The Boom shall resonate indefinitely about the ATX. Even more than eight hours after hearing the news that everyone's favorite Youtube legend will be the next head coach of the Texas Longhorns (the money quote: "If I had left Austin, my wife would have stayed here."), when Mack Brown decides to mosey on over to the AD's office. There's no doubt that speculation about the length of Muschamp's stay began before the ink even dried on his contract. As did questions about a possible Muschamp ascendancy, or even the possible replacements.
Earlier in the day, I found myself wondering if the now-unemployed Greg Robinson might find his way back into a more flattering shade of orange. After all, I still credit Robinson's intensity in 2004 with Cedric Griffin's effort knocking Ohio State's tight end free of the potentially game-clinching catch in the Horseshoe.
That idle speculation was spectacularly silenced. Beyond the new rounds of speculation about how long Mack Brown will remain head coach (and the impact of this decision on Major Applewhite), the immediate question is how the announcement impacts the 2009 recruiting class. The first subject to consider is Jamarkus McFarland, whom I discuss later. After McFarland, though, consider that Texas still has offers out-of-staters and nationally elite defenders like corner Dre Kirkpatrick, defensive end Devon Kennard, and linebacker Jarvis Jones, who constitute the majority of outstanding UT offers for '09. Retaining Muschamp could be the final selling point for Austin.
Note to Steve Reesing. Last week, I wrote about Steve Reesing's irritation that the Longhorns didn't show interest in recruiting his son. Perhaps the man had a disturbing brush with reality Saturday morning as his son was outclassed by the Longhorn defense. Just as Will Muschamp and his merry band of marauders the Longhorns shut down Chase Daniel, the mostly second-team group of christian Scott, Sam Acho, Eddie Jones, and Kheeston Randall harassed Reesing into a 25-50 performance complete with four dropped interceptions by the Longhorns. The Lake Travis product resembled a frustrated hobbit as defender after defender clogged his passing lanes and forced him to throw ducks into the gusting wind like they were clays he was about to shoot down. When a quarterback would have no chance at moving the offense in practice against the first-team defense, you know that quarterback doesn't belong. And that describes Todd Reesing and dreams of a burnt orange uniform: They don't belong together. Sorry, Steve.
OU and UT battle for McFarland. As blazinken noted, the three-team race between LSU, OU, and Texas for the services of uber-recruit Jamarkus McFarland is now down to OU and Texas ($). There were rumors circulating that McFarland had taken LSU out of consideration after he and his family observed the, uh, debauchery associated with home games in Baton Rouge. However, McFarland has never been on the record substantiating that rumor, but did say that he eliminated LSU because of their depth at defensive tackle, while acknowledging that he may renew his consideration of LSU, if necessary.
OU has six defensive tackles listed on their roster (including Casey Walker, a 6-3, 285-pounder listed as a defensive lineman) and only one of them is a senior. Starters DeMarcus Granger is a junior, while Gerald McCoy is a sophomore, which means that McFarland is unlikely to compete for a starting job at OU next year. Meanwhile, Texas loses two of the three its three best defensive tackles (Roy Miller and Aaron Lewis graduating, while Lamarr Houston is a junior), meaning McFarland could start as soon as he walks on campus, although since he is Student Council President, he will not be able to enroll in the spring semester. He would likely compete with Ben Alexander, Kheeston Randall, and Jarvis Humphrey for the starting job opposite Lamarr Houston, none of whom have played much in their careers. If it comes down to playing time, Texas seems to have the edge.
Anyone for point guard? Perhaps the most pressing issue facing the 2008-09 Texas basketball team is the point guard situation. DJ Augustin accounted for 25% of the Longhorns' points, 24% of the made three-pointers, 42% of the assists, attempted 30% of the team's free throws, and was a 78% free-throw shooter on a team that shot 68% from the line. In fact, taking out AJ Abrams (81%) and Augustin, the team shot 61%, which is not good at all. Beyond the stats, Augustin provided intangible leadership qualities that can't be quantified, as well as handling the ball and taking shots at the end of games.
According to awiggo, AJ Abrams isn't the solution, since he still has a score-first mentality. I'm not sure if Abrams is the answer, either, but I think he deserves more opportunity than a game against Stetson before settling the discussion entirely. Ultimately, the greatest factor in the decision may be Abrams' ability to space the floor with his three-point shooting, the reason for his banishment to running the baseline and spotting in the corner.
