We're really getting into the hoop zone here. I'm totally, completely, 100% on board with this team. For all you folks that typically only throw your hearts and souls into the football team - please, please, for your sake, I beg of you - join us on board the train. Let me put it this way: even if you have no interest in college hoops in a typical year, if you were to pick one year where you said to yourself, "Okay. Just this once. This will be my one year to be a Texas hoops junkie." Well, this would be it. This is the most interesting Texas team we've ever had.
Worry not - this site's gonna keep chugging along with heavy football content 24/7/365. But mark my words - even if hoops ain't normally your bag - you'll have a hell of a good time if you go with it for just one year.
With that said, I want to turn to a comment from reader Chalmersfan, a Kansas fan who's been one of those fans of opposing teams who we're really pleased to have around. Most recently, Chalmers fan writes:This isn't meant to be a flame, but what balance? Durant is the man. Abrams is scary but is going to cool down. Augustin is a very good freshman guard. After that there's some guys...
And when the defense catches up? Do you seriously expect that to happen? It's a freshmen led team. They've fattened up on cupcakes as usual and yet the defense is the 81st best in the country according to Pomeroy. In 4 years of closely watching the Big 12 I've only seen Rick Barnes coach a good defense in 1 of them.
Texas is a dangerous team led by the best player in the country, but lets call a spade a spade- it's an offensive machine with an unimpressive nonconference resume.
I do appreciate Chalmers coming in talking, not swinging. Some interesting points, and ones that should be addressed.
Chalmers questions Texas' balance, but gets confused about the point he's trying to make. Texas does have lots of balance. What the Horns' decidedly lack is depth. There's a huge difference, and it shouldn't be dismissed. Texas starts five players who can score 15+ a game. That's balance. What Texas lacks is depth, but as I've noted, the Horns are on the right side of this problem. You'd love to have both balance and depth, but if you're going to fall short in one of the two, you'd rather have a great starting five and poor reserves than a deep pool of functional but not elite players.
To your second point on defense, I'm not sure what you're basing this on. Using KenPom's numbers from the last four seasons, Texas has consistently rated above average in defensive efficiency. Rick Barnes' Texas teams have usually been half-court, slow-the-tempo teams that rely on overwhelming the opponent with strong FG% defense and outstanding rebounding. This is, I'll note, the reason why I worried about this year's squad coming in. Texas' talent this year is deficient in rebounding and not well-suited to a slow, half-court game.
Rick's avoided the pitfall of forcing this team to play that way: the team plays up-tempo and gets the most out of the particular talents it has. But I fail to see why Rick can't get this team to improve on defense. Not when he has a track record of coaching good defense, and not when there's this much athleticism in the key players. Texas isn't playing good defense yet... but... it's a helluvalot easier to coach a team into improving its defense than its offense.
As for the schedule... well, Chalmers, I'll agree that Texas hasn't played a whale of a schedule yet this year. But, two points. One, why would Rick load this young team up against competition its not yet ready to beat? And, two: how is Texas' schedule any softer than Kansas'? I'd argue that both Self and Barnes know that these two young teams need to work their way up to peak form, and that loading up against a throttling non-con schedule made little sense for either school. (Note, if you'd like, Sagarin's schdeule rating for both Texas and Kansas - nearly identical.) In other words: what's your point?
Texas' resume to this point is nothing to brag about, but you're arguing with yourself in that regard. The excitement surrounding this team has nothing to do with what it's accomplished thus far, and everything to do with what it looks like it can accomplish.
Who knows how far this young team can go, but in watching both Kansas and Texas play extensively this season, I'll say this with utmost certainty: there aren't two more talented young teams in the country with as high a ceiling as the Longhorns' and Jayhawks'. Kansas is a far, far better team than they've shown to date. And the Longhorns are flashing signs of being every bit as dangerous as the Jayhawks. Just ask Missouri.