Football season is over for the Longhorns. The harsh reality that you're not going to get to watch Shawn Watson's finely-tuned scoring machine for another 9 months is nearly overwhelming; contemplating almost a year away from Tim Cole's inevitable Heisman candidacy must be painful for you all. I can only imagine the pain Scipio Tex feels as he glumly opens each window on his burnt orange, 7-foot, 270-day advent calendar. (That doesn't even take into account paying the electric bill Scipio gets from having to refrigerate 90 pounds of chocolate for most of a year. He's making SBNation money, not Orangebloods money.) How will you pass the time? There are bowl games for you to watch, but you don't have a rooting interest in 80% of them and they're almost all contests between mediocre teams with highly variable levels of give-a-damn enabled. Besides, that only gets you through 1/9th of your withdrawal timeline and an 11% solution doesn't work anywhere other than D.C.
Fine, You Have Our (Begrudging) Attention
Might I suggest you turn your eyes to college basketball? We're making major changes to the game with the goal of faster, more interesting offenses and a game that doesn't resemble a Murderball sequel. From a shorter shot clock(30 seconds instead of 35), to a larger restricted area under the basket(making charges harder to pull off), to a focus on eliminating hand-checking on the perimeter(so guards don't have to wear body armor to get in the paint), the NCAA has finally taken a concrete step towards letting players play rather than allowing games to devolve into a rugby scrum.
But We Heard There Were A Lot Of Fouls Being Called, That Doesn't Sound Fun
OK, fine, it hasn't been perfect. The refs are calling fouls to help establish the new rules, and sometimes that ends up with a game where there are more free throws than field goal attempts. In theory, this means teams will learn to adjust to the new rules. Time will tell if this is the case, but signs point to this being successful if the officials stick to their guns for the long haul. Really though, it can't be much worse than the product on the court last year.
This Is A Terrible Sales Job
I'm a terrible salesman.
Why Are We Here Then
Because I locked the only door and swallowed the key, so you're stuck here until I'm done talking.
Is This Like One Of Those Hawaiian Timeshare Presentations
YES! For only 3 months a year, you too can own a D1 basketball team! Allow me to present to you the Texas Longhorns. They're a spacious 3-bedroom, 1.5-bath house with a view of the beach, easy access to local grocery stores & restaurants, and low HOA fees.
What's The Catch
The previous owner lived here longer than he should have, so the appliances are a little dated and the bathrooms smell like your grandmother's perfume. But the foundation is solid and the place is wired for Google Fiber, so you'll probably like it.
I Love Google Fiber
Don't we all, buddy. Don't we all. By the way, let's get to know the new landlord; his name is Shaka, he's a young guy that's been making waves in the Kailua-Kona real estate scene.
He's The HAVOC Guy, Right?
Legally, we're not allowed to call him that. Instead, we're going with Shaka's Havoc Alternative Resistance Theory, or SHART.
That's Funny, And A Little Gross
You're welcome. He's the guy you remember, but this team doesn't really look like his old VCU squads just yet. Which is fine, they're learning his system but it's an uneven process that looks prettier some days than others.
This Sounds Like We Suck
Nah, we don't suck, we're just a work in progress. Texas is 4-3 and every game has something to like about it. Well, other than the first Washington game. That game was awful.
What Do You Mean 'First' Washington Game
The Huskies joined the Big 12 in the off-season, didn't you hear? They're part of the conference schedule now, with home & away games every season in Shanghai & Atlantis.
Be sure to send all of your letters to Steve Patterson, it was his brilliant plan. Anyway, Texas is finally back on US soil for more than 24 hours so there's hope they'll settle into a routine and start to show a bit more consistency from game to game. They've shown flashes of a very good team, and the "average" effort from them right now is decent, but the key phrase I'll repeat a hundred times this season is "work in progress". One game they'll rebound well but not hit outside shots, another game they'll be lighting it up from the perimeter but can't snag a board to save their life. They have their flaws, but the potential is there.
This Still Sounds Like They Suck
They don't suck, exactly, they're just uncomfortable in their skin and trying to figure things out on the fly. They're like a teenager who just figured out how to masturbate; they don't always know what they're doing, but they're enthusiastic to the point of chafing. Most of the errors they make are ones of aggression, which is generally the side of the coin you'd rather see a team fall. Being too tentative is a sure death, but being too aggressive sometimes kickstarts moments of brilliance. Shaka wants aggression, it's a key component to his SHART system.
Are You Ever Going To Explain Anything About SHART
Right, sorry. SHART is much like the system Shaka used at VCU, and in theory we will eventually see a squad that's thematically similar to his previous squads. You're not seeing it as much now because the team isn't good enough to run it for 40 minutes against high-major competition, but it's showing up more than it did early on. While Shaka is running more of a zone press - you'll hear it referred to as a diamond press - than his traditional man press, the fact that any press is showing up is a good sign the players are absorbing the new system. The more pressing you see, the closer we are to this team in its final form...which may not be in its final form until next year. Hey, it's the first year of the overhaul, sometimes you don't get to see Frieza right off the bat. You should be used to this after the last 4 months watching Charlie's squad.
So This Team Is Just Like Charlie Strong's Squad
No no, not at all. In fact, the similarity ends at "new coach installing a new scheme". Rick Barnes left the program stocked with quality players who like to work hard, so Shaka isn't having to run guys off or deal with depth problems(yet). Several guys on the squad are players Shaka likely would have gone after himself were he recruiting here 2-3 years ago, so there's no culture change problems. This squad genuinely likes each other and Shaka is feeding into that. The ceiling for this group is pretty high.
Are We Going To The Final Four
I Was Told There Would Be Final Fours
There might be, eventually. This squad is talented, but between playing in the hardest conference in the country and the lack of NBA-ready talent, a Final Four with this team is exceedingly unlikely.
Will They At Least Make The NCAA Tourney
Maybe? They have the potential to get an invite to March Madness, but unless they show significant improvement then their hopes likely rest on how they fare against the middle of the pack teams in the Big 12. Kansas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma are in some order the best 3 teams in the conference and TCU is probably the worst (though there's a tire fire developing in Stillwater that might finally sink Travis Ford's tenure). Texas is somewhere in a group with Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia, and if Texas wants to be relevant to the NCAA discussion they need to finish ahead of at least 2 of those teams. They absolutely could end up as high as 4th in the conference depending on how quickly they gel, but it's still a little soon to say they're NCAA-bound with any certainty.
OK Why Am I Spending My Money To See This Team
Because they're an interesting group to watch, and they take enough 3s that you're liable to catch them on a night where they crack 80 points. Cameron Ridley, Javan Felix, and Connor Lammert are playing the best versions of themselves and Eric Davis is providing much-needed offense from the perimeter. If Tevin Mack can settle into a groove, this team goes from "pretty interesting" to "on a good night, they can hang with anyone". Oh, and there was this.
That Was Filthy
It was, and it's the second time he's done it to somebody in seven games. Also, they sell beer at Club Erwin, and you'll love DJ Mel. I love DJ Mel, like enough that I'm halfway done filling out adoption paperwork. He'll be my little Filipino son; I don't care that he's actually older than me, he's small enough I can carry him to games in a baby bjorn. I don't think he'll mind as long as I keep him supplied with iTunes gift cards & Topo Chico.
But I Hate Hip Hop