Morning Coffee Is Ready

Hoops! Hoops! Hoops!  New-ish readers to this site may not realize how much BON loves Texas hoops. For that matter, neither did my new-ish girlfriend:

PB: "Damion James is on the brink of greatness."

JBH: "Ugh."

PB: [defensively]  "What?"

JBH: "Just as I was proud of myself for having learned all this stuff about your football team, I realize I'm still lost. I thought it was James Kirkendoll."

PB: [abashedly]  "Bless your heart. No, no: You're right--it's Kirkendoll. Damion James is on the basketball team."

JBH: [confronted by Pandora's box]  "Oh, my."  [pauses, fully realizing]  "Oh. My."

So, for the rest of you: Yes! Texas hoops lives here. The Texas Basketball Reports will soon return. AW will be filing his previews and reports from the Drum. Txtwstr will be doing his dance. And we may lose our collective minds in the excitement.

Are you ready?

Record Book speed dating.  Let's show a little Texas hospitality and take a moment to peer sideways, saying hello to Notre Dame, the other football program with 829 all-time wins. The combination on Saturday of the Irish's no-show at Boston College and Texas' victory over Baylor have the two programs tied for second place in program wins (trailing Michigan's 872). If the Domers can knock off Navy and Syracuse and Texas can handle Kansas and A&M, the two can co-exist harmoniously through the rest of the regular season.

Unless, of course, Notre Dame can also beat USC. Which... okay, no. But maybe it'll last through the offseason if Texas wins its bowl game and Notre Dame manages also to.... Hmmm. Okay: Also no.

Say hello to Notre Dame while you can?

Texas trap game?  For myriad reasons, more than a few fans are concerned about Texas' upcoming game in Lawrence. Worrisome injuries, the grueling October stretch, peaking too early, off-field distractions, inclement weather... you name it, at least one Longhorn fan is agonizing over it while rocking back and forth on the edge of his therapist's couch. (Or worse.)

And for good reason: The stakes couldn't be higher. All of the above are worth discussing, but the one red flag I'm eyeing with particular worry is the potential pitfall that accompanies Playing To Survive--where big picture dreams cloud the path to their fulfillment. Think back a year ago to the five-game run Texas cobbled together to wind up on the brink of a BCS Bowl Game prior to T+1. I don't have to tell you how that story ended. Painful though it may be... let's keep going:

  • 2006: Texas visits Manhattan with the BCS seas parting, only to collapse thanks to Colt's first quarter injury and 16 halfback passes.
  • 2002: The stage is set for a blazing close to the season when #4 Texas drops a night game in Lubbock 42-38, falling instead to the Cotton Bowl.
  • 2001: [sucks thumb]

Okay, let's stop. You get the idea. Past stumbles aside, my concern is rooted very much in 2008 trendlines, as well. Texas approached Oklahoma as an angry, rabid underdog fully prepared to die attacking rather than hold back or be bullied. Texas won, railroaded Missouri, established itself atop the polls, and then... started to retreat--ever so slightly--into Protect mode. It cost the Longhorns a win in Lubbock.

And it could in Lawrence, as well, if Texas is at all flat/distracted/whatever. It's impossible from the stadium seats to tell if/when a team is affected by any of this intangible stuff, but we can say with certainty that the best preventative medicine from a game plan perspective is to come out with guns blazing (four wide sets, etc.) and the same win-or-die-trying attitude the team brought to Dallas.

Here's your answer, 54b.  After Kevin Durant departed for the NBA after one season in Austin, 54b thoughtfully wondered what his legacy would/could be. For the hoops-obsessed, there was no question he'd be a legend we wouldn't soon forget. But for the casual Texas basketball fan? Would/should Durant be remembered as much more than a great one-and-done flash in the pan?

As it turns out, the answer is a resounding Yes. First, KD delighted the football faithful this fall when the Oklahoma City Thunder guard enthusiastically gave a hook 'em during an interview at a Sooners home game. And now, we get word that Durant's program reach has extended beyond his year here in 2006... beyond his mentorship of the DJ Augustin-led team... and into the preparations for this season, where--per a Sports Illustrated press release I received today--Durant set the tone for the team's offseason workouts:

When he returned to Austin in June to take classes in the College of Education, former Longhorns star Kevin Durant needed a partner for his workouts. So the newly minted NBA Rookie of the Year asked junior forward Damion James to go shoot with him—at 6:30 a.m. Word spread quickly to the rest of the Longhorns, who despite the early start, soon joined Durant for his summer schedule of workout, class, workout. "By the end of June, Kevin had the entire team in there working," says Texas coach Rick Barnes. "He is still part of this team."

That's the opening paragraph from the Texas page in SI's forthcoming comprehensive college hoops preview (the 'Horns are ranked #9). I was giddy about a Damion James All-America breakout before I read about this. With this it's time to cue the cartwheels. I ask again:

Are you ready?

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