PB's Weekend Wrap

I need to free-flow a little bit here, so I'm hitting the bullet points: 

FOOTBALL

  • What kills me about the situation Texas finds itself in is that it's Oklahoma who might be the team inching out the Longhorns for a trip to Kansas City/Miami. When it was Texas Tech? I was cool with it, and towing the "2008 has been a hell of a success, no matter what" line wasn't so hard. But if Oklahoma edges us out in the final week? It'll take some time before I'm able to appreciate without bitterness what a great year that it's been.
  • A note to Tech fans: I'm certain my cavalier dismissal of your team from this conversation has to rub the wrong way. I don't blame you. I'll only say (1) See above, and (2) The stakes are just too damn high. Practically and factually speaking, you're out of this race. All I can say is that unlike with Oklahoma... with you guys it ain't personal. 

  • After two straight days of hyper-analysis, I think most Longhorns fans understand that if nothing changes in the human vote, an Oklahoma win in Stillwater will provide them the computer boost to jump Texas. With that said, my outlook isn't nearly as bleak as it perhaps should be:
  1. First, I like our argument
  2. Second, I'm not seeing it as an argument isolated within our partisan bubble (i.e. a sizable chunk of the most visible MSM commentariat seem to be on board). 
  3. Third, if nothing else that support outside the Burnt Orange Nation serves to alert voters that there exists a reason to consider our arguments before casting their final ballots. 
  4. And finally, the insanity of the process works in our favor this week: Though voters in a totally objective world should perhaps reward Oklahoma more for a close win at Stillwater, if the Sooners squeak by OSU while Texas bombs A&M, the Longhorns may be the ones who make the more favorable final impression. (Rational? Not really, but neither is the "hot team down the stretch" crap that's to this point fueled the Sooners' surge past the Longhorns in the polls.)
  • Talking to my Dad tonight, he reminded me of a point I've made to him countless times over the years: Voters frequently treat their final ballots differently than they do their week-to-week submissions. Which is understandable. If you know that all that matters is your final ballot, you're more likely to (1) vote quickly/by-trend as you go and (2) slow down and consider carefully each ranking on your final ballot that will ship teams to title games. Whether it happens or not, there's at least reason to hope some voters will evaluate Texas-vs-Oklahoma differently than they did this past week.
  • Relatedly, those voters know their final ballots will be (1) made public and (2) scrutinized like no other week of the year. Whether or not they change their mind, they'll give the issues greater thought than they did this past week. I think that helps Texas, given the RRS.
  • After writing all this crap about ties, resumes, blah, blah, blah... How sweet would it be if all the Sooner clowns who've shown up to BON this week had to scuttle back under a cheat-wagon because Tech lost to Baylor? 
  • One thing I've always wondered: Are outsider fans just doing what outsider fans are supposed to do, or do they really think Mack Brown is a "whiner" for advocating his team's cause? If they're just taking their shots at the opposition--fine. But if, with the highest of stakes in play and given how this BCS nonsense works, a fan wouldn't want their coach and athletics department working the PR angles involved in this system... that I don't understand.
  • Assume that Texas doesn't make it to Kansas City/Miami. What would your ideal second choice bowl be? I'm excited to say that my top choice is at this moment perhaps Texas' most likely match up--the Fiesta Bowl against USC. Why? My goals for the team are always (1) Big 12 Title, (2) National Title, (3) Prepare for (1) or (2 ) in the following year. Assuming Miami is out of play for 2008, I can't think of any better preparation for 2009 than a clash with a defense as strong as USC's. Win or lose, that's a great game for the team.
  • When thinking about the Will Muschamp successorship decision, keep all this in mind, as well. If Texas earns a trip to KC or Miami, having Muschamp both on board and not a distraction helps Texas achieve the top goals. And even if the 'Horns miss out this year, compare Texas' title chances in 2009 with Muschamp still here against their chances breaking in a fifth defensive coordinator in five years.
  • Random thought: Though you'd always rather be the team that controls its own destiny, is it so bad that Texas' path to Miami might hinge on Missouri beating OU or Texas Tech, rather than Texas having to beat Missouri again?
  • Want to know why I don't much care about the Heisman? Read this, from the blogger who follows the award more closely than anyone... It's a game, not an honest evaluation.

HOOPS

  • Longhorns fans need to take the long view on Dogus. Watching him Monday afternoon, I see a guy who can and will provide a lot of value for this team by February. In particular, I see two issues here: First, Mason and Abrams have their widely-discussed limitations running the point for the 'Horns, But second, I think this team will for some time be in search for an identity--and certainly in the half court offense, I suspect the identity that emerges is gonna be one that utilizes a lot of inside-out from our formidable frontcourt. Tying that back to Dogus, it's a sad fact of the game today that the basics of passing (and in particular the entry pass to the post) are a dead skill among guards today. Not so with Mr. Balbay. It'll take some time, but he'll be a critical contributor by the end of conference play--if only as a facilitator of our frontcourt advantages.
  • Wiggy is right: This team is deep. Though that feels a bit "new," in truth, that's historically been Rick Barnes' calling card in non-superstar driven years. And while in the depth department this tea does remind me a bit of 2003-04, there's significantly more skill and frontcourt talent than there was on that squad. I'll note again that I think this team may take a while to gel and find its identity, but the pieces are there for Rick to do what he likes to do with depth, while having a nucleus of skill talent and frontcourt presence to be more than good-not-great.
  • AJ Abrams very clearly took seriously the weight training this year. He's actually shooting a jump shot this year, and he's playing with a noticeably stronger upper body. Though I still don't love him as a point, that body strength will serve him well in his role this year--in slashing the lane, finishing near the rim, and handling the rock amongst physically elite perimeter defenders.
  • Watch Wingman carefully this year. We saw last season that he's got great hands/natural basketball skills. The developmental/consistency leap he needs to take to become a poor man's Emeka Okafor looks attainable. If he can make the leap this year instead of next, Texas has a terrifying frontcourt.
  • Mason at point guard won't work. He's so great at so many different things, but so many of them come from his instincts and abilities playing without the ball in his hands.
  • Along with Wingman, another big unknown for me right now: What to make of Gary Johnson. If he's a scrappy, strong-but-undersized contributor in the paint, he's useful. If he can be a poor man's Corliss Williamson/Darvin Ham? Texas is lethal.
  • Rick's use of Connor (full court press) and Pittman (underneath the rim) to make life hard for the inbounds passer is really smart. 
  • Wiggins was spot-on with his criticism of Damion James' shot selection Monday. To take the point outwards to its big picture conclusion, one of James' most important roles for this team lies with his (1) versatility as a scorer and (2) ability to create a quality look against any defender. However, it looks to me like if/when this team hits its offensive stride, those skills will be most valuable where either (1) the game circumstance necessitate us having someone like James who can create a solid look, or (2) in all other cases, where James' versatility is a lethal spoke in a larger wheel, as opposed to a go-to focal/creation point like was the case with Durant and Augustin.
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