With Abrams off the ball, Mason was able to run the offense effectively in the first game, much as he ran the offense effectively in the rare instances that Augustin sat. Mason's three-point shooting is so inconsistent that he doesn't stretch the floor as well as Abrams, meaning that he may be better serve the team by handling the ball. He also won't confuse his duties as much as Abrams, who will be asked to distribute and score will being the primary ball-handler. Instead, Mason will be asked to initiate the offense and feed the post.
The unknown quantity in this discussion is Dogus Balbay, who played in his first game as a Longhorn on Tuesday evening after serving a one-game suspension for his participation with a Turkish professional team. Balbay is known as a quick, "pure" point guard, who will likely be the catalyst for any Longhorn transition game this season. Augustin was an excellent decision-making on the break and that attribute could be as hard to replace as his myriad other contributions to the team.
Ultimately, each of the three candidates will likely run the team for stretches over the course of the season. Even when not playing point guard, Rick Barnes will likely involve Abrams more as a ball-handler and playmaker than the last two seasons, utilizing strategies like more dribble handoffs. Look for Balbay to receive significant minutes in the easier non-conference games to establish his capabilities and help him adjust to the collegiate game. If none of the three distances himself from the others, it could be point guard by committee the whole season.
Quick thoughts on the Tulane game and Balbay. I wrote the above passage last evening before finding myself otherwise occupied until now. After watching the team for the first time, it's clear that Balbay creates the most dynamic transition opportunities, as he displayed excellent vision as a passer, but also the knowledge to hit teammates in rhythm and in spots where they could finish. He also got to the rim, finishing well on several plays, but missing one layup and losing the ball when caught between dunking and laying it up. Regardless, as watching the OU-Davidson game (thoughts below) illustrated, putting your best shooter on the ball makes it harder for that player to search his shot, which impacts how much point guard Abrams will play.
The defense. Wow. How refreshing to see a Texas basketball team finally being able to get after it man-to-man. For the first time since the 2003-04, which seems a great comparison because of the depth of both teams and the loss from the preceeding year of the playmaking point guard (Ford and Augustin, respectively). Tulane often struggled to get the ball past the three-point line against the swarming Longhorn defense. Texas pressured, trapped, applied ball pressure, played passing lanes, and maintained positional defense on the rare occasions when the defense broke down. Coming from Indiana, I love the fundamentals of basketball and appreciate a defender maintaining position and verticality to force a tough shot as much as a perfectly stroked jump shot. The defense displayed against Tulane was truly the essence of a Rick Barnes basketball team.
KD checks out Curry, Warren, and Griffin. Kevin Durant found his way into the Lloyd Noble Center to watch the OU-Davidson tilt and marvel at the performances of Stephen Curry (44 points) and Blake Griffin (big-boy double-double with 25 and 21), who were both transcendent (no word on if KD threw his horns up at any point). As I mentioned above, the Davidson team moved Curry, the prolific scorer, to point guard this season after losing Jason Richards, who ran the team last season. As a result, the Davidson offense often struggled, as Curry sometimes forced his shots and at other times never found the ball in his hands again after initiating the offense. Good example of what could happen to AJ Abrams this year.
As a Chicago Bulls fan (before winning the lottery), I spent a lot of time hoping that Blake Griffin would declare for the NBA Draft after his freshman season. After watching him against Davidson, there's no doubt that the kid is ready for the NBA. To use a stupid cliche, he's a man amongst boys, leading Fran Fraschilla, not normally prone to hyperbole, to compare Griffin to Amare Stoudamire. Griffin, while not the outside shooter Stoudamire has become, still showed off his new bank shot from an angle a la Tim Duncan, and displayed the power/speed combination that makes Stoudamire so unique. Combine that with the tenacity to bring down any rebound in his zip code (Griffin totaled 40 rebounds in the last two days) and a handle that could put some wings to shame and there's no doubt that Griffin could find himself the No. 1 pick in the spring.
Final thought on OU: With super frosh Willie Warren (quite impressive), the solid Taylor Griffin playing sidekick to his older brother Blake, OU has a legitimate Big 12 contender on their hands. The rest of the squad may mostly be filler, but rest assured that the two Texas-OU battles in basketball will approach the fervor of the Cotton Bowl as much as it ever has.