|Jay Mason is a straight player.|
We noted that the first step was taking care of business in a three game stretch at Colorado, versus Missouri and versus Oklahoma. And did they ever. The 'Horns waxed Colorado by 24, easily dismissed Missouri by 20, and blew away Oklahoma today.
Kevin Durant, of course, is stealing all the headlines. As good a team effort as its been, it's hard not to gush over what the freshman's been doing of late. In the aforementioned three game stretch, Durant has exploded for 99 points and 42 rebounds. That kind of dominance has CollegeHoops.net asking not whether Durant should be the Big 12 Player of the Year, or whether he should be the Freshman of the Year. No, the talk is National Player of the Year.
Looking at his recent run, it's clear that Durant is only improving as he goes. The game is coming easier to him and he's starting to use those enormous physical advantages to overwhelm inferior collegiate athletes. AW has said it, and so have I: Durant's probably the best player in college basketball right now.
As studly as Durant is, the Longhorns are also playing their best team basketball of the season, too. AJ Abrams, DJ Augustin, Jay Mason, and Damion James are all improving each week. Abrams and Mason may have had their best overall games of the season against Oklahoma. Augustin has been an absolute terror for opponents since the Gonzaga debacle. I don't know what Rick did with Augustin, but something clicked after that and he's not looked back.
With the starting five playing at a top ten level, the only thing left for Texas is to figure out whether they can find some quality minutes on the bench - the dropoff from Mason-Augustin-Abrams to JD Lewis is severe. Connor Atchley has proven himself a useful player, but certainly a limited one. After watching the Sooners bulldoze Atchley on the interior today, I fear what will happen when Texas A&M and Oklahoma State get their hands on him.
Barnes has used Dexter Pittman, Matt Hill, and Craig Winder sparingly, but it's really a seven man rotation at this point. There's no way JD Lewis is going to "break out" at any point this season (or any), which means we're stuck where we are, more or less. Unless, of course, Dexter Pittman can become a contributing factor. Rick's doing his best coaching job of his young Texas career this year, but if I were Rick, I'd be more proactive about accelerating the Dexter Pittman Developmental Timeline. Truthfully, some trial by fire might not be the worst idea for the big fella.
If Pittman isn't able to get into a contributing role this season, Texas will buck up and see how far these fabulous five starters can take us. As concerning as the lack of depth on this team is... it may not matter.
We'll learn a lot about these guys in the next three game stretch: at Oklahoma State, at Villanova, and at Nebraska. Win all three of those, and we'll know we could be talking about something truly special.