clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Assessing Texas Heading Into The NCAA Tournament

The loss to Kansas was disappointing, though not unexpected. Today the only thing that could have stopped the Jayhawks is a Kansas football player mounted on a prairie fire.

When Tyshawn Taylor and Brady Morningstar combine for 12 of 17 shooting and 11 assists with Taylor hitting from deep and Morningstar hitting runners, the opponent gets an L. It's science. So if you're bummed out as a Texas fan, snap out of it. Or just say the name Markieff over and over until you smile.

Almost every team in the tourney will enter having lost their last game and the teams that haven't lost in a while have coaches terrified by their team's complacency. That's basketball - wins can degrade your game as much as instructive losses can elevate it.

So where are we? As a team? Individually?

Jordan Hamilton

Tell me how Jordan's first five shots fall in each half and I'll tell you about Jordan's total play. I've never seen a player whose identity is more wrapped up in his shot. Please repeat:

Jordan, you are more than your jump shot.

Jordan, you are more than your jump shot.

Jordan, you are more than your jump shot.

His moping after a miss isn't because he's selfish - it's because his hardwood self-actualization is determined by whether his shot went Clang or Swish. He believes that with no shot, he has no value. And he's wrong. Hamilton can help this team with 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and harassing length on the wing as much as with 24 points.

He will have no epiphanies on that fact between now and the tournament short of a Good Will Hunting style intervention, but I'm mostly encouraged that Jordan is working inside and mid-range out to the three point line rather than the reverse as he did during late season slump.

His game inside the arc is the catalyst for our offense. Tristan Thompson's offensive rebounds and post position agree.

J'Covan Brown

JCB has settled into playing smooth, contained basketball. Though there is always the possibility that he will fling his shoes into the stands after an egregious foul call and grab the PA announcer's mic and launch into an impromptu free-style rap, I expect a strong tournament showing. He likes the big stage, camera flashes are less distracting than Port Arthur gun fire, and his under-the-rim, old man's game is well-suited to tournament officiating which rewards offensive aggression with trips to the free throw line.

Tristan Thompson

Today is a good example of what can happen to any young big throttled by fouls, double teams, and extra attention. College is a guard's game and you can remove a big man from the equation, particularly when the refs penalize him for his athleticism and we are incapable of getting him his touches with our Tokyo subway spacing.

Tristan is Tigger from Winnie The Pooh. Endless energy, tireless, lots of bounce, and eternally optimistic. We have to find space for him because Tristan grabbing 10 offensive rebounds, though enjoyable, isn't much of a game plan. This is all the more reason that Hamilton must work the mid-range game while Joseph and Brown force respect from the arc. Ball movement flows, Tristan owns the backside boards, and we get a lot of good looks.

Gary Johnson

I love and appreciate GJ's effort. He has heart, he comes to play, and he's a warrior. That all written, he will play his pro ball in Guangzhou, not Denver. He is 6-6 and modestly athletic. And as enjoyable as the elbow jumper is when it goes, he's a sub 50% shooter who can't finish around the rim. He can embarrass a second-rate big, but against quality we're looking at 2 of 8 shooting and 4 rebounds.

Recently, I had a friend advance the idea that GJ was PJ Tucker. I struck him with the back of my hand for his impertinence and unsound analysis. He held his face sideways for an extra beat, as women do when they are silenced by a Bond villain.

Matt Hill, Alexis Wangmene, Jai Lucas

Bobby Knight is right. Hill is valueless on offense in the high-low unless he will make the open 16 footer. He has bad hands, but that shouldn't account for the degradation of his post defense. Matt was a legitimate force earlier in the year as a post defender and rebounder and I'm concerned that this is a regression to the mean. We need his size. We need his shot blocking. We need his screening.

Jai Lucas had a nice tournament. I cringe when Human Jai-gnome has to guard or is pressed by anyone over six feet, but if he can continue to hit some open shots, I'll take the free candy. Don't fill up on it though.

For the role-playing big, tournament basketball means free throw shooting, active rebounding, and giving five fouls. Hello Lex. Wang doesn't need to be enormous for us to win, but he harbors a bit of our upside as a role player, particularly if Hill doesn't compete.

Dogus Balbay

Two things most don't know about Balbay: when benched for long periods, he's the first guy off of the pine cheering and coaching teammates and celebrates each made shot like a walk-on. Also, save Hill, our best screener at 6-1 185. His contribution in the tourney will be entirely situational and, depending on match-up, his minutes should vary from 8-28.

What bothers me most when Dogus is in the game is Barnes' unwillingness to promote pace with even nominal pressure and trapping. Why not unleash Tigger's ability to dust every big in America in a foot race with Balbay's full-court acumen?

Cory Joseph

I saw some aggressiveness in CJ's game in this tournament that was lost during our slump. We're a different basketball team when he's driving hard to the basket and burying open threes. For a freshman, he's such a sound defender that he really can't be taken off of the court. Our best line-up is Joseph/Brown/Hamilton/Thompson/whoever and with the help of TV Timeouts, 75% of the game should be in this combo. Though I love the unpredictable verve of a Hill-Lucas-Balbay trio as the next man...

Andrew Dick

Theoretically, Dick could feed Johnson for a forceful stuff around the rim.

If you don't think the basketball gods will reward that with at least a Sweet 16 bid, your understanding of the universe is different from mine.


Rick Barnes, despite his weird reputation among casual basketball fans as some sort of uber-choker, generally coaches us to what our seeding predicts. If we space well and run an offense with purpose, we are a legitimate Final 4 contender. If we don't, we can lose to a 10 seed.

Some observations:

- We are a team deeply susceptible to a good scouting report. Fortunately, most coaches in the Big Dance have the attitude that they're going to "do what they do" and not burden their players with instruction and opponent specific tactics. Wrong answer against us. Scouting reports usually don't become relevant in the NCAA until Game 3.

- Every time we play out of conference, the other team freaks out at how physical we are. It's jarring for any team not from the Big East.

- I believe our entire tournament upside rests on Hamilton and Brown. That doesn't mean they must combine for 40+ for us to win. It means the overall quality of their play determines our high water mark. Tristan Thompson may be our most important player, but any big can be taken away if the other coach will make the necessary sacrifices.

What do you think? Give me a pulse check.