I think most of us who watch Big 12 basketball regularly had a basic idea how this game would be played; both the Texas Longhorns and Kansas State Wildcats place a high priority on defense, both Shaka Smart and Bruce Weber are known as quality defensive tacticians who are regularly able to take away the thing their opponent does best. When you combine this with two teams who aren’t, uhh, great offensively as it is, and you get something like tonight. It approximated basketball, but maybe it’s like the NBA back when refs allowed Charles Oakley to assault opponents only they’re playing with present-day Charles Oakley and his rec league buddies who he definitely secretly hates. It was basketball, but a form of basketball designed to make you hate yourself and question your decision-making skills. It’s the blind date version of basketball.
The Game Is Over, We Can All Pretend It Never Happened
At least we didn’t miss any major curling matches to watch this game. I need me some competitive stone-throwing with people who scream entirely too loudly for the situation. You’re gliding over ice in a library, your teammates can hear you just fine. I’m trying to sleep over here; literally everything about your sport is soothing other than the screaming. There are white noise machine designers who should study your sport to increase the effectiveness of their apps. I would 100% buy a white noise app with a ‘curling (instrumental version)’ setting.
The Mixed Bag
Since the Texas Tech game, Coleman is 17-18 from the free throw line. His six made free throws were an uncomfortably large portion of the Texas offensive output in the second half, but it was a fairly reliable move for the portion of time in which the Big 12 refs were calling everything in Texas’ favor (unlike the later portion when they called everything in Kansas State’s favor). He only had one turnover on the night, and he scored some early buckets to get Texas rolling. Alright, not rolling, let’s call it one-legged hopscotching. His reasons for being in the mixed bag will be mentioned later.
Bamba was a game-time decision, and even though he started it was pretty clear from the jump that his toe was bothering him. Credit to Bamba for gutting it out, but his effectiveness was limited. His jumping was limited to certain types of plays and his rebounding suffered as a result. He still shot the ball fairly well when he got the ball, and his defense was still reasonable but a step down from the dominant figure he can be when 100%. I’ve seen a handful of people online say Bamba looked like he didn’t want to be there, and let me snuff that line of thinking out before it starts: there isn’t a person on this team more competitive and bought-in than Mo. He badly wants to make the tournament, and he’s pushing the rest of the team hard to make it happen. He wasn’t 100% but he still tried to go; a guy that has one eye on the draft probably sits this game out.
The Offense As A Whole
For the first half and a few minutes of the second half, much of the offensive struggles were as much due to Kansas State’s disciplined defense as anything Texas was doing (or not doing). While it’s tempting to lay the offensive problems entirely at the feet of the Longhorns, there has to be at least some acknowledgement of how well the Wildcats defended Texas. Having said that, there were a number of problems with the offense tonight. For starters, I don’t understand why Coleman was so willing to back out after running past a screen and dribble the ball for 5 seconds before initiating the offense again. There were several possessions where Coleman would make some sort of dribble penetration attempt that he didn’t fully commit to before pulling back out to 30+ feet and reset things. I get that not every PnR is going to be perfect, but he just seemed hesitant to run in among the trees. Second, a defense as solid as the Wildcats played tonight isn’t going to get broken down by a single action; there needs to be a second action based upon the results of the first action. If the PnR doesn’t pan out, fine, but there needs to be another move after that; passing the ball out to another guard who holds the ball in one place doesn’t increase the defense’s movement, it allows them to form up. There were a few possessions early in the second half where the passing was crisper, more decisive, and the players were rotating faster allowing for cracks in the defense. Unfortunately the shooting was bad enough that even those open shots weren’t falling, and somewhere in the second half the players were getting frustrated enough that they started taking contested threes and making drives into the middle of 3+ defenders which only compounded the shooting woes. It was rough to watch. I mean, look at this:
Kerwin Roach II
I noticed earlier this week that Roach’s name showed up in the second round of a 2018 NBA mock draft. Perhaps they should send tonight’s tape to those guys to temper their enthusiasm, because other than a ridiculous dunk (yes, another one) he had a bad night. He was 1-11 from two and 1-2 from three and fouled out after picking up his last three fouls in what felt like about 20 seconds. I get that Roach was trying to create shots in a game where somebody needed to create shots, but tonight showed his limited ability to do that on his own. This is one of the primary differences between him and Andrew Jones and why Jones was being talked about as a first-round draft pick, his ability to create his own shot. If Snoop wants to be drafted, this is what he works on in the offseason.
p.s. Jones did an interview recently where he talks about his situation. Check it out if you have a few minutes.
Eric Davis Jr.
0-5 from three from a guy who is ostensibly on the floor for his shooting is a bad look; four fouls, zero assists, and zero steals says he wasn’t helping much anywhere else. Just a bad night all around for Davis.
Tonight, Texas lost what I considered its second most-winnable game in their last four regular season games. The next game is the most-winnable game of this stretch is on Saturday against Oklahoma State in Austin. Texas needs to win this game if they have any designs on making the NCAA Tournament; tip is at 1 PM CT on LHN.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by John Askew.