For today's TBR, we turn to 54b's question I've put off answering all week, despite several pokes from this year's Miss Congeniality. So, here we go - you get an entire column devoted to your question!
Do you think Thugball is the book on stopping Durant and the gang. The second half on Saturday reminded me of when I was back in school playing IM's. When we were losing to a team that had a ringer, we'd usually resort to "Hack a Shak" partly because we were frustrated and partly because we were too immature to do anything else. But that's bush league, this is D-1 basketball.
And fortunately for UT on Saturday, the refs called a close game, Durant hit his freethrows, and OU was equally abismal on offense. But it's not inconceivable to think UT would have lost against a better offensive team and perhaps some refs who aren't as whistle-happy (something that usually happens when UT goes on the road).
So here's the Q...how do we combat Thugball? Was Texas' 2 for 14 in the second half a product of Thugball or just an off half because there is no question something changed after halftime. And no doubt other teams were taking notes and if I think back to our earlier games with K-State and A&M, there seemed to be a ton of hard fouls in those games too.
Foul to keep UT out of their rhythm seems like a viable strategy and one we'll continue to see for the rest of they year. And I guess I'm hoping the Horns have more of an answer than just good freethrow shooting and generous whistles.
Can't beat'em, beat'em up
54b brought this up in the wake of Texas' scary 2-for-14 second half against Oklahoma, when the half court offense stalled and the Longhorn freshmen played every part their age. I noted last night before tip that we'd likely learn a lot about the answer to 54b's question during the battle with A&M, and I think we did.
It's no secret that teams are going to throw the book at trying to slow down Kevin Durant. What's exciting, though, is that while KD's been a 30 point a night scorer for some time now, the growth rate of the players around him has been tremendous. Damion James is playing his best offensive basketball of the year. DJ Augustin has been great all year, but played at an all-time high last night.
With Augustin and James capable of scoring 15-25 points apiece (not to mention Abrams), plus Kevin's consistent 25+ per game, it's hard to imagine any team, regardless of pace, keeping Texas under 65-70. The only real question mark right now is Connor Atchley, who's in a pretty nasty three-game slump. (Is it a coincidence that he's hit this skid after his mother complained about BON? On the heels of us giving him the Baylor game ball? Hrmm. . .) I suspect Atchley's ankle has been bothering him more than we know, and I'm not terribly worried about him righting the ship for the postseason. Rick Barnes is plenty capable of getting Connor to play the way we need him to. No one's asking for superhero minutes from Connor; just a solid 15-20 minutes off the bench. He'll be fine.
I don't want to get too carried away too soon, but it's looking like thugging your way past Texas is becoming increasingly difficult. The 'Horns have made a commitment to defense, which keeps them in just about every game, and the offensive firepower is clearly among the tops in the country.
The more you watch this Texas team, the more it looks like the team that knocks Texas out of the tournament will be one that outguns the 'Horns. If Texas takes a night off on defense, or comes up against a team with some true offensive firepower, that's likely going to be the one that gets us. As an example, think back to the first A&M game; the Aggies just scored and scored and scored on Texas. Despite our 82 points, we couldn't keep up.
For now, we enjoy the 12 wins and look ahead to a very, very scary trip to Lawrence. It's hard to envision this (assuredly) tired Texas team winning in hostile Jayhawk territory, but if they do pull it off, it won't be the first time I've sold the team short this year.