Texas vs Oakland: Longhorns Fans Embrace The Madness

I got my chance to speak my piece on the Texas vs Oakland match up with Scipio yesterday, so let's bring a few more voices into the fold.  Below are some tourney and, really, season thoughts from Ryan of Longhorn Roadtrip, as well asTxtwstr7 and Wiggo from BON.

PB:  Alright, so let me ask you, Ryan: How do you feel about our draw? I mean, first of all, what do you think about Oakland and potentially Arizona? And then what about the team? How do the Longhorns respond to the seed and the draw?

Ryan:  In all honesty, when I first saw Oakland's name pop up on the screen, I was incredibly concerned. The Golden Grizzlies have a great big man in Keith Benson, and their offense is highly efficient. They can beat you inside, but also have a bunch of solid three-point shooters.  They are by far one of the scariest low seeds in the tournament, and the presence of Benson has me concerned about Thompson finding himself in foul trouble once again. I feel like if the ‘Horns can be the aggressors on Friday morning, they should be fine. It certainly won't be a cakewalk, though, and could easily be another first round exit.

If Texas does happen to make it through and face Arizona, that's another tough match-up. Being inexplicably dropped to the 4-seed line really made things difficult on the Longhorns, and getting to the Sweet 16 will be even tougher this season. 

Derrick Williams is such a scary player because he's a versatile guy who can play the three or four and can score in so many ways. He doesn't pop the three too often, but he's so deadly when he does shoot from long range that defenses can't sag off. Unfortunately, he's so good at slashing from the right wing and getting to the paint that there's no good way to stop him. He's also one of the best in the nation at getting to the line - just slightly better than Thompson, in fact - so again I'm concerned about the frontcourt depth against Arizona.

Fortunately, I think Texas will respond well to the challenges. The No. 4 seed is definitely a slap in the face to a team that beat a 1 seed and a 2 seed on the road in Kansas and North Carolina.  They seem to play their best when they have a chip on their shoulder, and I think they feel that they have a lot to prove now.

Cody, we all know that Texas struggles from the line and that's always a huge concern in a single-elimination tournament. Putting that obvious issue aside, what is your biggest worry heading into the NCAAs?

Cody:  Whistles. I'm terrified of whistles. More specifically, I'm terrified of whistles against Tristan Thompson. Depending on the circumstances, it could only take three, four, or five such whistles to put Texas in a really, really bad spot. And, in the context of the unforgiving NCAA tournament, those whistles could easily lead to the end of our season. In fact, of our 7 losses this season, the Pittsburgh game was the only one in which Thompson had less than four fouls. So, yeah, while I'm afraid of our free throw struggles, I'm definitely more concerned with our own team getting into foul trouble.

But that's almost a copout answer. The lack of depth on this team is nothing new. It's something we've known-and feared-for the entire season. However, it's also something that we were able to mask during our rampage through the first 11 games of the conference season. More importantly, it's also something that is largely out of our control right now. As Rick Pitino would say, Shawn Williams and Varez Ward aren't gonna come limping through that door. For better or worse, we're gonna dance with the 8.5 guys who got us here. Jai, of course, is the half. I also think it would be a copout to simply bemoan our overall lack of experience or pontificate over any residual effects from the never-ending story of last year's collapse.    

So I'll go with something else. Outside of foul trouble, my biggest worry is the team's ability to demonstrate the consistency required to make a deep run into the tournament. To that extent, some readers pinpointed the source of the team's losing streak as the shooting struggles of Jordan Hamilton. And I get that. He shot a combined 15-58 in the losses against Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas State. If Jordan has trouble finding his stroke, someone else has to pick up the slack. And that someone else simply isn't going to be Matt Hill, Jai Lucas, Dogus Balbay, or Alexis Wangmene. Furthermore, with Gary Johnson scuffling recently, I think there's a lot of pressure on J'Covan Brown to make some big shots in this tournament, especially if teams are forcing us to beat them with jumpers. May the force of Port Arthur serve him well.

