I really do love the community on this site. There are three riveting conversations going on right now that I'm inclined to comment on.
First, we've got The Great Debate, which has produced some outstanding back and forth between some of this site's most interesting thinkers. I've been trying to don the Playoff Devil's Advocate cap, but have been battling a strong, impressive headwind of playoff proponents who have more or less affirmed my feeling that a playoff is (a) inevitable and (b) something I'm more or less going to support. Billyzane has done an outstanding job framing the debate in Part One of his essay, and I know the interested parties are really going to like seeing his proposals for postseason play in Part Two, which will be posted later today.
Second, there's a fascinating diary about who, if anybody, we'd like to replace Rick Barnes, if we could have our pick of the litter. So far, over 60% of respondents have cast their vote to affirm Rick Barnes, and I've included myself in that group. I suppose there are some young firecracker coaches out there that I could be convinced to look at long and hard to replace Barnes, especially if they were gifted in the halfcourt offense department, but it's pretty tough to justify any serious dissatisfaction with Texas' head coach. The program is in tremendous shape, he's a very, very likable fellow, and the results speak for themselves. You'd have to say it would be an upset if Barnes doesn't attend another Final Four or two within the next decade. And that's all you can reasonably ask for.
Finally, there's a diary asking which Longhorn from last year's team would have the greatest impact on this year's squad. I don't think there's any question that it's simply a matter of choosing between PJ Tucker and Lamarcus Aldridge. The more I think through it, the more I think it's clearly LA. Tucker is a poor man's Durant - a guy with a long wingspan, great hands, a developed overall game, and an uncanny ability to finish around the rim. Unfortunately for Tucker, he was 6'6", his wingspan was 7'1", his jumper maxed out at 17 feet, and he wasn't quite as good a ball handler as Durant. Aldridge, however, is a pure power forward / center. What Aldridge would be able to bring to the table to this year's team would significantly outweigh what Tucker could. Further, I tend to think Tucker and Durant would have made for poor complimentary parts. Give me Aldridge, in this case. (This isn't to invalidate Tucker - by any means - who was one of my all-time favorite Longhorns. I just think you've got to go with Aldridge as a more helpful part to THIS year's puzzle.)
Turning to football for a moment here, there's a fascinating story developing in the Texas recruiting world right now with the courtship of the state's top running back prospect, Jermie Calhoun. Orangebloods has a feature article on the Van, Texas prospect highlighting his visit to Oklahoma and his upcoming visit to Texas for the February 24th Junior Day.
The kicker? Calhoun's got some pretty clear red flags with his grade/qualifying issues. Why's that so intriguing? As I wrote on the day after signing day, in recent years Mack Brown has decisively come down on the side of recruiting the right kinds of kids to Texas, opting to be hyper-selective with the players he recruits in an effort to avoid embarrassing recruiting drama and/or potential problem kids enrolling at UT. That strategy was hard to criticize when Texas went 12-1 and 13-0 in 2004 and 2005 with Vince Young as the quarterback and everyone playing catch up to Mack Brown's early recruiting strategy.
Now, though, Texas if coming off a 10-3 season and the competition is adjusting to the new rules of the game. Texas A&M has secured a couple of the state's top prospects, while Oklahoma just landed the state's most coveted 2008 prize in Stephen Good. The end result? It might be that Brown is, for the first time in several years, feeling some pressure to relax his own standards in an attempt to retain his stranglehold on the Texas recruiting scene. There's a palpable sense of urgency to land Calhoun, and there are clear signs Mack wouldn't normally throw out the red carpet for this kid if there weren't a sense that the competition is catching up in many regards.
Watching Mack's handling of the Calhoun situation should be enlightening on many levels. Our best case scenario is that Calhoun pulls himself together in terms of qualifying issues, Mack recruits him well, and he comes to Texas. That Mack feels the need to gamble, though, is a sign that his vise on the state's top talent may not be as strong as it was a year ago.
These notes are long enough already, so I'll just conclude with a few quick hitters:
- The basketball home game with Texas A&M is sold out, which means the February 20th matchup with Texas Tech will be many fans' last chance to catch Texas at home this season. The University is reporting that about 1,200 tickets remain. I wouldn't wait long to reserve your seats.
- We're still gauging interest in a road trip to Waco this Saturday to catch the 'Horns matchup with Baylor at 7 p.m. Folks who might be interested in attending are urged to speak up now, as we'll likely make a game plan by Friday. The more information we have on how many folks might want to get up to Waco, the better. If you need external help to get pumped for the game, I'm pretty sure Bear Meat's latest should do the trick.
- Later today on BON: It's Thursday, which means a new Texas Basketball Report. Plus: Part Two of Billyzane's postseason college football proposal.