Re-examining the 2008-9 Losses...

...since losses is plural, then you've probably already realized that this post will be about basketball.  Last season, Texas went 23-12, which was their most losses since the 2001-2 season, when the team went 22-12.  In fact, over Rick Barnes' eleven year career at Texas, the Longhorns have never lost more than 13 games in a season.  By and large, last year's team was written off as a disappointment, especially considering the lofty preseason rankings and expectations.

After the jump, I'll take a closer look at the relative tightness of each of the Longhorns 12 losses last season, which includes some surprising numbers.  More importantly, I want to examine the contributions of the two departing seniors in each of the "close" games from last season.

First off, I still dont have any news over the Stampede passes.  It boggles my mind that we are 2.5 weeks away from the season, and the e-mail still hasnt gone out.  I could--and perhaps should--write an entire column about the complete, utter, and entire lack of hype generated over this basketball season around campus.  I really dont get it...

Second, I'm not going to analyze the contributions of Harrison Smith, since, well...it was Harrison Smith.  With that in mind, let's get to work...

Due to a combination of factors--including poor shooting, decent defense, and occasionally miserable sets--Texas had the frustrating tendency to play up or down to its competition last season.  This is reflected by looking at each of the twelve losses and close victories from last season.  Here are the "high points" of each loss, which reflect the closest point at the latest portion of the game.  I think you might be surprised by the closeness of some of the losses.

1) Notre Dame: Down 81-80 when time expired.

2) Michigan State: Down 65-63 with one second left

3) Arkansas: Down 65-62 with seven seconds left

4) OU: Down 54-50 with 10:00 to go-then got absolutely steamrolled

5) Kansas State: Down 83-81 with seven seconds left in OT

6) Missouri: Tied 65-65 with six seconds left

7) Nebraska: Down 58-55 when time expired

8) A&M: Down 71-64 with 2:15 left-then got absolutely steamrolled

9) OSU: Down 60-57 with 1:25 left

10) KU: Down 73-71 with 3:30 left-then got absolutely steamrolled

11) Baylor: Down 72-70 with 15 seconds left

12) Duke : Down 72-69 with 7 seconds left

If you take out the outliers against OU/A&M/KU, which were actually closer than I remembered, the tightness of Texas' other nine losses becomes crystal clear:

1) Notre Dame: Down 81-80 when time expired.

2) Michigan State: Down 65-63 with one second left

3) Arkansas: Down 65-62 with seven seconds left

4) Kansas State: Down 83-81 with seven seconds left in OT

5) Missouri: Tied 65-65 with six seconds left

6) Nebraska: Down 58-55 when time expired

7) OSU: Down 60-57 with 1:25 left

8) Baylor: Down 72-70 with 15 seconds left

9) Duke: Down 72-69 with 7 seconds left 

Essentially:

1) In each of these nine losses, Texas was within three points of their opponent with less than 1:30 to go. 

2) In eight of these nine losses, Texas was within three points with less than sixteen seconds to go. 

3) In seven of these nine losses, Texas was within three points with less than ten seconds to go.

I can already hear everyone explaining how this doesn’t take into account how many close games Texas WON last season, so I've also compiled a list of those wins as well.  To be generous, I included every victory in which a UT opponent got within six points in the last two minutes of the game.  This list is actually a little bit longer than I remembered:

1) UCLA: Up 65-61 with 2:00 left-UCLA doesn't score again

2) Wisconsin: Up 70-69 with 30 seconds left-Wisconsin doesn't score again

3) Baylor: Up 74-72 with 49 seconds left-Baylor doesn't score again

4) Colorado: UT wins 85-76 in OT

5) OU: Up 69-68 with 20 seconds left -OU doesn't score again

6) Tech: Up 85-81 with 30 seconds left-Tech doesn't score again

7) KSU: Up 61-58 when time expired 

None of Texas’ other 16 wins broke this threshold, and the UCLA and Tech games barely made it.  If we used tighter criteria, then Texas had only four victories—out of 23—where their opponents were within three points in the final 30 seconds.

However, the main point of this post isn’t to magnify how Texas could or should have won more games last season.  Instead, I wanted to analyze the performances of AJ Abrams and Connor Atchley in each of our losses and "close" victories in order to see if they played a major factor in the outcome.

Let's go to a chart of all the losses and close wins:

Opponent AJ Abrams Connor Atchley
Notre Dame (L) 23 points (8/27 shooting) 7 points and 7 rebounds
Michigan State (L) 8 points (3/10 shooting) 8 points and 5 rebounds
Arkansas (L) 7 points (3/16 shooting) DNP
OU (L) 22 points (8/27 shooting) 4 points and 4 rebounds
Kansas State (L) 15 points (5-21 shooting) 1 point and 3 rebounds
Mizzou (L) 11 points (4-9 shooting) 2 points and 5 rebounds
Nebraska (L) 16 points (6/15 shooting) 3 points and 3 rebounds
A&M (L) 7 points (3/12 shooting) 3 points and 1 rebound
OSU (L) 9 points (3/15 shooting) 0 points and 5 rebounds
Kansas (L) 10 points (2/11 shooting) 2 points and 2 rebounds
Baylor (L) 20 points (8/17 shooting) 5 points and 3 rebounds
Duke (L) 17 points (5/13 shooting) 0 points and 1 rebound
UCLA (W) 31 points (9/18 shooting) 6 points and 4 rebounds
Wisconsin (W) 21 points (8/21 shooting) 7 points and 2 rebounds
Baylor (W) 19 points (7/12 shooting) 4 points and 2 rebounds
Colorado (W) 29 points (11/19 shooting) 2 points and 3 rebounds
OU (W) 23 points (8/17 shooting) 5 points and 2 rebounds
Tech (W) 24 points (6/13 shooting) 5 points and 2 rebounds
Kansas State (W) 6 points (2/4 shooting) 0 points and 1 rebound

While this simplistic chart doesnt take into account other factors such as defense and passing, I think it points out a few interesting things.

1) In many of its seven close wins last season, Texas rode the backs of its two seniors on the offensive end.  With the exception of the KSU and Baylor games, Abrams and Atchley combined to score at least 28 points in each of the other five victories.  And, in the Baylor game, they combined to score a third of our points. 

2) Conversely, in many of the close losses, a lot of the blame can be squarely pointed at AJ Abrams.  In our twelve losses, AJ was a disaster in eight of them.  I dont think this breaks a ton of new ground, but it shows that AJ didnt "keep us in" a lot of the games we lost last season.  In fact, you can only make the case that he helped keep it close for only 3 (NU, BU, Duke) of our 12 losses last season.

3) Ultimately, I think it is very interesting that Abrams' performance--good or bad--directly correlated to the outcome in 14 of the 19 games reflected in the chart.  While we've already shown that he didnt help "keep it close" in most of our losses, the converse point is that the team also struggled to win close games when he was playing poorly.  In fact, the only close victory following a poor performance by Abrams was the game in the Big 12 Tournament against Kansas State.

Conclusion: I think fans have forgotten the tightness of most of our losses last season and the centrality of the role of AJ Abrams in the outcome of many games.  The most important thing that I gleaned from re-examining last season was how close Texas was to becoming an elite team.  It's amazing that, in 10 of their 12 losses, Texas was within three points of their opponent coming out of the last TV timeout.  The 23-12 record could have easily flipped to 26-9 (or better) if J'Covan Brown would have made it to campus.  The roster this season will have no such shortage of shooters.  However, any mention of the wouldacouldashoulda games from last season must also acknowledge that AJ Abrams was the reason we won several of our close games. 

Hook 'Em!

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