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Clanking From the Corner: Texas 97, The Citadel 69

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NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Nashville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Welcome to the latest basketball game recap in Barking Carnival history, everybody. I have returned from my international adventures; I hiked up a Honduran hill, I saw about 1% of a manatee in Belize, and I did my best not to stumble over myself and ruin 10,000 year-old stalactites in Cozumel. Also, I drank a lot. I mean a lot; two bars on the ship ran out of Tito’s and my response to them telling me they had to give me Grey Goose was to pat myself on the back for really going all out. I’m having a beer tonight because I’m fairly certain going cold turkey on alcohol might send my body into shock. Thank you to Mr. Carpenter for filling in on the Louisiana-Monroe recap, I hope your New Orleans trip was as successful and blurry as my last night on the ship.

So, yea, the Citadel (the The Citadel?) game was kinda fun, right? They play a wild-ass style of basketball that is entertaining whether they’re hitting shots or not. It’s the closest thing to watching old Loyola-Marymont games you will find these days, though the talent level is obviously much lower. As much as Lew Stallworth was trying to channel his inner Bo Kimble, the rest of the squad is filled with way too many guys who look like they’re supposed to be at a South Carolina military college for them to really have a shot at taking out a high-major D-I squad. Clemson beat the Bulldogs by 20, Texas beat them by 28. The good news for Duggar Baucom is he won’t face another team of this caliber the rest of the regular season. Texas has much bigger challenges ahead, but we’ll get to that later.

The Good

Turnovers

It may shock you to hear this, but even with the three-point shooting woes and free-throw problems that beset multiple players, Texas is still in the top-50 nationally (46th) in adjusted offensive efficiency. One of the primary factors behind this: Texas doesn’t turn the ball over. They’re 33rd (out of 353) nationally in offensive turnovers, handing the ball back to the other team on 15.4% of possessions. That’s roughly the rate Texas turned the ball over when Isaiah Taylor was running the point his junior year. Texas turned it over on 9% of their possessions against The Citadel, which is an outstanding number that frankly would have been even better if not for a bit of late-game sloppiness when the result was out of reach. Furthermore, the Texas defense is forcing turnovers at a great rate, they force an opponent turnover on 24% of possessions, 39th nationally. Texas is turning teams over at a higher rate than West Virginia so far this season. It’s easier to overcome poor shooting when you create that large a disparity in number of possessions per game. I ran through the top 20 teams in Pomeroy and only Virginia, Michigan, and Kansas State are on par with Texas in this respect.

Dylan Osetkowski

DO had yet another double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and he looked more comfortable on the floor than he has in the previous games. His pump-fake three that turns into a dribble-drive in the paint was very effective in warping the defense enough to open a lane and I’m hopeful we will see more of this because it plays to his strengths. He took three threes and made none of them because we can’t have nice things, but again they were all in the flow of the offense so they were good decisions in context. He looked less like a robot trying to run PLAYCALL 2.3 PASS TO NEXT HUMAN than he did a guy making a read and pushing the offense to the next action. They also added a wrinkle against the zone to try to get him touches in the high post, one the standard planting him slightly below the two guards at the top and another having him come from the perimeter and curl around a Texas big to get the ball on the move in the paint. They didn’t result in a ton of points, but the execution was fine.

Courtney Ramey

There was a point in the second half when Lance Blanks and Lowell Galindo were having a conversation about whether Matt Coleman is feeling some heat from Ramey coming for his job. (If you missed it, just fast forward to the point where Blanks is getting audibly annoyed by Galindo throwing verbal depth charges into Lance’s explanation of advice from a tennis coach, then rewind about five minutes.) There might be an ounce of truth to this; there’s little chance Coleman is going to ride the pine while Ramey starts over him, but I do wonder if some small part of Coleman’s struggles this season have to do with Ramey eating a non-trivial number of minutes and out-performing Coleman. Ramey has a higher O-rating, a higher assist rate, a lower turnover rate, and is converting a higher percentage of shots anywhere other than the free throw line. There may be a friendly rivalry brewing here, because I’m sure Ramey is letting Coleman know what the box scores show.

Elijah Mitrou-Long

There’s no other way to put it, Long has the fabled And-1 sizzle. His flair for the dramatic shows up all over the court, whether it’s a behind-the-back pass fake before laying the ball in or the X button spin move he put on a poor Citadel defender in the lane - or even his preternatural ability to sell contact for fouls - Long has pizzazz. Oh god, the old people on the cruise are infecting me with their terms. That word just came out of my brain so naturally, I probably picked it up when I was ossified at the petting pantry. His 1-6 from three isn’t great, but he offset it by dishing six assists, securing seven rebounds, and snagging three steals. Long really is the cat’s pajamas.

The Mixed Bag

Offense

It’s hard to get too upset about a game where Texas averaged 1.23 points per possession, even with the brick show from deep. Once again, we’re in a situation where the execution was good enough to get open looks. Texas did some simple stuff that worked all the way up to the ball making a delightfully-miced BWWWONG. The side-step three off the perimeter screen was open all day long, and it’s a relatively easy way to get the players a shot where their feet are set. The open look was there, it didn’t result in points. It’s frustrating to watch because it’s not like Jericho Sims is taking the shot. We see glimpses of what happens when the open shots become makes; there was an eight-minute stretch to start the second half where Texas showed the kind of offensive monster it can be when the shots start to land. The defense is good enough, the offensive execution is good enough, the right guys are taking the shots, they just aren’t falling reliably yet. If they do, this team becomes incredibly dangerous.

The Bad

Texas Won(?) the Three-Point Shooting Contest

The Citadel converted 9-32 from three for 28.1%.

Texas converted 12-42 from three for 28.6%.

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Texas gets its first major test of the season, playing the North Carolina Tar Heels on Thanksgiving evening. Duke and Kansas got most of the national attention this off-season, but Roy Williams has a very good squad that should contend for the ACC title. UNC will be the favorite against Texas, but Texas is one of the few teams who can match North Carolina’s athleticism and both teams would like to get out and run so it could be pretty entertaining. Tip time is 6:30 PM CT on FS1.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Nelver.