The brain is an interesting organ.
The same psychological defensive mechanism that prevents Vasherized from remembering a childhood of being beaten with reeds and wearing meat helmets, has caused me to forget we have a basketball game tonight. The thought of going into Gallagher-Iba with a team teetering on the brink of psychological disaster is almost more than my single-malted brain can bear. Thanks to Vasherized, that web-footed wonder, for reminding me.
Let's talk Cowboy personnel.
The Cowboys start two of sets of backcourts. Seriously, they play four glorified guards. From the same bizzaro world that brought you Rotnei Clark and Tyrell Reed, I offer you 5-9 melatonin challenged Keiton Page. He's Travis Ford without a game, but he must be contested on the catch. Kid can fill it up at home. Obi Muenelo is a 6-5 shooting guard who's been asked to play more wing this year considering the dearth of OSU size. The senior can fill it up from deep as his 46% from 3 will attest. But the bellcow is 6-6 junior and future NBA starter James Anderson. Anderson is the complete package inside and out. He can shoot it with the best of them and put it on the deck to get to the rack like an NBA'er. Want proof? Anderson has been to the foul line 9 times or more in a full third of his games. Sick. Justin Mason and Avery Bradley will have their hands full tonight. The fourth guard is 6-2 freshman Fred Gulley and he splits minutes with Nick Sidorakis who the Cowboys will bring in for more size.
With the loss of Ray Penn five games ago, the Cowboys have had to lean on Marshall Moses in the paint. Moses is a wide body, but he only goes about 6-7 and struggles against longer players. The other forward is 6-8 junior Matt Pilgrim who isn't much of a scoring threat. This team is tiny.
Tempo. I think the Longhorns would love to turn this game into a battle of attrition given OSU's lack of size and depth. When Moses was saddled with early foul trouble against Mizzou, the Tigers were able to open up a lead and never look back. The Cowboys also turned the ball over 22 times against Mizzou's fullcourt pressure. If I'm Texas the recipe is simple. Pressure the entire game to take advantage of depth and OSU's propensity to turn it over. In spots, attack with your frontcourt mismatches when the game is halfcourt and try to get the Cowboy bigs in foul trouble.
Shot selection. Since the Horns will have such a huge advantage on the glass, it's important that even though we're trying to run, we still take good shots, because a good shot is likely to lead to second chance points if it's missed. No early shotclock bailouts unless it's of the primary or secondary break variety. If OSU has set up its zone, move the ball and probe for a good look. They can't board with us unless we let them or make it easy on them.
Pack Your Zone Offense. After watching film of the Horns this last month, I'd be shocked if Ford doesn't play a ton of zone to protect his undersized bunch. Texas must execute the zone attack with good ball movement, take good shots, and then punish the Cowboys lack of size and lack of blockout responsibilities via the offensive backboards. Watch for Balbay running the baseline in an effort to make the OSU backline defend. When Balbay's at the point of our zone offense, wing jumpers become a virtual afterthought.
Have fun. Whatever Barnes tries, it won't be successful unless these kids are playing loose and having fun. Playing tight has already manifested itself into missed layups and horrid foul shooting. If I'm Rick, I roll the basketball out there tonight and tell my kids to go have fun and play with passion. The Cowboys and their personnel should be a wheelhouse opponent for the Longhorns. The only thing that can get in the way of solid road victory can be found between the ears of the Longhorn players and coaching staff collectively.
If we can get out of our own way mentally, we should win.