It's no secret to anyone paying attention that Texas is playing incredibly tough defense. As I wrote in the Texas Basketball Report two weeks ago:
We weren't great offensively against Oklahoma State (merely solid) and we would have been great offensively against Missouri had we converted a healthy percentage of our free throw attempts. But we still won easily on the road at OSU and only have ourselves to blame for not beating Missouri by 20 at home. The reason? Our team defense is outrageously good. Literally: outrageous.
Heading into Saturday's game, Texas was leading the nation with an Adjusted Defensive Efficiency rating of 83.7. That number won't rise after tonight's smothering performance against Missouri, in which the Tigers hit just 19 of their 56 field goals, including just 4 of 18 from downtown. (To put that in perspective, last year's national title winner, Duke, finished fourth in the nation with an 85.9 rating.)
After tonight, through six games Big 12 opponents have hit just 36% of their field goal attempts and an obscenely low 21% of their threes. If Texas continues on this pace, we're not just talking about the best defensive team of the Rick Barnes era, but one of the best defensive teams of the last decade.
I wasn't kidding, and the four games since have only strengthened that position, something which Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus both took time to write about today. Here's Gasaway:
Of course the final measure of any defense is simply how many points it allows. This season Texas is allowing Big 12 opponents just 0.84 points per possession, which is far better than what any defense from this group has recorded over the past five seasons. The only other defense to allow less than 0.90 points per trip in major-conference play was Kansas in 2007 (0.89).
Lastly, note that the Longhorns look good even in relative terms. Their D is 2.7 standard deviations better than this season's Big 12 average, a degree of domination which is unheard of for a stat as fundamental as overall defense. No other major-conference defense from the past five seasons has been this much better than its league. Suffice it to say Barnes and his team are doing something right. If it keeps up, it will be record-setting.