After last night's game, we have now decidedly entered a new era which I'm affectionally defining by what I call the Pittman Problem.
First, the thesis:
The solution to Texas' frontcourt problems is not a year away, however. He's here already, and his name is Dexter Pittman. He is tall. He is gigantic. He has tremendous hands, and isn't afraid - even a little bit - of anyone. He is one of the most physically imposing big men in college basketball.
However, Pittman is a faux solution, because though he fixes one problem perfectly, he creates another. Namely: Texas cannot be the running, gunning transition team that the rest of the team is built to be. Further, by becoming a half court team, we are exposed to Rick Barnes' half court offense; which is to say, no half court offense at all.
This, fellow Texas fans, is the Pittman Problem. He solves one problem, but creates another. The best thing about this Texas team is its ability to run like the Phoenix Suns. The worst thing about this team is that there exists no interior presence - like an Amare Stoudemire - to keep physically imposing teams honest. Pittman provides that presence, but kills our ability to be like the Suns, and makes us play more like the Spurs. Except that Rick Barnes can't coach half court offense.
And round and round we go.
What to do?
It's going to take some experimentation, but the biggest challenge for the remainder of Rick Barnes' regular season will be figuring out the best way to use Big Dexter. My personal recommendation would be to see how much we can continue to run and gun with Pittman in there. He'll get gassed quickly, no doubt, but that just means Rick will have to be creative with his substitution patterns.
Really, the entire solution lies with Rick experimenting with his substitution patterns. Rick needs to try a little Dex here, a little there, playing him with one rotation, trying him with another, until we see what, exactly, works best.
It might be that Texas should have two primary rotations. The first rotation is the DJ-Durant-James group that pushes the tempo and plays Phoenix Suns basketball. The second rotation is a Mason-Abrams-Pittman rotation that features a slower, half-court set. Mason - who's not a bad halfcourt player at all - could work the ball inside to Pittman, who can work his man for an interior basket. If the double team comes, the ball kicks out to Mason-Abrams for perimeter shooting. Simple, elementary, half-court basketball. Stuff a high school team can master.
All the solutions, at this point, are speculative in that regard. We won't know what works best until Rick tries out different things. The one thing we do know - beyond a doubt, I'd argue - is that Rick can't wait any longer to start working through the Pittman problem. AW and I have been clamoring for some time now about playing Pittman for this very reason: it was obvious that he was going to have to be relied upon, and probably best to figure out what you can do with him early, rather than late. But here we are. No time to play shoulda-coulda... We're now in the midst of the Pittman Problem, and it's imperative that Rick try everything to figure out what works best.
It's his most important coaching job left this season. The rest will take care of itself.