I'm going to happily pass the baton to Wiggo with a question that's been on my mind. To me, this season has been completely bizarre to watch from the perspective of other Texas fans. Instead of latching onto the brilliance of this team-especially during the magical run against the top teams in the conference-many fans adopted a continued "wait and see" approach, citing the collapse of last season as a reason to remain detached. It got to the point to where some fans couldn't even enjoy watching our marquee wins, as they were afraid of their significance being undermined by a potential letdown in the future. I've never seen anything like it. And everything only got worse once the team went on its losing skid.

So, Wiggo, if you had to deliver a message to all the Texas fans turning into the games this weekend, what would it be?

Wiggo:  Cody, good question. I agree that there has been a failure to fully embrace this year's club, but I am less surprised by it than you are.

First, by most accounts, including mine, this team wasn't supposed to be great, merely average. After a good win in NYC (Illinois), hope increased. Then in late-December after wins in Greensboro and East Lansing, fans really started to take notice. Some increased their expectations, while others remained skeptical. Finally, Lawrence happened. After that win, there should have been a full-on love fest. However, there were still doubters.

So, if you entered the season projecting 10-6 or 11-5 in conference, and then saw the team rush out to an 11-0 start, I can understand why some fans were still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even more than that, I think many Longhorns fans have become scorned lovers whose scars are far from healed.

Like Mack Brown, many of us are still bleeding from Pasadena. And even if the football side of your brain was able to move past that, the "17-0 to first round exit" the basketball team put together last spring ripped that wound wide open. Add in TCU dancing at Disch-Faulk and an improbable 5-7 bowl-less fall and most of us should be headed for a shrink's office. Confused, crushed, jaded, scorned, etc. You name it, we could probably talk about it for days. "Doc, we don't even know what trust is anymore."

All that brings us to this basketball season and back to your original question.

I'd tell Texas fans three things heading into the Madness.

First, it is okay to be upset about everything Longhorn sports-related over the last year and a half. It is also fine to still be working through your trust issues. I get it, and there is no need to apologize. Many have taken a "show-me-first and I'll love you later" attitude and that is fine too. All that said, this is a process and nothing short of cutting down the nets in Houston is going to heal everything, so don't expect a few wins to put your Longhorn emotions back on track. If you are looking for full closure in this tournament, you're not going to get it unless Texas wins six straight games.

Second, this team should be embraced, regardless of your trust issues. This team was picked to finish third or fourth in the conference, was ranked outside the top 25 by almost every pre-season poll, and was planning to rely heavily on two freshmen. This team has recovered from a summer transfer by Varez Ward (who would have challenged for a starting spot), a transfer by Shawn Williams one day before the season began, and a planning-for-next year redshirt decision by Clint Chapman and coaching staff. This team has done it with a nearly nonexistent bench, fought through nightmares from last season's collapse, and a point guard who doesn't have to be guarded.

It is easy to point to the defeats at Nebraska and Colorado and the senior night kick in the gut delivered by Kansas State and say this team isn't going to do anything in March. However, I say look past that. Every team, outside of maybe Ohio State and Kansas, has been inconsistent at some point this season. If Texas can be elite from November - February, there is no reason why they can't be elite again now.

Finally, I say that this team has one of the highest betas of any team in the tournament, and remember that the NCAA tournament is about match-ups more than anything else. I'll say it: we could lose in the opening round. Oakland can score the basketball and when our defense fails to show up, we can lose to anyone. Our first round opponent has a solid post player, and when Tristan Thompson is not on the floor, we might be a top 50 team.

Texas was not done any favors by the committee with our seed or our opponent. But, the Longhorns got to 11-0 and inside the top three nationally because of their abilities, talents, and execution. When Texas plays team defense, there is no better team. When Thompson is on the court, Texas can score from the post, from the wing, and off the bounce. And when Texas is running their offensive sets, the ‘Horns are more than efficient enough to make it Houston.

So, Longhorn fans, cozy up to the TV on Friday morning, log onto BON, and cheer your asses off. This teams deserves it and you need it.

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