I’ve watched every game the Horns have played this season multiple times. Lately, all I can think of to say is "I see dead people". Or players, figuratively speaking. Honestly, I feel like that snot nose little kid from Sixth Sense. You know the movie with Bruce Willis where the little boy sees ghosts. That’s what I see, ghost where pretty solid players used to reside just a few weeks ago.
I’d like to pretend that I haven’t seen this movie before, but I have noticed a theme over the years of watching Rick Barnes coached clubs. Unless you’ve got Royal Ivey or TJ Ford there as a buffer it seems like players play fine for stretches, and they become chock-full of inner demons as time wears on. And I’m afraid that’s precisely what’s happening now.
Let’s go player for and discuss that personal Beelzebub that resides on each kid’s shoulder.
Tristan Thompson. The kid shoots foul shots like he’s hoping to make one out of two instead of just enjoying the game and the opportunity to get to the foul line. Maybe he’s just weak minded, but I suspect differently knowing what I know about kids like Avery Bradley and Doge Balbay that have come through Austin. Nothing else about his game is tight. Had we gotten him the ball more against CU or NU we’re not in this spot, but a player of Tristan’s caliber should be more relaxed at the foul line.
Jordan Hamilton. I’ve never seen a kid with so much talent play so tightly on the offensive end of the floor. I’m not talking about ill advised shots or heat checks, I’m talking about a total lack of confidence that allows a bell-cow player to let the game come to him. Perhaps he doubts the game will ever come to him if he doesn’t press? I really couldn’t blame him if that’s how he felt.
J’Covan Brown. Notice how the frenetic pace brought out the best in J’Covan’s shooting ability tonight. Ditto that for the Kansas game and most of last season. When the kid’s not inside his own head worrying about mistakes, he’s a lethal offensive player. I get that he has more than one demon on his shoulder but the "lack of confidence" gremlin shouldn’t be sitting on Brown’s shoulder. There shouldn’t be any room with the "Ima get mine mo-fucka" devil sitting there.
I’ll say it again, but we missed a HUGE opportunity this Saturday vs. CU in transitioning Brown as the lead guard for this team. We could have given him ownership and responsibility with little downside after his virtuoso first half performance, but instead we squandered that by holding him out until the game situation got away from us in the second half. Big mistake.
Dogus Balbay. We have the worst halfcourt offensive point guard in the top 50, yet this was a player that was purported to be a solid shooter from 15 feet coming in from Turkey. Now he’s terrified to raise up from 10. It’s quite comical really. To watch teams give up the same easy money shots to Balbay that KSU bigs ate up tonight for bucket after bucket was maddening, but I must admit I had to chuckle at some points. So KSU’s 6-9 inch post Curtis Kelly can go 6-8 from ten feet but Doge Balbay can’t muster one made jumper? Nice.
Cory Joseph. The kid fights himself going to the rack on the dribble when he was supposed to be a screen and roll witch. He fights himself to knock down open 3’s when he bested all comers at the McDonald’s All-American three point contest. Now, to make matters worse, a guy that Fran Frascilla calls Darrel Reavis of college hoops, has trouble staying in front of second option guards on the dribble. I see Avery Bradley.
Matt Hill and Alexis Wangmene. They have demons alright. They’ve practically been possessed since their freshman year.
Gary Johnson. I’ve got nothing. The kid battles every night and makes the most of his ability. If he was three inches taller he’d be an All-American. Right now, let’s just call him Barnes proof. Rick should recruit five Gary Johnsons. Then we'd be Clemson.
So with that, I suppose I owe you an apology for ranting. After watching Steve Lavin’s St. John’s squad evolve into a four seed, and of course the opponent Texas played tonight in Kansas State improve over the course of the year, I honestly have to call out the Texas staff. I get that expectations were way down this year but to tank a conference championship by losing to Nebraska and then blowing a 20 point lead to CU simply because we couldn’t scout correctly is unforgiveable. As for this game, I’m okay with it because KSU has a really good club and they’re really well coached, much better coached than this Texas squad anyway.
Kudos to coach Martin for molding his team into a squad that has an identity on both ends of the floor—minus all of the inner demons. Keep in mind that the Wildcats have zero point guard play and virtually no back to the basket threats, but they were able to come to Austin and put a beat down on a more talented Texas club that should have had a mean case of red ass after the CU debacle. Instead, Texas just rolled over and played dead. Just like dead people do.