Texas wrapped up their 4-game exhibition tour down under this morning with a loss to the Illawarra Hawks, meaning the Texas Longhorns are 2-2 on the trip. As you would expect from a young team playing exhibition games three months before the season, there’s been ups and downs throughout. Three of the four games were streamed online:
Texas vs. Dandenong Rangers:
Texas vs. Melbourne United:
Texas vs. Illawarra Hawks:
Notes from the games, which are being typed thanks to coffee. Coffee: it’s like cocaine, but more socially acceptable outside of Miami’s South Beach bottle service VIP areas.
- Matt Coleman is the best PG on the team and will run the point the vast majority of the time he’s on the floor. Having said that, he’s still learning how to deal with the higher level of competition and the learning curve of which passes work and which don’t. He had 9 assists and 11 turnovers on the trip; some of the turnovers were on him and some of them weren’t, but that’s not the kind of ATO Texas needs from him if they’re going to return to the NCAA Tournament this year. It doesn’t appear like Monte Morris’ Big 12 ATO record is in much danger this year.
- Mo Bamba is really impressive to watch, he’s got an interesting game that’s not as raw as Jarrett Allen was this time last year. He can shoot the ball from anywhere — though his threes mostly missed in Australia, which I blame on him having to shoot upside down in the southern hemisphere — but I am a bit concerned about him going 11/20 from the free throw line. There’s a good chance Bamba takes 150+ free throws this season, and if he’s not north of 60% from the line that’s a lot of points left on the floor. Still, it’s pretty obvious the kind of talent Bamba has, and if he and Coleman can tighten up their PnR game, they could be quite the pair.
- Jericho Sims threw down a highlight dunk in every single game, and a couple of them were absolutely jaw-dropping. He’s put on 30 lb of muscle in the last 8 months and can jump through the roof; I don’t know how much floor time he’ll get during the season, but if he shows out like this regularly he might have passed James Banks as the primary backup big. He’s insanely athletic for his size and might be on his way to recreating a Tristan Thompson-type freshman year, if Thompson only played 10-12 minutes per game. He’ll get rebounds and dunks and if that’s all it still is probably plenty because some of those dunks will force Big 12 opponents to consider an early retirement. He is something else.
- Roach looks significantly more comfortable off the ball, which isn’t a surprise. He can play defense, run through screens to get open, and generally be a net-positive on the floor in his new role. He might handle the point a bit here and there, but I don’t expect him to do it a lot unless Coleman is in foul trouble. This is a better fit for him, and hopefully he’ll thrive in the role.
- Osetkowski is a grown-ass man inside; he has good post moves, a decent outside shot (which would fall more if he picked better spots to shoot), and he understands where to be at most points in the games. I don’t foresee him being quite the revelation he was in the Orange/White scrimmage last year, though that’s a high bar to consistently meet. He will be a valuable part of this team all year.
- Shaka Smart mentioned in the Illawarra post-game interview that this game was a good teaching point for the freshmen to apply the scouting reports they receive before the games, and specifically mentioned the bigs failing to stop a guy they described as a driver from driving the ball. These are the sorts of teaching moments that a trip like this can really help with and potentially pay off during the season because there’s no real way to hammer that point home if they have no games to play.
- Andrew Jones is still the same player from last season in many respects, which has its pros and cons. He still sometimes displays questionable decision-making with the ball in his hands and gets his crossover dribble picked too often, but when he’s on he can be a significant offensive creator. Now that he’s not playing point much, his turnovers are likely to decrease which should increase his overall effectiveness. He was the sole offensive spark for much of the first half against Illawarra.
- Jase Febres can shoot, but can he defend? That’s an open question going into the season; he played active defense in the first game, but the other two televised games he didn’t see the floor much. Given that Texas could use his offensive spark, I’m inclined to think he was off the court for defensive reasons.
- As one would expect in August, the press defense was a bit sloppy. The Texas guards displayed good on-ball defense, but were much more uneven elsewhere. In particular, they got torched over and over again on back cuts in the first half of the Illawarra game. It does appear that Texas will be going with more full-court defense this season, based on the three televised games. They didn’t trap a ton, but they were trying to harass opposing point guards for the better part of 94 feet each possession.
- Jacob Young was...I don’t have enough coffee for this one. The kid tries, and he has moments, but then he has....moments. *eyeball emoji*
- It would’ve been nice to see Joe Schwartz, Isaiah Hobbs, and Ryan McClurg get a few minutes playing in Australia. I know the coaches were testing things out before the season, but it is still an exhibition series and I bet those three would’ve appreciated just a bit of run.
With that, we start 2+ months of no basketball games. Texas’ next game is on November 10th against Northwestern State, and while they have plenty of things to work on between now and then, they showed flashes of a much-improved team against high-level competition.