Texas Basketball: Lamar Cardinals Preview

Expect to see a lot of this tonight.

Lamar Cardinals at Texas Longhorns
7:00 p.m. CT  *  Frank Erwin Center, Austin, TX

OPPONENT PROFILE: LAMAR UNIVERSITY CARDINALS

Record: 4-2
KenPom Rating: 276
Offensive Efficiency: 97.5 (214th nationally)
Defensive Efficiency: 110.0 (327)
Tempo: 72.5 (15)

Lamar University, a college of about 15,000 students, is located in Beaumont, Texas and is a part of the Texas State University System. The college is named for Mirabeau Lamar, second President of the Republic of Texas, a fascinating man and brave warrior who after drifting over to Texas from Georgia in the 1830s joined Sam Houston's army and led the Texas cavalry in the Battle of San Jacinto. It was Lamar who decided that Waterloo, Texas -- which you now know as Austin -- would be the permanent site of the state capitol. Mostly to piss off Sam Houston.

In any event, there is a university named after Mr. Lamar, and its hoops team is in town tonight to do battle on the hardwood. An overview of the Cardinals, plus keys to the game, after the jump.

Lamar is averaging 96 points per game on the season. And now you know why we bother with advanced metrics like Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and Tempo. And know that the proper question isn't whether Lamar is awesome on offense but if Tom Penders is their coach. This team runs and guns to the extreme.

And plays absolutely no defense. Seriously, if I see Tom Penders on the opposing bench tonight, I won't blink.

Okay, to be more charitable, Lamar head coach Steve Roccaforte is doing a decent job at Lamar. He's one of those enthusiastic types, shall we say -- an animated, tireless coach who busts his hump both in the coaching box and on the recruiting trail. He signed three of the top 15 JuCo scorers from a year ago, all of whom are contributing well in the early going for Lamar. After missing the first four games of the season, Mike James, a 6-1, 185 pound point guard from Eastern Arizona has averaged a team-best 15 points in just 15 minutes per game of floor action. Devon Lamb, a 6-2 guard from SW Christian College, led all JuCo scorers last year with 27.8 points per game, has a decent stroke from the outside and excellent slashing ability. And the 6-6 Brandon Davis, a teammate of Lamb's at SW Christian, has been a brilliant shooter in the early going this year, connecting on 16 of 39 three pointers.

And we're just getting started. Lamar features an astounding 13 players who average at least 8 minutes per game, 11 of whom average at least 10. Roccaforte substitutes in waves and everyone goes at full-speed until they can't, and someone else comes in. They want to run, and run, and then run some more, hoping that even if they can't outscore you, they outlast you.

Obviously, this is as enormous a contrast from Texas' previous opponent as is imaginable, and presents a different style challenge for the Longhorns to master.

KEYS TO THE GAME

The biggest challenge Lamar presents will be depth. Rick Barnes is using a nine man rotation this year, two of whom -- Hill and Wangmene -- are playing just 11 minutes per contest. Texas will need everyone to contribute tonight and, hopefully, avoid foul trouble.

Texas' transition defense will be tested tonight, a key to making Lamar earn their scores and take bad shots (which they're happy to do). Clearing the glass and outletting quickly will be the best offense Texas has tonight. It will be a mild upset if Texas doesn't get 10 dunks. And I'm predicting 25+ points for both Hamilton and Thompson.

Most of all, I'll be interested to see how well Texas plays in this kind of free-for-all game. This should be a fun one for the players, but they'll need to harness the fun and avoid being plain reckless. Leave that to Lamar and Texas should score 100 points and coast to a double-digit victory.

Prediction: Texas 104  Lamar 76

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