I find myself busier than I've ever been, and you find yourself more apathetic towards Texas Longhorns basketball as you've ever been. Add the sum of parts, and I've got an answer for how to approach this basketball season. Each week, I'll write up a roundup post with all the noteworthy news and newsworthy notes of all things roundball. Here goes.
All Things Burnt Orange:
Texas 76, Mercer 73 (Sat) | Texas 84, South Alabama 77 (Tues) | Weekly Record 2-0 | Overall Record 2-0
That's right. If Peter is still willing to let you aboard, there's room on the Isaiah Taylor bandwagon. He kicked off his collegiate career by scoring a team-leading 17 points against Mercer. Taylor then posted a well-rounded 13 point, 4 rebound, 5 assist statline against South Alabama. At some point, there are diminishing returns for recruitniks to rank 3* prospects in basketball. Still, it seems somewhat incredulous that Taylor was consensus-ranked as the 302nd best player in the nation. He's the best freshman on the Longhorns early on, and by a wide margin. Texas' trio of other freshmen guards have struggled to make an impact, and have barely garnered any playing time.
However, the sophomores have showed flashes of awesomeness. Javan Felix will continue to get points by virtue of availability rather than efficiency (10-29 FGA-FGM early on), but he seems like a good complement to Taylor, at least offensively. Demarcus Holland looks to be following in the junkyard dog footsteps of guys like Kenton Paulino and Royal Ivey. His aggregate 14 rebounds ranks second on the team to Cameron Ridley.
Speaking of Ridley, he and fellow sophomore center Prince Ibeh have made incremental improvements in skill and conditioning. Ridley's second half against Mercer was particularly encouraging. Accumulative progress, rather than exponential, continues to be the expectation. If Barnes can get buy-in, both players should be better come conference play, and legitimate weapons as upperclassmen. Meanwhile, Texas' lone upperclassman, Jonathan Holmes, posted a beastly 23 and 9 against South Alabama. Do it against better competition, Mr. Holmes, and you can be my wonder boy, high above the mucky muck.
Yet...Texas still found itself trailing significantly in both its wins. Comeback victories against mid-major teams are fine, but a poor predictor of future success. The Longhorns have a couple more warmup games before the CBE Classic, where we should get an early indicator of just how much potential this team has.
Big 12 Power Rankings:
This week, the introductory power rankings feature a write-up of what to expect when you're expecting Texas to get creamed during its Big 12 schedule.
1. Kansas Jayhawks (2-0)
The Andrew Wiggins hypewagon is officially on par with Isaiah Taylor, royal baby watch, twerking, government shutdown jokes, Orange is the New Black, Carlos Danger, and crack-addled drunken stupors as things I can't get enough of. The Jayhawks continue their tradition of getting enigmatic point guards to play up to their potential. Oh hi, Naadir Tharpe! If you really want to be forward-thinking, just tell people that Joel Embiid will eventually be the best player from the 2014 NBA Draft. Stop me if you've heard this before: Kansas is, once again, awesome. The Jayhawks, who just beat Duke in the Champions Classic, are the class of the Big 12 until a team proves me wrong.
2. Oklahoma St. Cowboys (2-0)
Marcus Smart shocking the world and returning for his sophomore year will be just like Myck Kabongo's return, only the exact opposite. After two games, Smart's childhood friend Phil Forte leads all Cowboys will 20.5 PPG. Rick Barnes still doesn't believe he deserves a college scholarship. If only Le'Bryan Nash had come to Texas; he could have been an undrafted free agent playing in Agrabah right now. Because I can, I'm going to start calling freshman point guard Stevie Clark "Big Sexy."
