Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners Basketball Preview and Open Thread

Grant Halverson

Big 12 play starts.

The Texas Longhorns start conference play with a very important home game against the Oklahoma Sooners. Think of it like your graduate admissions standardized test. Get the first question right, and the rest of the test feels downhill. Lose to the Sooners at home, and Texas' NCAA Tournament hopes start behind the 8-ball.

Starters:

Jordan Woodard: Like Texas, OU will open the game with a three-guard set. Like Texas starter Isaiah Taylor, Woodard was a lower-ranked recruit who has exceeded expectations as a freshman. He's a not terrible 3-point shooter and good at getting to the foul line. Typical for a freshman, he struggles finishing inside and turns the ball over too much. The 6' 0" Woodard against the 6' 1" Taylor will be an interesting battle to watch over the next few years.

Buddy Hield: Hield is OU's "irrational confidence" guy in the same vein as Javan Felix. But at 6' 4", 208 pounds, Hield is built like an F-150 to Felix's Mini Cooper model. Their 3-point percentages are similar (Hield 34.3% / Felix 35.7%), but their 2-point percentages are not (50.0% / 30.1%). Can't teach size.

Isaiah Cousins: The 6' 4" sophomore has doubled his minutes per game from his freshman year and amped up his production to boot. He's not spectacular and not terrible, making him an ideal third guard in this lineup.

Cameron Clark: I liked Clark's highlight clips from his high school years at Sherman. He hasn't lived up to the hype until this year, leading the conference with 18.5 PPG. At 6' 7", 211 pounds, Clark is a matchup nightmare for Texas. Boy, it'd be nice to have Ioannis Papapetrou still on the team. I'm not sure either Jonathan Holmes or Connor Lammert can keep up with Clark on the perimeter, meaning they'll have to make up the points on the offensive end.

Ryan Spangler: The 6' 8", 232 pound Spangler is OU's biggest player. He's in his first year at Oklahoma after sitting out a season as a transfer from Gonzaga. Like Texas' center combo, Spangler is an "at the rim" player. Jeff Haley's hoop-math.com site shows Spangler attempting 77% of his shots near the bucket.

Bench:

Tyler Neal: A 6' 7" all-hustle senior. Can hit a 3-pointer.

D.J. Bennett: I had no idea who this 6' 8" junior was until I realized he was a juco transfer. He and Neal are there to buy minutes.

Frank Booker: The 6' 4" freshman shoots a lot of 3's (42 attempts) and hits them at a positively Longhornian percentage (33.3% on the year).

Je'Lon Hornbeak: Normally OU's sixth man, Hornbeak is injured and won't play.

Keys to Beating OU:

1) Feed the paint. I'm not talking just getting the ball to Cam Ridley. Jonathan Holmes and Connor Lammert can make a living in the high post, and Texas' guards should be looking to slash without impunity. Spangler is Oklahoma's only interior defensive threat. I'd attack him early and try to cut the big tree down.

2) Give Oklahoma the arc, make their guards work inside. The Sooners are a better than average three-point shooting team, but their perimeter threats don't scream "scary." I'd test their young guards and make them prove they can hit their shots in a hostile (err, "hostile") environment.

3) Limit transition points. Oklahoma will also look to run, as the Sooners are the ninth fastest team in the nation according to adjusted tempo. Texas can't give away easy points.

4) Junk D on Clark. Barnes has spent time this season experimenting with some out-of-the-box defenses. Without a true wing to defend Clark honestly for 35 minutes, Barnes might find it worthwhile to buy minutes by shadowing Clark with a box-and-one guard or zoning to free up Holmes and Lammert to a more comfortable defensive position.

5) Score more points. But of course! Oklahoma isn't great shakes at anything defensively. Texas certainly has struggled on offense this year, so breaking in Big 12 play against a mediocre defensive team could be either a confidence booster or a cold dose of reality.

The game is at 7:00 p.m. on LHN. Hook ‘em.

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