...on the heels of the BON Roundball Roundtable, I wanted to provide a quick follow-up and allow each of you to play "Devils Advocate", which was nicely done in the comments. After the jump, a quick scan of some of the recent UT Basketball-related articles and an invitation to "HATE HATE HATE HATE" on the sunshiny sentiments from the Roundtable.
Since it is my self-professed goal to help get everyone fired up for basketball--before our bowl game--I want to highlight a few of the better articles and features from this week.
1) Yahoo Sports Big XII Preseason Power Rankings: While only the Texas section is excerpted below, this article provides an solid first-take rundown on the conference. Hard to quibble too much with the rankings, and it has a decent write-up over each team, rather than the one-sentence explanations that are just a waste of time. Texas is ranked second behind Kansas:
Texas – Other than Kansas and Kentucky, there’s not a school in the country that boasts as much talent and depth as the Longhorns, who appear to have their best team of the Rick Barnes era. Damion James’ decision to withdraw from the NBA draft bolstered a frontcourt that should be one of the nation’s best with James, Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson. The difference, though, will be Texas’ backcourt, which should be markedly improved thanks to the addition of Florida transfer Jai Lucas and standout freshman Avery Bradley. Lucas, a point guard, is expected to become the starter once he becomes eligible in December. A combo guard, Bradley is a consensus top-10 recruit who is a pest defensively.
2) Recap of KD's Summer: This NBA.com feature outlined Kevin Durant's busy summer. For all the "ONE AND DONE!!!!" folks who hated the decision to retire his number, please focus on the sections over his time in Austin. For example:
After leaving the University of Texas for the NBA after just one season, Durant made a promise to himself and his family that he would continue to pursue his college degree. He kept up on that promise this summer, enrolling in a child adolescent class. The league’s fifth-leading scorer was back in class, interacting with classmates, raising his hand to be called on, doing homework and even turning in a 20-plus page book report.
Durant already said he was looking forward to doing it again next summer. But while he was in Austin, he found enough time to reconnect with the Longhorns basketball program. Organizing pick-up games just after sunrise wasn’t something that came about this offseason, but rather last summer along with the help of Thunder Assistant Coach Brian Keefe after Durant had finished his rookie season.
The pick-up games started at 6:30....AM.
3) Tristan Thompson = Good: These rankings--dug up by DimeCoverage--have Thompson as the 4th ranked prospect in 2010. Daniel Bejarano is ranked 40th.
Onto the hating...
First off--for those of you who liked the roundtable, I think I speak for each of us when I say it would be our pleasure to do it again. If you have any questions, please send them along, and I'll arrange another one as soon as we get enough good questions. I've always loved PB's mailbag feature, and I think a mailbag/roundtable combo would be something that everyone would enjoy reading. Just send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, with the current steady stream of articles constantly hitting up the front page of BON, it can be easy to get behind. I got sick earlier this week, and it put me waaaaaaaaaay behind schedule during a pretty busy week. While I had time to read most of the front-page stuff, I wasn't able to read all the comments, which are often as enlightening as the article itself. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight an eye-opening comment from the post.
While Caradoc provided (yet another) good idea for a feature, the best comment came from "longtimelonghorn", who took it upon himself to play "Devils Advocate." I think "longtimelonghorn" did a good job...see for yourself, through a slightly edited version below, where I focus on his key points and issue a few responses.
I’m as pumped about this team as everyone else, but the 8 page UT basketball summary didn’t seem to account for what could go wrong or why we might NOT be that good. So I’ll pretend to be an OU fan for a few minutes and bring up these points.
1. Ok, Pittman looks lighter in some videos. He made great strides last year and was shockingly able to play more than 10 minutes in a game. However, he’s still fat. He’ll still clog the lane: 4 out 1 in’s only gonna happen when Damion James is in the game and playing the 4. Your team doesn’t need a Dexter Pittman, it needs a James Thomas. Your team is relying on this guy to be your force in the middle. After that your center is?? He goes down, and you have Matt Hill guarding Tyler Hansborough. Face it, the W in CWH is ok, but the other two SUCK.
2. Every great team has one player that’s a leader who will carry the team on his back when he has to. The Horns made it to the Final Four with TJ Ford. Who’s gonna pull this team together when the other team goes on a run? Damion James? A freshman maybe?
3. So you’re relying on JBrown, a freshman point guard, academically ineligable for his first year, rumored headcase in highschool, great scorer but not passer… to be the starting point guard on a final four team. Assist to turnover ratios don’t lie. (for the record, I’ll predict Lucas as the starter).
4. Before you start buying tickets for Indianapolis remember this: you’re relying on freshmen for this team to make it there. Freshmen are question marks. The new guys will all want shots, even Avery Bradley. Furthermore, three of the new "fantastic four" coming in didn’t even play basketball last year. Where’s all the confidence coming from, BarkingCarnival practice videos?
5. So Barnes is phenomenal with managing players, and a loaded roster won’t be a problem? Some of the guys will just be happy to get a few minutes on a great team? Mike Williams and Dion Dowell might disagree with you.
Walking through these step-by-step:
1) If one of CWH can be productive (consensus seems to be Wangmene), then I'm not going to lose sleep over our third option at center potentially sucking against a National POY force. Dex handled Blake Griffin pretty nicely in their unfortunately brief second encounter last season, and we "held" Griffin to a 20-10 game in Norman in a game where Dex only played 21 minutes to Griffin's 39 minutes. Yes, there will be minutes to kill when Dex is on the bench, but it wont cripple this team. If Dexter gets hurt...well, thats a different ballgame that we wont talk about.
2) PB brought this up in the roundtable and went with Avery Bradley. I think he makes a good case. As a military officer, there are leadership styles other than yelling in people's faces. There is no better leadership style than "leading by example", which is where I think Bradley will excel, even as a freshmen. If that doesnt convince you, then I'll quickly point out that Rick Barnes will also have a say-so in keeping this team from dogpiling on each other when things go south.
3) I feel much better about J'Covan knowing that Balbay/Lucas/Mason/Ward can all immediately step in and take over if he doesn't play to his talent. I dont want Barnes to jerk him around, but the floor-level expectations for the position are already in place...it's Brown who has a chance to adjust the ceiling.
4) The gaps in basketball for Hamilton/Lucas/Brown are a concern, but their play in tournaments and scrimmages (past and recent) leaves us with a pretty good idea of what they should bring to the table. Honestly, I'd be more worried about the incoming freshmen, but this is where Dexter and Damion returning comes into play. Instead of having to take everything onto their shoulders, the super talented freshmen are stepping into an offense that is returning two key starters (and potential superstars) who should average at least 15-10 a game. For a point of comparison, KD started alongside three other freshmen and AJ Abrams; these freshmen will be starting alongside two legitimate studs who complement their individual games. The key point here is that none of the freshmen will have to carry the brunt of the offensive load. Instead, each of them wil fill important cogs in what should be a multi-dimensional and dangerous team.
5) I dont think Barnes and Dion Dowell got along--before the PT issues--and Mike Williams was a weird, weird, weird, weird dude. I agree that PT is a concern, but I really think that the role emphasis of Barnes (along with potentially winning 30 games this season) will help keep everyone relatively content.
Lest we be accused of failing to acknowledge or notice the faults of this basketball team, please feel free to continue spreading your "HATE HATE HATE HATE" on the Hyperizers in the comments...