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Thoughts on Texas Basketball's loss to OU

I'm not doing grades because it's rinse repeat with the personnel. We know what we're going to get. James disappears, AJ shoots us out of games, Pittman gets in foul trouble, Mason plays out of position as a lead guard, and Connor Atchley missed the plane again. As a change up, let's just talk about team basketball. This ain't And 1 pitting the Professor against Sauce. Let's treat the post mortem that way. And in doing so we'll use the keys to the game from the preview. The rest we've talked about all year ad naseum. If you had your own keys, post 'em and talk about how they contributed to the loss.

Here are the keys and their corresponding effect on the outcome.

Let’s just ink this key in to the previews for every game, the rest of the season. It’s a code word for guard play. But in this game tempo will be especially important. The Sooners biggest strength is their competitive advantage over the Horns generating offense in a half court setting. They have Griffin and Warren to manufacture points if this becomes a half court street fight. Texas has sets and shit. The Sooner’s weakness is depth. Their depth is actually embarrassing. Texas has depth in spades. We go 5 deep in the frontcourt and 5 deep in the backcourt with interchangeable parts. Texas must play fast when the opportunity presents and try to get as many possessions as possible to either tire out the Sooners or get them in foul trouble.

Offensively we can accomplish this by getting out and running on the primary break, and then running quick sets to find open shots in our secondary break. Defensively, I would pressure and trap fullcourt, and then game Griffin with some quick trapping and slow trapping in halfcourt. But Texas must play fast for good portions of this game to have the best chance at a win.

I thought Texas played at a tempo that could have led to a victory had the Horns done some other things well on the offensive end. Oklahoma is not deep and they don't particularly like to guard, so playing at a little faster pace could potentially wear down the Sooners in the long run, but in short run provide good looks by not allowing the Sooners to set their defense. The unintended consequence was a bunch of uncharacteristic unforced turnovers that robbed the Horns of precious looks. Every look is precious for a team that shoots as poorly as Texas. But I do think playing faster worked to the extent of wearing out the sooners, and allowed some dribble drives that created easy shots.

Play two different games.
Texas can put pressure on Oklahoma and at the same time play to its own strengths by playing two personnel groupings. What I mean by that is when Texas wants to pound with Dexter in the 4 out, they would be well served to play a personnel group of Atchley, Mason, Abrams, and James. Offensively, Texas would be able to spread the floor with 4 legitimate shooters and pound Dexter who would probably be guarded by Taylor Griffin so as not to expose Blake to foul trouble. This group would also force Blake out to the perimeter where he can be prone to pick up cheap fouls heding ball screens and defending dribble penetration. On defense, Texas could stay in its base M2M. Texas would have to play slower, but Dex has to be a part of this ball game, and the change in tempo and style might be a source of confusion for OU.

The second group would be my athlete, pressure, and get out and run group. I’d go with Johnson, Abrams, Mason, Ward/Balbay, and James. This would consist of full court pressure M2M, some token trapping, and then some quick trapping as a change up. In the halfcourt, Texas would have to switch and rotate like their hair was on fire to make up for the mismatch inside presented by Griffin. A press and drop back into an active zone would not be out of the question, and would serve to hide the glaring mismatch in the paint for stretches at a time. It’s also one more thing for the freshman Warren to think about.

This key never came to fruition because Damion James was awol the first half and Pittman was so effective neutralizing Griffin, who else could Barnes have in there defensively? With James' absence, Barnes was forced to empty the bench and just find players that came to play. Sad, really. It's f'n oklahoma. I do think the bench was crucial in getting the Horns back into the game, but this is a team that is going to have a difficult time employing complicated game strategy. Hell, we have trouble executing a simple ball reversal to an entry pass offense. It's tough to to be multiple, if I can steal a term from Willy M.

Ring the Bell.
I had a coach that used to tell us at some point in every game to, "Do the things that it takes to win basketball games." Yeah. Well. Of course. But looking back, I understand what he meant. You sometimes get caught up in the minutiae of bumping the flex cut, switch the scissor screen, hedge the two guard but trap the one, etc. and so forth. The fact of the matter is, when you shoot the basketball or ring the bell, you can cover up a lot of ills. If Texas can simply hit shots they’re capable of hitting, a lot of everything else takes care of itself. And the Sooners aren’t nearly the world beaters on defense that they were under Sampson. Capel’s group will make shots available, layups and open 3’s alike, and Texas has to hit them or it will be a long night.

Yeah, shooting the ball is pretty important, and it's the reason we lost the game. From Pittman missing bunnies to AJ channeling his inner Adrian Dantley down the stretch eventhough he was ice cold, this team is atrocious at ringing the bell. Our best point guard can't shoot, our best shooter can't create, and our big men shoot under 50% from inside five feet. And at crunch time or winning time, an abysmal 3-16 down the stretch allowed the Sooners to stretch their lead from 4 to 16. Connor Atchley is still a non-factor and he's our second best shooter. AJ's shot selection has reverted back to the atrocious level. Mason hit a bomb, but he still lacks confidence as does Dogus. Dogus is intriguing especially if he can convert the 17 footer he hit tonight. It still was disconcerting to watch Dogus' man run to the block to double Pittman without regard to where Balbay was on the floor. That can't happen. But overall a pretty piss poor shooting effort.

Guarding Griffin and Warren.
First off, these two are going to score. It’s how they score that’s key. What we don’t want from Griffin are easy drop step dunks and put backs off misses. If he wants to take a big off the dribble from 15 ft fine. Turn around jumper from 10 fine. Texas must do a good job taking Blake out of his comfort zone with a variety of doubles quick and slow. From a variety of angles, guards and forwards. If he catches is on the block, coordinate a double team from the other block that has you small forward anticipate the interior pass to Taylor, your guard staying on Warren, leaving Crocker and Johnson to catch and generate offense.

On Warren, you can’t give up open catch and shoots or drives to the goal that get your bigs in foul trouble. Close out aggressively to his shot and then breakdown and sell out on his penetration forcing a midrange game. Warren doesn’t look to drop dimes, so if bigs shouldn’t be afraid to step in to cut off drives as long as the other forwards mind the weakside glass.

Just don’t let these guys sleep walk to their season averages. Make them show you they’re lottery picks by making NBA caliber moves.

I thought we did fine here especially when Pittman was in the game guarding Griffin. He really made Blake work for his offense. Blake stepped out and hit a 3, hit a couple of tough half hooks, but generally speaking Dex made the superstar work for his. He even frustrated Blake into a couple turnovers. With Dex out, Blake face raped GJ down low. Hell even Matt Hill had more success guarding Griffin.

As for Warren, I thought Texas did a poor job of cutting off his dribble penetration. They let him get to the rim way too much without resistance. I would have liked to see them force Warren to knock down a couple threes before allowing penetration, but oh well. Austin Johnson going off couldn't have helped because it gave ou a third scorer. All in all, this key was a success in my opinion and could have led to a win if Texas shot the ball at all.

Bottom line is that Texas lost this game because it didn't have a playmaking guard or forward when things became tough down the stretch. There was no go to guy to draw a foul or get a drive and dime for an easy score to break the scoreless possession string. We are who we are. If we shoot it well we usually win. In streetfights, we're fighting with one hand tied behind our backs.