Good morning, everyone; welcome to the day after another Texas Longhorns basketball win. This recap is coming to you belatedly thanks to myriad factors I summed up in a single tweet:
I HAVE DRANK A FAIR AMOUNT BUT THAT WAS A GOOD WIN ALSO MY LEGS HURT PLEASE REFER TO EARLIER TWEETS— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 750 (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 6, 2019
Do I remember tweeting that? Maybe. Is it accurate? Definitely. Oh and I still have to get on the bike today because I am going to get this meaningless Rouvy badge if it kills me. And it might.
Texas defended home court against a West Virginia squad in disarray; Bob Huggins is so fed up with his current roster he started a preferred walk-on freshman who has played seven minutes prior to last night. Imagine Shaka sending a message by starting Drayton Whiteside over Eli Long, that’s basically what Huggy Bear did. They have problems in Morgantown. That said, West Virginia still has talent and will swipe some games in conference play, so this is not an automatic win. Texas’ postseason desires hinge as much upon beating teams below them as teams above and last night’s 61-54 win is another feather in the cap.
Osetkowski has had more than his share of ups and downs since coming to Austin and one can imagine he hears Kamaka Hepa’s footsteps behind him, so it would be easy for him to hand the reins over if he chose. Instead, he’s taken a different tack, adapting his game to a changing offense. The staff isn’t trying to run everything through him this year and they aren’t asking him to be a true stretch-four; instead he is a piece among many, more interchangeable than last year but also most versatile. This has manifested in less spot-up threes and more pump-fakes & dribble drives to the paint, which suits him better as it allows him to either get a closer runner or use his size to back the defender down. The other wrinkle the coaches have added is using Osetkowski as a small-ball five, which is an interesting development for a number of reasons. I’m not sure if this is about Osetkowski so much as the issues with Jericho Sims (who BTW is currently injured) and the limitations of Royce Hamm Jr., but it allows Texas to utilize its superior guard depth. It’s also a role that only Osetkowski can pull off, as Hepa doesn’t have the strength yet to bang down low with the Big 12 bigs. I think this is the main reason Hepa didn’t see the floor last night. Osetkowski’s effort is never in question even when his production waxes and wanes and last night is a good example of the sort of all-around game he can bring when he’s hitting his shots. 14 points on five shots (4-6 from the free throw line), seven rebounds, a block, and only one foul in 36 minutes is a stat line Texas will gladly take from the senior.
Febres is quietly becoming an all-around player off the bench; he is beginning to show a confidence and ability to drive to the paint which hasn’t reliably been there to this point. Febres may not have the all-world athleticism of some of his peers, but he’s plenty athletic and intelligent enough to get to the paint as he increasingly recognizes the seams in the defense. His defense has taken positive steps as well, I noticed him putting a hand in the face of ball-handlers more often than most of his teammates. Coming into this year Febres was on the floor to hit threes, he’s starting to become a multi-dimension player and I am 100% here for it.
Two games in a row of assertive Coleman makes even low-scoring games more pleasing to watch. 17 points on 10 shots, 3-4 from the line, three assists and zero turnovers, four rebounds, a steal, and the dagger three; Coleman made very few mistakes tonight. His last three games have had 13 assists and one turnover. Yes, please. This is the Matt Coleman Shaka Smart recruited.
Anybody have an issue with 6-16 (37.5%) from three? I don’t, especially when Roach and Febres combined to go 0-6. It’s almost the inverse of the last game, which is a nice sign of other shooters helping the supposed primary perimeter threats. 38% of their shots came from deep which is a bit below their season average of 44.4%. The national average is around 38.5%, as a point of reference.
INJECT THIS MOMENT OF HUGGY RAGE INTO MY VEINS pic.twitter.com/MNKZaf5SHO— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 750 (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 6, 2019
The Little Progressions
- The small-ball lineup
- Jase Febres’ defensive intensity
- Osetkowski guarding against back-cuts
- Courtney Ramey’s awareness of where his teammates will be
- Eli Long’s improving three-point shot selection
All around this team, there are little improvements that don’t make the top-line numbers or Sportscenter lineups. This team is finding itself in a lot of little ways. Do you remember the last time I mentioned the players looking like they were running a predetermined offense rather than reading the court? It’s been awhile, right? Credit to the staff for tweaking and streamlining things so the players can play in a cohesive fashion. Texas now has the 60th most efficient offense in D-I, which is 50 spots higher than it was a month ago. They’ve gone from 8th in the Big 12 to 5th in that time, and the defense hasn’t suffered. This is a top-25 team according to Pomeroy, and it’s due in large part to the little progressions enabled by the coaches and executed by the players. There will be setbacks and issues and losses along the way, but the improvements are there if you look for them.
Elijah Mitrou-Long Dribbling
I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with Inside Texas’ esteemed poet laureate Tim Preston last night trying to quantify Eli Long’s handle because my brain cannot handle his handle. The word I want to use is ‘loose’, but that’s inaccurate because a loose handle generally means a player can’t dribble well in traffic. Long has a good handle in that he controls the ball and we’ve seen him slice through traffic plenty of times, it’s just....different. It has flair, a touch of And-1 Hot Sauce, an artistry that looks sloppy but isn’t. It’s different, and when combined with Long’s fearless attitude and unconventional driving angles it can warp my brain in all sorts of ways both positive and negative. The downside is that sometimes he, you know, dribbles it off his own fucking foot.
I know West Virginia is a bit of an outlier in the modern game with their aggression on the offensive glass, but it’s still concerning to see Texas get doubled up on the offensive glass. Some of this is likely due to the small-ball lineup, and if that continues to see a lot of minutes then rebounding will probably suffer somewhat. I’m ambivalent about this consequence in a conference where the defenses are much better than the offenses; it would be nice to have more second-chance opportunities, but at the end of the day I’ll roll with whatever is most efficient.
Texas is 2-0 in conference play for the first time in nine years, which is nice. They haven’t played any teams likely to be fighting for the conference title, so that stat has an asterisk next to it. They’re not going to get to play one of those 3-4 teams for a few days as the next game sees the Longhorns traveling to Stillwater on Tuesday for a game against a rebuilding Oklahoma State squad. Tip time is 6 PM CT on ESPNU. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out how to drink a bloody mary on a bike trainer without spilling.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Denzo.