The Texas Longhorns are dancing, folks. Texas won a nail-biter in Manhattan, 71-70 against the Kansas State Wildcats and with that win Texas is guaranteed a .500 or better finish in conference. While 8 conference wins still probably would have punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, 9 wins removes all doubt. The only real question that's left is where Texas will be seeded, and their remaining 4-6 games will determine if the Longhorns are a 4-seed, 8-seed, or somewhere in the middle. Shaka Smart won't win Big 12 Coach of the Year - that's probably going to Tubby Smith or Bob Huggins - but that doesn't take away from the impressive work he's done getting this team into March Madness.
While this wasn't Zay's best game as a distributor - he doesn't make teams pay enough in the PnR by passing to the invariably open big man, which was more evident tonight than most nights - he was undoubtedly locked in and took over the second half. 19 points on 5-8 shooting including a pristine 8-8 from the line illustrates how much time he spent in the Wildcats' paint, repeatedly punishing Kansas State on isolation plays & when the wrong guy (honestly, they were all the wrong guy tonight) would get switched onto Zay. If you want to show guards how to take over a game, show them tape of tonight. Taylor knew what the refs were calling and took full advantage.
The AFH had a great first half, shouldering the bulk of the offensive load while the team struggled through foul after foul. He ended the evening 6-11 from the field (1-2 from 3) for 13 points & had 3 assists to zero turnovers. Javan was active on defense and a plus on offense, making markedly better decisions with the basketball than he did against Baylor.
Eric Davis, Jr.
This is 2 of the last 3 games where Eric has looked like his old self from beyond the arc. His stroke looks good, he seems more confident taking shots than he has in awhile, and while his defense has the ups & downs you'd tend to expect from a freshman he's still contributing. Texas needs perimeter scoring in the worst way, and while we're talking about that...
Kerwin Roach Jr.
That was a nice stroke from Snoop tonight. Actually, his stroke has continued to improve throughout the season. Would you believe that Kerwin has a higher 3-point % than Eric in conference play? Albeit he's not taking as many as Eric, but the fact that they're neck & neck speaks well of the work Snoop is putting in during practice. 3-4 from the line is a nice bonus, and another sign that he's working on his game as he started the season closer to 50% from the line and is nearly 70% during conference play.
Team 3-Point Shooting
It's funny how hitting 50% of your 3s makes everything else a little easier, isn't it? Texas hasn't been shooting the 3-ball well in conference play (31.5% coming into tonight) so any time they can scrape together a good night from the perimeter the rest of the game will open up.
Team Free Throw Shooting
Texas was 16-19 from the line tonight, good for 84.2%.
Kansas State was 15-21 from the line tonight, good for 71.4%.
Remind me again what the margin of victory was tonight?
The Mixed Bag
Connor was only 2-7 from the floor and his defense was...I'll be polite and say he put forth a lot of effort if the execution was a smidgen lacking. (There was one possession where I'm pretty sure he was the only guy playing zone. Oh, right, polite. Hey, he really owned that area of the floor while everybody else played man!) However, he did pull down 7 rebounds and was the only Longhorn over 6'7" that was able to stay on the floor for more than 20 minutes, which is important when the refs are treating Shaquille Cleare and Prince Ibeh like a mall cop watching teenagers browse the selection at Zales. Even if he was just a body for stretches, it was a body that Shaq & Prince weren't able to be.
Jeff Haley at Burnt Orange Nation has a theory called "Prince Games" he's been talking about for close to 3 years now, which essentially says that Prince has a handful of games each season where he looks like the Prince Ibeh we all hoped he'd turn into permanently, and it happens just enough to make us wonder why it doesn't happen more. These games are usually sprinkled throughout the season, but I think this year we got them all in one fell swoop. I don't think Prince really turned a corner - to be fair, his free throws still look better - so much as he had enough Prince Games at once that we thought Shaka Smart was The Big Whisperer, when in reality Prince is still Prince. This is the 3rd time in 4 games Prince has fouled out, and he didn't crack 20 minutes in any of them. We can stop calling him King Ibeh now.
This was a night where Tevin could have made an immense impact, instead he went 0-6 from the field and a number of those shots were, well, let's call them "acrobatic" instead of, say "wildly out of control". He's not yet strong enough to get in the paint and bang with the big boys like D.J. Johnson, and there wasn't really a perimeter threat to put him on instead, so his main contribution should have been on the offensive end. He had zero points. Not his best night.
K-State games are ugly because Bruce Weber hates us all and wants everybody to understand what it's like to be unattractive, so any rock fight you can win in Manhattan is a good win. The win serves a dual purpose of helping the team get over the Baylor debacle and wipe the slate clean(-ish) before the next two games. Texas gets to host the Oklahoma Sooners in Austin on Saturday, and a win against the dirt burglars from a land so awful we willingly gave it to the Native Americans would be a great resume builder for the Longhorns. Tip time is 1pm CT on CBS.
BWG's writing tunes provided by DSNT Records.