We'll be playing Big 10 lesser-light Iowa tonight at 9:00 central in a game that should be a cakewalk, therefore I'm not going to preview it on a micro-level.
My apologies for not caring too much about an opponent who gets rolled by Duquesne and UTSA. Iowa sucks. Flat out. You know, from an athletic and basketball skills standpoint. I'm more interested in some of the things the Horns will be doing tonight to get ready for the quality on the schedule and the Hawkeyes style offers an interesting canvas for that.
The Hawkeyes are going to surround 6-7 250 pound junior Jaryd Cole with four perimeter players. They're going to slow tempo, run a patient motion offense, probably zone on defense for much of the game, and then pray. They offer nothing in the way of a matchup problems for this Texas squad at any spot on the floor at any given time, but their scheme and style make this thing interesting because it's precisely the scheme and style that rate to give the Longhorns fits if the opponent has any kind of talent.
So what I'm looking for tonight out of our young juggernaut is the following.
- Patience on Offense
Look, we can sleepwalk to 70 with our edge in athleticism by turning over the Hawkeyes on D and playing volleyball on the offensive glass, and these components will come into play a bunch in this game. And while steals and offensive rebounds for dunks are nice, while you're watching the game keep in mind they're fools gold because Iowa sucks out loud. Instead, on the patience front, I want to see multiple passes in halfcourt possessions that lead to easy looks. I want to see Pittman pass out of double teams for open 3's. I'd like to see Jordan Hamilton move without the ball, J'Covan Brown not dominate the dribble when he doesn't need to, and Avery Bradley create offense for other players. In other words, I want to see more ball movement that leads to offense. I'll view other forms of offense as an impostor until we're playing more athletic squads.
First off, Iowa wants to play slow, and a zone will certainly help with that. Also, with the depth and athletic deficits Iowa suffers in this matchup, I'd be shocked if Texas wasn't zoned for large portions of the game and I'm interested in seeing how the Horns respond. Syracuse absolutely confused and confounded a good shooting, athletic North Carolina squad with their zone, so it's prudent to think a young, athletic team like Texas is likely going to see some zone this year.
I'll be looking for several things out of our zone offense. I'd like to see Balbay penetrate perimeter gaps and kick without getting too deep. I'm hoping Brown takes necessary dribbles, when, well, necessary. I want Brown to move the ball or catch and shoot for the most part. If J'Covan sits there and pounds the floor against the zone, he's playing right into the opponent's hands. I want to see patience out of Hamilton, letting the game come to him. I'd like to see more assertiveness and creativity out of Bradley. Damion should own the short corner, playing two man games with Dexter Pittman for point blank offense. Overall, how much success we have vs. zone in the early part of the season will dictate how much zone we see the rest of the way.
- What I Want to See Individually
Damion James. Keep doing what you're doing. Rebound, dunk, and hit spot up 3's. This'll be an easy game for Damion. He'll be the biggest, most athletic player on the floor at all times. Don't complicate things and fall down rabbit holes like leading the break and shooting midrange jumpers.
Dexter Pittman. I expect continued domination whether it's zone or man. The next step is passing out of double teams and dropping interior dimes to cutting players. That's Big Man Zen.
J'Covan Brown. Continue trending up as a lead guard. Which means knowing when to shelve the dribble and get the team into an offense and knowing when to create with it. An Iowa zone will be interesting as it relates to Brown's maturation as a point guard because it really forces the young guard to grasp the nuances of the position. Shot selection, passing, tempo, decision making are all heightened against the zone. Other than that, the magic word for J'Covan is Poise. Continue to show it, and opponents are less likely to poke the bear.
Avery Bradley. Take over the game for 3 or 4 possessions. You have built up that credibility. The last thing you have to worry about is being seen as selfish. A deep 3 or two would be a nice arrow to add to your quiver.
Jordan Hamilton. Let the game come to you. Patience shows maturity and earns you more minutes. Show more energy and effort on defense.
Varez Ward. Continue to guard like a beast. Offensively, find that happy medium between good shot selection and staying aggressive. You have skins on the wall.
Alexis Wangmane. Butter your bread as a weakside defending fly swatter and glasseater on both ends.
Shawn Williams. Continue to guard, but look to knock down a deep J or two. You can be THE pick and pop frontcourt guy if you can do both.
Justin Mason. Take care of the basketball and show your worth as a steady ballhandler. On defense, do what you do.
Coach Barnes. I'd love to see some continuity created with the youngsters by having them out there together for more than a handful of possessions. Brown, Bradley, Hamilton, with James and Pittman is our most talented lineup and we need to build some chemistry with this group. It's counter productive to have the big 3 looking over their shoulder for a sub at every dead ball. It invites impatience, poor shot selection, and forced play.
So these are the things I'll be looking for. How about you?
Love to read your thoughts.