Look, Northwestern State is not a good team.
Seriously, they’re a below-average Southland Conference squad.
Don’t read too much into it.
I mean it, don’t.
I’ve spent the entire off-season watching tape of last year for Smart Texas Basketball 2017 (available now for $4.99!), checking box scores of last year for Smart Texas Basketball 2017 (available now for $4.99!), reading Synergy stats of last year for Smart Texas Basketball 2017 (available now for $4.99!), trying to figure out how last year’s struggles might translate (or not) into this year’s success for Smart Texas Basketball 2017 (available now for $4.99!). I’ve stared at defensive metrics, watched Matt Coleman Youtube videos, poured over Mohamed Bamba highlight reels (spoiler alert: there really aren’t any lowlight reels of Mo Bamba), and tried to come up with some sort of ‘most likely’ outcome for this season.
None of them included a 40+ point victory against Northwestern State.
Texas cracked 100 points against zero teams last season.
Texas beat zero teams by 40+ last season.
Texas had 23 assists tonight; they had five players exceed 20 assists on the season last year.
I know Northwestern State sucks. I do. I’m not expecting Texas to blow out everybody, I really don’t. But tonight was 8 months of pent-up frustration and disappointment exploding out of me with every dunk, assist, block, and Jacob Young dunk(?!?). I metaphorically painted the walls with excitement over what should be a normal win by a top-25 team against a ho-hum opponent. I needed this to cleanse the palette before the rest of the season, and I suspect the rest of the Texas faithful needed it as well. Beating Northwestern State by 6 would have sent us all into conniption fits, not unlike seeing, say, Texas beat Incarnate Word by five. Not that it ever happened. IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.
Yea, I know, this should probably start with Mo Bamba, but it won’t. Here’s why. I’m going to borrow liberally from my tweets because I was catching some of this in real-time and also because #branding/#synergy
Why Texas needed Matt Coleman summed up in one picture. This is Kerwin running a fast break, going for the layup with Andrew Jones wiiiiide open in the corner. pic.twitter.com/fdIbl6kZuv— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 11, 2017
Aaaaand chaser. Coleman penetrates, dishes to open Osetkowski. Shot was missed, but right decision. Roach was also open. pic.twitter.com/xbvJdIA4S3— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 11, 2017
These are the moments where having an experienced, savvy point guard pays off. It’s not always the flashy moments — though he had those — but the simple choices. Coleman sees the guy that Roach didn’t in a similar situation. Or in a standard halfcourt situation, for that matter:
You want to guess who Matt Coleman just saw was open? pic.twitter.com/GqdyfYaBZA— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 11, 2017
This seems simple from our view, but this is the stuff that separates a 13-18 team from a 18-13 team (or better). Matt Coleman may not be Monte Morris, but these plays are worth a lot as the season progresses.
I don’t have a handy series of tweets here to illustrate his value, but I think it says enough that my parents were texting me talking about how insane he is as a player. The Dallas Mavericks need to please tank for him, though I think they started unintentionally tanking for Mo about 2 weeks ago. Bamba is a special player, and his 15/8 with 4 blocks doesn’t really quantify all the ways he impacts the game. Y’all need to go see him while he’s at Texas, because he’s going to be in the NBA this time next year.
Kerwin Roach II
I mentioned him in those Coleman tweets as a point of reference, but I don’t want to knock the guy as he played a good game. He’s showing signs of being a serious lock-down defender the likes of which Texas hasn’t seen on the perimeter since Dogus Balbay & Avery Bradley were in Austin. Roach was 0-4 from three which isn’t ideal, but he’s so good defensively that even if all he does is hit layups & dunks it’s worth it to have him out there. Speaking of dunks....
Also enjoying basketball, Kerwin Roach. pic.twitter.com/4ltVHQYOSw— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 11, 2017
He had a hell of a Euro-step earlier in the game as well. Whittling Roach’s responsibilities down is probably the best thing that could happen to him, as the less he thinks and more he reacts the better he plays.
4-7 from three is exactly the kind of input Texas needs from a perimeter freshman, and if he can keep that kind of stroke up his minutes will increase over the year. He is willing defensively, which is a good sign. His execution still leaves something to be desired, but he’s the lowest-rated (by scouts) freshman on the team so any net-positive contributions he makes will be appreciated.
I’m not going to dwell on him much here, if for no other reason than he’s making it pretty clear he’s going to be a lynchpin of the team so I’ll have plenty of time to elaborate on his value later. Also, because I’ve been drinking for hourrrrrrrs. But I’ll leave you with this.
I think Dylan is enjoying basketball, guys. pic.twitter.com/cxyCslK7Zl— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 11, 2017
I’ve missed NCAA basketball so much, you guys. Like, I even willingly watched Texas A&M beat the brakes off West Virginia because it meant college basketball was on. Every minute of college basketball we watch is a minute we don’t have to watch the Texas offensive line. That seems like a win by default, if I’m being honest.
The Mixed Bag
We Only Get To Watch One Season Of This
Matt Coleman watching Mo Bamba dunk is my spirit animal. pic.twitter.com/CUbPQNWtlp— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 11, 2017
The NCAA & NBA is going to go through a sea change over the next few years, which likely means the Mo Bambas of the world will probably bypass college basketball in the future. But having Mo for one season is better than having him for zero seasons, all things being equal.
Three-Point Shooting Still Wasn’t Great
There’s a necessary caveat here where we talk about the increased rope given by a coaching staff letting a team run with being up by 30+ for an entire half, and it’s worth noting that some of the larger players in this category did reasonably well. Bamba and Roach were responsible for six of the team’s 23 misses, which...okay, there’s not really a way to sugarcoat 23 misses. They missed a ‘Clanking from the Corner’ designation by a third of a percentage point, so....progress?
Texas is 1-0 heading into their game with mighty, well, kinda mighty, well, more stiff competition than Northwestern State, New Hampshire. 1-0 is better than 0-1, and while the team looked good there’s a long way to go. The game is on Tuesday, tip is at 7 pm CT on LHN.
Programming note: For the next two games I will be on a large boat in the Gulf of Mexico drinking large amounts of alcohol and devoid of both Wi-Fi and LHN access, so your next two post-game recaps will be delivered by the illustrious Barking Carnival alumni Kyle Carpenter of Pregamer and Pounding the Rock fame as well as JC_Hoops, who isn’t technically alumni but I already typed it so let’s just roll with it.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Spectrum.