Saturday, and then gets Myck Kabongo back against Iowa St. next week. Hooray for saviors that come too late to matter.