3. Baylor Bears (2-0)
Nobody does less with more, unless you're the Texas Longhorns athletics department. (Yes, it's still fashionable to hate on Scott Drew and Deloss Dodds.) Baylor replaces Juco legend-turned-Idaho Stampedean Pierre Jackson with Juco legend-turning-Idaho potatoean Kenny Chery. Cory Jefferson eats boards for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, since his only restaurant choices in Waco are Subway and driving to West for kolaches. Isaiah Austin chooses to play carnival pop-a-shot from 23 feet out, because he is the most interesting man in basketball goggles alive. Baylor did just beat tournament-caliber Colorado, so the Bears are off to a nice start.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (2-0)
A lot of people have the Sooners pegged as a sleeper pick in the Big 12. Hey, Texas started last year in Kem Pomeroy's top 25, too. Buddy Hield looks like this year's Pierre Jackson, equal parts amazing, infuriating, and manbearpig. Could this be the year former top 50 recruit Cameron Clark breaks out? Maybe. Probably not. Je'Lon Hornbeak must hate the fact that Forte was Smart's bestie and not Hornbeak. Joke's on both of them: they both still have to live in Oklahoma. If Ryan Spangler's last name were Spaulding or Spackler, this section would contain a lot more jokes. Spangler could be OU's third best player, which is unfortunate for the Sooners because I have no idea who he is.
5. Iowa St. Cyclones (2-0)
I still can't get over how ridiculously good-looking Fred Hoiberg is on the sidelines. Half their roster sounds like it should be in the WWE. Georges Niang? DeAndre Kane? Naz Long? C'mon. Can I trade them "Big Sexy" Clark to complete the Ladder Match roster? Iowa St. may start slow as star forward Melvin Ejim sits out the beginning of the year with a knee injury. All else I need to know about the Cyclones is that they are still better than Texas.
6. Texas Longhorns (2-0)
Unbridled optimism goes here. TEH ZAY.
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0)
Welcome to the section of teams I currently think Texas could actually beat! Jordan Tolbert is probably the best player in the Big 12 that didn't make preseason all-conference or honorable mention. This team could have actually been good had it held onto Billy Gillispie's ill-fated 2012 recruiting class. Wannah Bail, who never played a game for Tech, is now eligible at UCLA, while promising combo guard Josh Gray left for junior college (and may be Louisville-bound next year). Give it time: Tech once again deployed the Bob Knight Coaching Retread Hire Program by bringing on Tubby Smith. I can't wait to see Saul Smith muck up things in Lubbock before a future Tech AD hires a bat-guano crazy Scott Drew.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers (1-1)
The most news the Mountaineers made this off-season was booting problem child Aaric Murray off the team (he's playing for "The Other Magic" Mike Davis at Texas Southern). I would steal their backcourt of Juwan Staten and Eron Harris in a heartbeat. However, their frontcourt consists of an underwhelming Kevin Noreen, a bunch of first-year nobodies, and possibly a walk-on who won the campus' daily moonshine chugging contest, sponsored by Dana Holgorsen.
9. Kansas St. Wildcats (0-1)
Letting Frank Martin walk was one of K-State's more unfortunate decisions since letting Ron Prince walk. (By the way, Steve Patterson, if you're looking for a football coach...) Will Spradling continues in his fourth year of being a major disappointment to me because he didn't turn into the Big 12 version of Aaron Craft. Freshman Wesley Iwundu led the team in points and rebounds during their first game, if you're looking for another Texan recruiting miss. Of course, Weber's motley crew also lost to something called the Northern Colorado Bears. Grape job! Hey, did you know that K-State hasn't signed anyone above 3* (on Rivals) since 2010 and still manages to beat the pants off Texas? Good times.
10. TCU Horned Frogs (0-2)
Ooof. TCU, you chose...poorly. TCU lost oft-injured big men Devonta Abron and Aaron Durley to injury prior to the season, dropping their preseason ranking from 10th all the way down to 10th. Heralded freshman Karviar Shepherd probably should have picked LSU like his high school and AAU teammate, Jordan Mickey. Like milk and making Anchorman 2, TCU was a bad choice. The Horned Frogs just lost at home to Longwood, so. Yeah.
Until next week.