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Texas vs. Mississippi State: The day after tomorrow

With a 69-55 victory on Wednesday, the Longhorns proved they weren't the worst team in Maui.

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

So I was all set to do the recap for Texas' semifinal game in Maui on Tuesday, but I forgot to change the recording to the loser's side of the bracket ... oops.

As a result, this was my first chance to catch the fighting Barnes' this season. I don't know how much (if any) you can take away from a win against such a bad Mississippi State outfit, but hey, they're (probably) better than Chaminade!

Here's a few random thoughts from the proceedings:

  • The first thing that jumps out from the stat sheet is the 22 turnovers. With Kabongo out, the only real ball-handler on this team is freshman PG Javan Felix, who had 7 assists on 2 turnovers. Julien Lewis does a lot of nice things on the court, but making decisions with the ball in his hands (8 turnovers) is definitely not one of them. That's a situation that has to be addressed immediately, but the only real answer is getting Kabongo back. Otherwise, you're putting way too much pressure on a true freshman PG to do everything on offense.
  • Part of the reason for so many turnovers is that the only person, right now, who can really get 1-on-1 offense is McClellan, whose still most effective coming off screens and firing, and Ridley, who is an overweight freshman center. Texas has got get out in the open court as much as possible, which means playing in a zone, especially with so many young guys, is probably not the answer.
  • The back-up PG situation is so out of hand that Barnes pressed freshman Ioannis Papatreou into duty and he, actually, wasn't awful at it. Being an even functional ball-handler at 6'8 225 is impressive, so while he wasn't Kyle Anderson (UCLA) or anything, our man from Athens should be an interesting rotation player this year.
  • Of course, any positive you take from this game has to go with the massive grain of salt that is the Bulldogs basketball team. Just last year, they were starting two sure-fire NBA guys (Arnett Moultrie and Rodney Hood) as well as two marginal ones (Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost) and going 21-12. Their coach retired, they had a few early exits to the NBA, some transfers and some injuries and now, the cupboard is completely empty. They had 6 scholarship basketball players on Wednesday and little real talent. It's going to be a long year for their new coach. That's how fast a program can go off the rails.
  • But back to the positives: the Longhorns nearly broke the Maui record with 12 blocks, primarily from their two freshman centers. Neither Prince Ibeh nor Cameron Ridley is anything close to a finished product, but they've both got tremendous upside potential. At 6'10 245, Prince just jumps off the TV screen: he is big, he has very long arms and he can jump high off the ground. Ridley needs to get on that Dexter Pittman diet, but he's got a really nice feel for the game at 6'9 270. They've both got a chance to be NBA players, but they'll at least be here until their junior season, when we'll have a stacked team.
  • The reason (besides whatever happened with Kabongo and Tristan Thompson) Texas is in the shape they're in now is that the '09 and '10 recruiting classes are gone. They're either in the NBA or they're J'Covan Brown. Unless you're Kentucky or UNC, you really can't expect to bring in 3-4 NBA players in every year and withstand such massive turnover. The only sure-fire NBA guy in these last two classes is Kabongo, which means we'll have a ton of experience in 2013 and 2014 but some growing pains in 2012.
  • Going solely by this one game, I think Papatrou, Ridley, Ibeh and Felix can be contributors this season. Then you bring back Bond (injured) and Kabongo to go with McClellan, Lewis and Holmes and that's a solid 9-man rotation. There's players at every position except the 3, where you're either going with a small-ball 4 (Holmes, Bond, Papatrou) or a converted 2 (McClellan or Lewis). It's actually a fairly deep team ... as long as you don't lose Kabongo.
  • That's really the big thing here: when is his situation going to be resolved? As long as he's in this no man's land you can't even really set your rotation or figure out defined roles for everyone else. The ripple effect his loss has on this team's ability to run offense and not turn the ball over means that any game is loseable when he's out.
  • It looks like the Shabazz Muhammad situation was resolved because someone overheard the boyfriend of an NCAA compliance investigator talking shit on an airplane. Yea, that's how thin the NCAA's case was. So, if anyone would like to pass on some unsubstantiated gossip about the people looking into Kabongo, feel free to share with the class. I'll believe anything about those guys, up to and including that they killed 5 hookers in college.