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Thoughts on the Notre Dame Loss

The first word that comes to mind is frustrating. Texas did some solid things on the defensive end the entire night. Offensively, the Horns flashed some things that could have led to a comfortable win had they been more consistent. The end of the game was solid evidence that Texas could be an effective pressing and trapping team if they really wanted to. Here are my thoughts.

First, lets get one thing straight before we nitpick this thing. Notre Dame is about as good an offensive basketball team as Texas will face this year and certainly a better scoring team than any we'll face during our conference slate. The Irish can put 4 legitimate perimeter shooters on the floor at any given time, and five when Tory Jackson is hitting. Harangody is a poor man's Blake Griffin in the sense that he can do damage by taking bigs off the dribble ten feet in and he provides some unique matchup issues.

Defensively, the Irish will struggle mightily when any kind of quickness is deployed in either the backcourt or frontcourt. They have a difficult time staying in front of folks on the perimeter, and they struggle defending the post pre-post entry and after the ball is entered. The point is, they're not very quick or athletic 2-5. Their biggest deficiency, however, is rebounding the basketball, especially after they've been broken down off the dribble or after helping and recovering to a variety of screens, cuts, and ball reversals a disciplined offense might throw at them. Again, they lack the athletes that can consistently close out possessions unless they have proper block out position.

Texas Defense. The Horns played good enough to win the ballgame on this end of the floor.

In the first half, Texas did an outstanding job of keeping Haranagody out of his comfort zone by forcing him to take contested 15 footers. For the most part Luke's damage in the paint with a variety of moves around the basket was limited. Harangody got loose in the second half but that's to be expected with the Irish perimeter game hitting on all cylinders.

Texas did a solid job on Tory Jackson even though he did hit two 3's early in the half. The senior guard was limited in his drive and kick game.

Against Kyle McAlarney, my scouting report called for getting on the senior's shooting arm the second he stepped on the floor, and I'd call this the Horn's only short coming defensively. You have to make him put the ball on the floor and beat you going to the basket or with his midrange game. If he's catching and shooting you're dead.

Defensive rebounding wise, you couldn't ask for a better game. The Irish finished with 6 offensive rebounds and half of those were long rebounds off of missed 3's.

Texas Offense. To put it nicely, our offensive identity is a Robin Williams' stand up routine. It's all over the place and not very funny. Sometimes we get out and run. Sometimes we look to enter the post. Sometimes we ball screen. But when we're not doing that, we're pulling from 22 feet ten seconds into the shot clock. And this lack of identity ended up being the Horns demise vs. Notre Dame. The Irish should have given up a hundo to a team with the collection of athletes that Texas has. Any kind of dribble penetration or passing machinations on offense got the Irish so out of position that they became 3 to 1 underdogs to rebound any offensive miss the Horns put up given the size and athletic ability Texas had on the floor at any given time.

The first half bore that out with Texas having a 22-6 points in the paint advantage even after taking 8 or 10 shots without running any kind of offense. The rebounding and interior advantage so thoroughly confounded Notre Dame, that it was forced to go zone despite the fact that Texas had four legit perimeter shooters on the floor in Abrams, James, Atchley, and Mason. I'll say that again for AJ Abrams, Notre Dame had to go zone because Texas was clubbing them over the head with offensive put backs that were the direct result of running offense and getting Notre Dame out of position.

And with the second half, that interior advantage was gone. No more points in the paint. No more offensive rebounds. No more scrambling out of position defense. No zone. Texas, for reasons I'll get to later, stopped running any semblance of offense in half court possessions and effectively bailed out an Irish team that would have given up 30 offensive rebounds if the Horns showed any discipline. Hell, it got so bad that the Irish switched every screen for the final 10 minutes of the ball game. Guard to Guard, Forward to Forward, Guard to Forward. It didn't matter. You'd have Harangody on Abrams, and Jackson on Atchley at some point in most offensive possessions.

Guess how many fouls were drawn on the Irish? Four. Pathetic. And there's your problem in a nut shell. Texas continued to settle for jumpers that allowed the Irish to switch with impunity with the added bonus of keeping blockout position to close out possessions. No help and recover, no attacking the weakside on missses with our superior athletes. I present to you the skeet offense and popular method of contraception folks. Pull and shoot.

There are 3 issues causing our offensive problems as I see it. In the order of culpability, least to most.

Lack of a true point guard. There are solutions to this problem. Hell, look at most Big 10 teams, and their lack of a truly dynamic lead guard. Texas has Mason, the ability to get out and run, a hybrid forward in Damion James, and some viable post options that can be solutions to half court woes. It'd be nice to have Chris Corchiani, but we don't NEED him.

Lack of a true identity. This problem will solve itself before conference play. Barnes is a great coach, and he'll push the right buttons. Finding it sooner rather than later can be the difference between a 5 seed and a 2 or 3 seed. Are we going to press and run? Or are we going to hammer people with our bigs and offensive rebound? Should we do both? Do we trust our kids to know when we're doing which?

AJ Abrams. Quite frankly the kid is killing Texas' continuity on offense. The obvious fallout from his quick catch and shoots are, well, quick catch and shoots. They bail out inferior defenses and rebounding teams, play away from Texas' strength on the interior, fail to get other good offensive players involved, and generally hurt team chemistry which leads to another concern which I like to call the blackhole or magic trick affect.

Right now, AJ is playing for a contract. And as a teammate, I know everytime Abrams touches the rock, it's going to disappear. That's tough enough on patient, unselfish players like Justin Mason and Connor Atchley, but for another player in a contract year like Damion James, it's downright killing him. It's the sole reason he's taking so many horrible midrange shots or out of rhythm 3's. Damion knows he'll never get the rock back if he gives it up. And in Damion's mind, he's got to get his. Throw in the fact that our talented bigs don't get but one or two entry passes a game, and you can see how AJ's lack of involving other players is killing this team.

But, it's one game, and I'm certain Barnes will get it fixed. It wouldn't be the interwebs without a little bitching, though. On to Oregon...