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Smart Texas Basketball Preview: Kerwin Roach

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Smart Texas Basketball Preview: Kerwin Roach

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-UNI vs Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kerwin Roach, Jr. (6-4, Sophomore)

There may be no player in burnt orange who is more integral to the success or failure of Texas this season than Kerwin Roach; he will be tasked with replacing Isaiah Taylor as the primary ball-handler, a designation that carries equal parts responsibility and potential. It’s a testament to Roach’s progress that the team is even considering him for this role. A year ago he was viewed as an ultra-athletic guard with raw ability, more a malleable block of clay than a player with a refined skill-set. He splashed onto the internet with viral feats of athleticism like touching the top of a backboard, and a dunk against UT-Arlington that sent Lance Blanks into an orgasm normally reserved for the climax of a twelve-hour Kama Sutra session. For those of you that may have missed it -- and if you turned on Longhorn Network at any point in the month of December, you didn’t -- we commissioned an artist rendering of the event at great personal expense.

Kerwin Roach Kills a Spaniard

Figure 4.1. Kerwin Roach Kills a Spaniard.

While Roach’s attempts to MurderDeathKill every rim in the Big 12 made the highlight reels and put him on the radar of every NBA draft blogger this side of Madagascar, he was quietly growing into the primary alternative to Taylor at the point. Roach went from beating opponents with pure athleticism in December to understanding his role in the offensive & defensive systems and making intelligent reads in March. Defensively, he was playing in position more often, which allowed him to use his superior athleticism to limit dribble penetration as well as get in passing lanes for deflections and steals. As Shaka likes to say, Roach was ‘connected’ at a level he was unable to maintain when he initially arrived in Austin. To get a sense of his progression, let’s compare some stats from his first seven games of the season to his last seven games of the season.

Table 4.1. Comparing Kerwin Roach’s First Seven and Last Seven Games.

Kerwin Roach, Jr. First Seven Games Last Seven Games
Minutes 126 139
Assists 9 7
Turnovers 17 6
Steals 5 7
Points 38 69 (nice)
Average Offensive Rating 68.4 125.1

This may be going out on a limb, but we are commandeering the SS Hot Take and declaring that coaches like it when a player scores more and turns the ball over less.

Roach does many things well and the sky’s the limit for him, but there are areas he must improve upon if he’s going to stake his claim to the starting point guard role. While his fouling decreased slightly as the season went on, it is still significantly higher than it should be. His fouls charged per 40 minutes (FC/40) rate of 5.7 was closer to Prince Ibeh (7.2) than Isaiah Taylor (3.5). There are a number of categories where being closer to Prince is coveted; blocks, height, a willingness to call Barking Carnival bloggers ‘haters’. Fouling is not one of these categories. And while it is good to see that Roach is already drawing fouls at roughly the rate Taylor did -- 6.1 per 40 minutes to 6.2 for Taylor -- Roach’s 62.9 percent free throw percentage is substantially lower than Isaiah’s 81.1 percent from last season. If Roach went to the line as often as Taylor did last season, he would have scored 26 less points shooting free throws. Considering last season Texas had seven games where the final margin was four points or less -- plus an overtime game with a final margin of seven -- it’s not hard to imagine those 26 points swinging a couple wins to losses over the course of the season. If Roach can get his free throw percentage north of 70 percent, he is no longer a potential liability in late-game situations.

Defensively, Roach has the athleticism to stay with almost any guard he faces. His focus going forward is less about learning the defense as it is learning to make the right choices within the framework of the defense Shaka calls. Slower players have to cheat in situations where Roach can play straight-up, which means if he simply does his job he’s more likely to force a positive outcome than a replacement-level D-1 guard. The more connected Kerwin is, the better he’ll be on both ends of the floor.

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