Given the recent debate about Rick Barnes and Texas hoops, I asked Oread Boom royalty Hiphopopotamus to give his unvarnished take on Rick and the hoops program. Here you go. -- S.R.
From about Thanksgiving on there was no doubt in my mind that Kansas and Texas were head and shoulders above the rest in the Big XII. I never thought the Horns were quite on Kansas' level, even after the defeat in Lawrence. Many Barkers disagreed. To me, Kansas was 1. Texas was 2. And whoever was 3 was a ways off.
But the Horns kept winning - dominantly - and the bandwagon began to justifiably grow. You probably couldn't have found a more popular pick to win the national title. On the morning of February 19th, they were 23-3 (11-0) and primed to take over the #1 ranking, provided they could handle Doc Sadler's Huskers. They could not. And so it began.
After a few tough losses to close the season, Rick got his team going again in Kansas City. They couldn't muster up enough to take down KU again, but the offense had played a little better, and with the exception of the Jayhawks, they locked down their other opponents. To me, they were a 2 seed, 3 at the very worst. For some reason, the committee felt a 4 was in order. After watching the Arizona game, perhaps they knew more than I did all along.
The five second call was ridiculous. The timeout was just as bad. But worst of all was the 25 point first half and complete lack of an offensive game plan. Texas has two very gifted guards in Brown and Joseph. They have an exceptionally gifted wing in Hamilton. And while not very offensively polished, they have a post in Thompson that you can run some offense through. And I haven't even mentioned Gary Johnson, a guy who better give you something offensively, or he might as well not be on the floor. And yet, somehow, some way, against an Arizona team that plays less defense than just about any team I've seen all year, all Texas could muster was J'Covan Brown driving left, getting fouled and knocking down free throws.
There is no possible way for me to pin this loss on anything except Rick Barnes. The man can recruit as well, or better than, anyone in the country. And as we all know, that's more than half the battle. To my knowledge, he's a classy guy, liked and respected by everyone that knows him. But on the basketball court, I'm not really sure what he brings to the table. I'm more than happy to listen to arguments that suggest otherwise, but there's a lot of evidence to the contrary.
As far as I can tell, there are two types of coaches: 1) Those that have their system, that they'll recruit and stick to through thick and thin; and 2) Those that adapt to the players they have. I have no idea which category Rick Barnes falls into. He's got more than enough talent to win. And it's not a random assortment of talent either, year in and year out, he has complementary talent. And yet, he continues to lose. I'm not a Texas fan, so forgive me if I'm forgetting a big one in there somewhere, but if memory serves, the last big game he's ever won was in 2003 (does the Sweet 16 win over Stanford count?), when TJ Ford carried them to a win over 7th seeded Michigan State and they reached the Final Four. When something is on the line, Rick Barnes doesn't win. With the talent Texas has, that's inexcusable.
I'm led to believe that this will all change next year, as Kabongo continues the Grassroots pipeline to Texas, and arrives to play with buddies Thompson and Joseph. But consider me skeptical. If he is as good as I'm told (I quit following HS recruits many moons ago), then he should come in and take the reins at point, which would leave the lineup looking like so, assuming the return of Hamilton and Thompson.
Joseph (and Brown at either spot)
Wangmene (Chapman as the sub for either)
That's a phenomenal top seven, good enough to do a lot of special things. But if for no other reason than I don't think Rick will be able to manage his three guys on the perimeter, I'm skeptical. Is J'Covan willing to come off the bench a third year? Having a good attitude is not exactly his best attribute. If not, is he really willing to line up Brown and Kabongo next to each other defensively? Would they stop anyone? How quickly would Thompson get into foul trouble helping onto drivers? It's a team that can and should win, with a coach that knows the game and knows how to manage his players. Rick might know more of the former than I give him credit for, but I'm not budging on the latter.