There's a running joke on Mark Titus' weekly Grantland recaps where he ranks the "second best team in the Big 12." (Why not first best? Because Kansas.) Many moons ago, that was the Texas Longhorns. The most recent candidate were the Oklahoma Sooners, winners of five straight until a blip road loss to Kansas State.
Despite the loss, our neighbors to the north are a healthy 17-8 (8-5), third in the conference, with a puncher's chance at catching Kansas for the scepter to the iron throne. But first things first: Texas gets a shot at a revenge game tonight, taking on the Sooners in Norman.
Oklahoma obliterated Texas in Austin, with the Longhorns on the short end of a lopsided 70-49 trampling. It was death by a thousand cuts, as six Sooners scored at least 9 points. Buddy Hield is still pretty good, even if he's not your friend, guy. Hield, a volume scorer, leads the Big 12 in PPG with 17.4. He's a plus shooter from anywhere on the floor, up to and including the free throw line.
I loved TaShawn Thomas at Houston. Apparently, his nickname is Tae Tae and he has a fanbase that traveled from Killeen who loves to give him random shoutouts, even when the crowd size is roughly the capacity of a Times Square theater showing 50 Shades of Grey. Unfortunately, Thomas has a thing against Texas. Thomas is 2-0 in his lifetime versus the Horns (remember the CBI), and it'd be nice to notch an L on his belt.
Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler round out a very good starting five.
The Sooners choked the will out of Texas last time. Hopefully, Texas isn't returning simply as a glutton for punishment.
PG - Jordan Woodard (6' 0", 182 lb)
G - Isaiah Cousins (6' 4", 187 lb)
G - Buddy Hield (6' 4", 209 lb)
F - TaShawn Thomas (6' 8", 240 lb)
F - Ryan Spangler (6' 8", 231 lb)
G - Dinjiyl Walker (6' 1", 193 lb)
F - Khadeem Lattin (6' 9", 200 lb)
The Tjarkian roster review found here.
Keys to the Game
1. Zone D plus four-out O = success? Texas started zoning in earnest after Rick Barnes pressed reboot following the dreadful loss to Oklahoma. With injuries to Holmes and Felix, Barnes has been tinkering with his lineups, too, to the point where everyone and their mother's favorite analyst seem to agree that Texas' best chance is with a three-guard, four-out offense. That means OU will see a slightly different Texas team than it did last time. (Don't worry, Sooners fans. We still can't shoot.) At the very least, this means Texas matches up better with the Sooners' three guard sets. In the zone: Hield, Cousins, and Spangler are capable BTA shooters. Woodard and Thomas are not. Write that down.
2. Don't gift the ball up. The Sooners play D kind of like Texas--choking shots instead of choking the ball. Oklahoma's defensive efficiency ranks amongst the best in the nation, but the Sooners are vulnerable to offensive rebounds, and they don't take the ball away from you unless you gift it to them. Texas wants to control the rock and put up some easy second chancers.
3. Points inside. Taylor and Spangler are good, but they're not overly big. OU also has little depth: Lattin is a freshman and senior D.J. Bennett is a JAG big. Naturally, Taylor and Spangler combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds in game one, while Cameron Ridley posted a 3 and 6 alongside Myles Turner's 4 and 5. Texas' big men cannot get bullied about like it did last time, simple as that.
Game is on ESPN2 @ 8 p.m. Hook 'em.