The Texas Longhorns take their 19-3 record along with a little confidence into Norman tomorrow to take on the 12-9 Sooners who happen to be 10-0 at home.
Texas has a bit of momentum after an offensive outburst in Stillwater on Big Monday. OU has lost 3 of its last 4 ballgames and is coming off an embarrassing 63-46 woodshedding at the hands of a barely mediocre Nebraska squad. In that game, OU was outrebounded 34 to 25 and gave up a whopping 10 offensive boards to the Huskers. This is an area Texas can exploit with their athleticism in the front court and ability to force bad shots given the Sooners' proclivity to take them.
It all starts with 6-4 combo guard Willie Warren who is a candidate to go off in a game any given night. He's also one to continue to shoot the basketball when he's obviously struggling. Warren shoots just 42% from the field and 28% from deep. When he's not taking bad shots he's giving the ball away in the area of four times per contest.
That's ridiculously bad for such a talented player. Warren's struggles won't get any easier when he faces the best defensive backcourt he's seen all year and that will be key for Texas. If they can make WW work for good shots, the talented guard is one to become impatient and downright selfish at times. If Texas gives up a couple easy one's, however, and allows Warren to see a couple go through the hoop, he can easily go off James Anderson style. He's that good.
Compounding Warren's problems is a lack of chemistry with backcourt mate Tommy Mason-Griffin. TMG's game is a poor complement for what Warren does because each player needs the basketball in their hands to be successful. Neither is particularly interested in moving without the ball, so when either one is off of the ball they become rather easy to guard and deny. Don't be surprised to see Bradley play some on TMG because Avery can give a cushion to take away TMG's driving game, but he still has the size and athleticism to effect TMG's jumper. This allows Balbay to slide over on Warren which frankly is a better matchup for Texas.
Balbay is strong enough to not be knocked off the ball, he's quick enough to stay in front of Warren, and the Turkish prison has a penchant for frustrating the hell out of his opponent, especially one as up and down emotionally as Warren. I'll set the odds at 5 to 1 that Warren gets called for some sort of dead ball foul in frustration this ballgame.
The third guard is sleevy wonder Tony Crocker. I can't wait for this chode to move on so I don't have to see his gay ass sleeves anymore. It's more annoying than Cade Davis' affliction hair or Tiny Gallon's body fat percentage. That typed, our third guard or three man can't allow Tony Crocker to get loose and get confident form deep because OU is a different team when he's hot. We need to be on Crocker's right arm on the catch, and make him do things on the bounce. It's advantage Texas when our athletes are anywhere near Crocker's dribble.
The aforementioned Cade Davis is a hybrid 3/4 and he does it all for the Sooners including but not limited to shooting, rebounding, and sporting the Big 12's best faux-hawk. The bio says he's from Elk City, OK but I swear I've seen him at the Lizard Lounge everytime I visit Dallas. When left alone, though, the kid can flat out stroke it. I mean he can shoot it if you don't get out on him. The problem for OU, which showed up in the Nebraska game, was the inability to control the weakside glass either straight up in their 3 guard look and especially when Cade was playing the true 3 and Wright had to help over to Tiny Gallon in the pivot. In either scenario, Texas can make hay because Davis cannot rebound with our athletes especially when OU goes small. File that away for a moment.
The other frontcourt players are Tiny Gallon and Ryan Wright. Gallon in addition to being an oxymoron and a wondrous purveyor of irony is Dexter Pittman before Dex lost the equivalent of a Backstreet Boy. He's surprisingly skilled on the offensive end, but he avoids playing defense like it was a salad. If Dexter wants to work somebody, this is the game to do it. File that away in the Cade Davis File for a moment. Ryan Wright is the big, more athletic forward and he'll come in to either spell Gallon as he's starting to show signs of an infarction, or he'll come in as a four when the Sooners go big. Wright's a long, athletic kid without much offensive game. On defense he can bother back to the basket players and rebound a little. Put him in that file too as we move on to the keys.
Keys to the Game
1) Small vs. Small. Texas has its covers in the backcourt with Bradley and Balbay on TMG and Warren respectively. But OU only has two true personnel packages and they both should be a sweet spot for what Texas likes to do offensively. When OU goes small, you'll know it because Crocker's playing the 3 and Davis is at the 4. In this look, Texas can attack inside out with very little effort as long as we're patient and move the ball. If Pittman's in the game, I attack Gallon and try to force help to come from the forward spot because if that happens, Damion James will have 20 rebounds this game. OU has no answer for DJ on the glass and when the 3 is sliding down to board after their 4 is helping it's a win for UT. If Texas is playing GJ and DJ as forwards, I attack whomever Davis has on the block. Rinse and repeat on the weakside glass as the 3 slides down to board after the 4 doubles the mismatch.
2) Big vs. Big. When OU goes big, Texas' advantage grows because Damion James can take Wright away from the bucket and we can attack in our 4 out. Which means Gallon will likely have to move his feet to cut off wing or baseline penetration as he's playing post defense. Another advantage for Texas. I suspect OU will zone in their big personnel to protect Tiny Gallon for this reason.
3) Pack your zone offense There will be mismatches all over the floor because Cade Davis can't guard our third guard on the perimeter and he can't play on the backboards with DJ as a four. another reason to expect a bunch of zone.
4) Keep OU in front. It's an implied key to every game, but it's particularly important vs. OU. They don't run much weakside screen game, so a lot of their stuff is ball screen or manufacture offense with penetrate and kicks. This is good news for Texas unless TMG and WW are getting to the rack and creating offense for the 3 or 4 highly competent outside shooters that will be on the floor. Stop penetration and maintain that perimeter defensive shell and we'll be able to feast off OU's lack of patience and continuity on offense.
Prediction. Texas should win unless OU is unconscious shooting the ball or we go back to standing around on offense or heaven forbid both. As bad a matchup as Tech's motion offense is for us on defense, OU's lack of movement on offense should be a perfect fit for our guards and their weakside cohorts. Just play solid, stay in front defense and make the Sooners jack 3's is all we need to do defensively. Combine that with our ability to control the glass, and we might see a jumpstart in our running game.
I like us to win comfortably setting up the showdown with Kansas.
What say you?