In a micro lens, there was a lot to like from Tuesday's game despite the end result. Texas primarily deployed a three-guard, four-out lineup. Kendal Yancy felt empowered enough to take 8 three's (he made 2). Demarcus Holland got his shot back on track, if not his ballhandling. Texas had a chance to win despite brutal performances from Isaiah Taylor and Jonathan Holmes. Myles Turner is still good and getting better.
Most importantly, Rick Barnes recommitted to man-to-man defense despite showing a stubborn insistence to maintain a failing zone. This is especially critical against a run-and-gun Iowa State team that tore Texas' zone to shreds in Ames.
In a macro lens, these changes could also benefit the modified end goal. Texas is a top 25 team based on qualitative (general talent level) and quantitative (still ranked 19th on KenPom) measures, but is staring at the barrel of an 8 seed or so in the NCAA Tournament. That means the Longhorns can still dream of a Sweet 16 run, even if the W-L record doesn't reflect it. Let's not lose hope yet.
At 6-7 in conference, Texas should be shooting for a .500 conference record. The Longhorns have 5 games left, 3 at home, starting with Iowa State. The Cyclones, at 9-4, are just one game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings. Tjarks' preview from game one all holds. Iowa State is good at running, spreading, shooting, and versatiling. The major change from that game is Fred Hoiberg has shifted Jameel McKay into the starting lineup and moved Bryce Dejean-Jones to a sixth man role. Iowa State is also leaning more on glue guy Dustin Hogue to close out games, tapering Dejean-Jones' minutes.
I've liked the past iterations of Hoiberg's Iowa State teams (unless you're a Kansas fan, it's hard not to). They've struggled to make noise in the NCAA Tournament, but McKay adds a dimension not previously present in past years. He's a capable rim-runner and rim-protector, and so long as the Cyclones are draining their shots, the fightin' Hoibergs now have a chance against any team in the country. As Texas fans already know.
PG - Monte Morris (6' 2", 170 lb)
G - Naz Long (6' 4", 200 lb)
F - Georges Niang (6' 8", 230 lb)
F - Dustin Hogue (6' 6", 220 lb)
F - Jameel McKay (6' 9", 215 lb)
F - Bryce Dejean-Jones (6' 6", 210 lb)
F - Abdel Nader (6' 6", 230 lb)
G - Matt Thomas (6' 4", 195 lb)
The Tjarkian roster review found here.
Keys to the Game
1. Fail forward. On Tuesday, Texas played 35 very good and very promising minutes. And then, over the final five, decided to self-combust while getting kicked in the nads by OU. Texas needs to put those last five minutes out of sight, out of mind, and focus on the positive. If Yancy and Holland remain credible threats from the perimeter while the team refocuses on being a smothering man-to-man team, there could be something here.
2. Hugs and kisses and pray for raining misses. I mentioned this in the first ISU preview comments thread, but Iowa State is a lot less dangerous when they don't hit their shots. Also, water is wet.
3. Get McKay in foul trouble. He's the X-factor on this team. Without an effective McKay, Texas can exploit the paint with Ridley and Turner. Put McKay in space (pick and roll with a big, Turner/Lammert as a stretch 5), get him uncomfortable, maybe get him on the bench.
Game on ESPN2, Saturday, 1 p.m. Hook 'em.