The Texas Longhorns lost to the
rival little brother rival the Texas A&M Aggies 84-73 in the first Battle 4 Atlantis game. The game was rife with fouls (61 in total) of all varieties both legitimate and not, and one can only imagine the alternate reality where two teams combine to shoot 47% from the floor and the result is aesthetically pleasing rather than an extended scene of Carl from The Walking Dead wandering away from the farm while everyone wonders where Carl is and why he didn't STAY IN THE HOUSE, CARL. Put another way, ESPN is probably glad the game was on AXS. It's frustrating to see a team keep coming back over & over but never get over the hump; sometimes it was A&M making a quality shot, sometimes it was Texas committing a bad foul or turning the ball over, there were half a dozen chances to seize the lead and it never happened. Texas led for less than a minute in the entire game, and it was the first minute of the game. A&M tied it at 2-2 and never trailed again. Credit where it's due, A&M is the real deal; House looks every bit of the 5-star recruit - except at the free throw line - and Tyler Davis is going to be a pain in the ass of the SEC for years to come. The better team won tonight.
The 2015 Barking Carnival Basketball Mantra
"The gamble with a press(particularly of the trapping variety) is that your team will create more good outcomes than bad and distort the game in your favor, but this means as a Texas fan you're going to need to increase your tolerance for bad outcomes as well."
The press didn't really show up until the 2nd half, presumably because Shaka & crew were hoping to save the team's legs a bit for the 3 games in 3 days tournament setup, but also because A&M shot a cool 50% from the floor in the first half and they needed to do something to cool the Aggies down(spoiler alert: it didn't work).
Eric Davis, Jr.
Eric Davis has improved offensively every game this year, the latest being a 28 point outburst that's tied for 4th-best in Atlantis tournament history. He was 6-10 from the floor, 4-7 from 3, and every shot looks good leaving his hand. While his defense is still sketchy - particularly in a system that requires the effort Shaka demands - he's becoming an indispensable piece of this team's offensive attack and will continue to see minutes. Only Cameron Ridley & Demarcus Holland were on the floor longer.
Connor showcased his ability to stretch the floor again, hitting 2-3 from 3. He's now hit 6 3s in 3 games compared to hitting 26 all of last year. While his percentage will surely decline over the season (Steph Curry doesn't hit 2/3 of his shots behind the arc, much less Connor) he's showing confidence and quality selection with his 3s. He was dealing with foul trouble all night - as did every Texas player over 6'3" - but I'm not going to hold that against him much.
Texas has shot better in each passing game this season (26% - 40.4% - 45.8%). There will be a natural ebb & flow to offensive production over the course of the season, but the Washington game is starting to look more like an outlier as the season goes on. If Tevin Mack & Kerwin Roach can ever get on track, this team will score enough to win most nights....if the defense improves.
The Mixed Bag
Zay drove the ball effectively most of the night, either scoring or drawing fouls. Unfortunately, he only shot 6-10 from the line and his outside stroke is still problematic at best. I have no problem with Zay driving into the lane whatsoever, more good things than bad result when he sees an opening; having said that, he's going to see less and less daylight as more and more defenders run under screens because nobody is afraid of him on the perimeter. His best asset - speed - gets blunted by defensive adjustments. You can see the staff trying to mix things up by getting him off the ball and running through screens to get a little space, but it's hit & miss to this point. 5 assists to 3 turnovers is passable and he's obviously got good communication with Ridley in the pick & roll, so hopefully they can build off that.
There's no situation where the defense is going to get a pass on letting an opponent shoot 49% from the floor, regardless of what the refs are doing. Too many guys were left open both in zone & man defenses, too many traps in the press were easily spotted and countered. Texas wasn't able to get even a handful of stops that would've helped turn the tide, and it was all over the court. This was a team failure defensively.
If I see Demarcus take 2 dribbles into the baseline only to immediately turn around and head back to the perimeter without even looking at the rim one more time, I'm going to throw myself into the Atlantis aquarium with the nurse sharks. Demarcus, you're athletic enough to make that baseline run viable and if you'd look up from the floor you'd stand a decent chance of seeing an open teammate. But if you keep doing this...I don't know what to call it, fake attack, you're just burning clock and mucking up the offense. 30 minutes on the floor and 4 points of offense isn't going to cut it, no matter how much I love your defensive effort.
I think my stance is fairly well-known at this point: if you're going to call the new rules consistently and enforce them for the long-term, I can accept the short-term pain of foul festivals in the hopes of freeing up the offenses down the road. This isn't the part I'm unhappy with, it's the other fouls the refs were calling. I saw more than a couple instances where the refs called where they think the foul should've been regardless of whether or not it actually happened. Just because a guard is running through the bigs and shooting doesn't mean he was automatically fouled, and just because two bigs jostle for position it doesn't always mean a whistle needs to be blown. What really bothered me though were the instances when a ref would wait to see the result of the play before blowing the whistle. Either something is a foul or it isn't, it shouldn't matter who ends up with the ball for you to decide to stop play. Before you start delving into context & situational awareness, nail down consistency first. I don't want NCAA refs to arrive at the top of Maslow's pyramid by helicoptering to the peak, they need to hike up the first levels of the ancient grain silos before sitting on the top with the good doctor and deconstructing their place in the universe.
Texas' next game is tomorrow at 6PM CT & features some team who I've never heard of, the Washington Huskies. I don't think that's even a real NCAA team, I hear their campus is in China.