The Texas Longhorns beat D-II Tarleton State 95-61 in a game that was basically over with 4 minutes left in the first half. Tarleton State pulled to within 9 at 27-18 and Texas responded with a 15-4 run that put the game out of reach for good. Tarleton State may be D-II, but they were in the Final Four last year and enter this season ranked #2 in the country so they're not to be taken too lightly, especially in light of some high-major schools having trouble with D-II (and D-III) squads this off-season. Tonight, we start repeating the BC mantra that will guide us through the new season:
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."
Tonight was mostly of the good variety, thanks in large part to the waves of athletic players Texas can send at a team largely devoid of equivalent talent. This was the first time we saw the press in action, and while it was sloppy at times you can see where guys like Isaiah Taylor, Kerwin Roach, Demarcus Holland, et al will make some teams pay dearly for panicking. The rotation behind the traps was interesting to see, usually involving the third guard sprinting across the court to fill a hole in the zone. This is generally by design, but it does add to the perception of chaos to those unfamiliar with watching a press in full attack mode. There's a fine line between attacking and scrambling, and we saw some of each. I took particular note of Zay & Kerwin playing together in the press; if those two can get on the same page with the traps, that could be a fun combo. Put Holland and Tevin Mack behind them as interceptors and coaches around the conference will be adding Welbutrin prescriptions to their contract demands in no time.
Texas took 626 3s last season. If tonight is any indication, they'll fly past that number like Usain Bolt on trucker-grade methamphetamine. Texas shot 30 3s, which was nearly 44% of their shots(last season was ~34%). Texas seems committed to taking shots either behind the arc or in the paint, which is essentially Daryl Morey's wet dream and probably the best bet for this team given their current roster.
Cameron Ridley did what he does best, dominate a clearly inferior opponent. That may sound like a backhanded compliment - alright, it probably is - but this wasn't a game where Cam could prove much of anything. We already know basically who he is and what his strengths & weaknesses are, there's not much he can do to showcase anything new until he meets someone of his equivalent level. He did a good job of getting set with at least one foot in the paint, showcased a couple of nice moves, and hit his free throws(7-8 from the line). His free throw form looks legit, I wouldn't be surprised to see him average 70%+ on the season, which is kinda amazing considering his free throws were Ibeh-ish his freshman year. Oh, and he did this to a poor, unsuspecting Tarleton player:
Kerwin Roach had another game where he flashed his impressive potential, though we still need to tap the brakes on our expectations of him. There's exactly zero minutes of basketball that counts on his ledger to this point, so while he's got everyone in a tizzy we should probably you haven't been listening to me at all the last 40 words, you're just staring at that highlight aren't you. Alright, fine, let's move on.
Prince had a good game, but is in much the same situation as Cam. Tarleton simply doesn't have a guy that matches up to Prince, so he's going to show out almost by default. Prince actually pulled out a low post move at one point, and I thought maybe my mescaline eye drops had kicked in too early. That got him excited, so he tried another not too long later and physics caught up to him. He ran well in transition, showed some decent vision passing out of the low block, and generally had a solid game. His turn to prove himself will come soon enough.
Tevin shot almost twice as much as the second most Texas player, and somehow he was still quiet. He's just there, doing his thing, playing the game and finishing with a 16/6. It's like he's got a cloaking device strapped to his chest. He heat-checked one three in the first half, otherwise most of his shots I noticed seemed decent. I liked his anticipation as an interceptor on the press, at some point this season he'll definitely pick off a pass & drain a corner 3 while everyone is watching Kerwin tie his shoes on the bench.
Shaquille Cleare (DNP Root Canal)
Connor Lammert (DNP Monkeypox)
Zay had a 20 second stretch where he was channeling Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, with a steal & layup followed by a breakaway dunk attempt that was thisclose to tearing a hole in space-time. He was jawing at the Tarleton players something fierce; he's definitely not lacking in swagger. Anybody that's worried about Isaiah's buy-in, don't. He even squared up on a (missed) 3 ball, so let's cross our fingers he's going to have a better showing from the outside.
Javan had less minutes (15) than anyone other than the walk-ons, but before you read too much into that consider that 5 scholarship players had less than 20 minutes and only one (Mack) had more than 21. I think this may work in Javan's favor, allowing him to be an instant offense guy and limit his defensive liability going forward. Win/win.
Davis will be getting plenty of minutes if he keeps shooting like this. 2/4 from 3 & 4/4 from the line will earn you kudos on most squads.
I've got a race in the morning so I'm wrapping this up, but suffice it to say almost everybody showed something positive during the exhibition. The box score is here if you're interested.