And so it has come to this. The Texas Longhorns are playing in a post season tournament yet again, but it is not the one anyone wanted. I have already spent time mocking the CBI, so let's focus on the game.
James Dickey's Cougars went 19-12 this season, finishing 7-9 in conference USA. They play an up-tempo, high-scoring style, looking to run whenever possible. Overall, Houston can put the ball in the hole, with the #88 ranked offense according to Overall, Houston can score, with the No. 88 ranked offense according to kenpom.com. Their splits at Hoop-Math indicate that they are far more effective in transition, shooting an effective field goal percentage of 55 percent when they run off of an opponent's miss, but appear ordinary in the half-court. They also protect the rock, get to the free throw line, and make a little bit of noise on the offensive glass.
Joseph Young and Jherrod Stiggers are both dangerous outside shooters. Oddly enough, they are far more likely to launch threes in transition than in half-court settings, and on the whole the Cougars don't take many shots from beyond the arc. 6-8 TaShawn Thomas is their best player; he is productive on offense, good on the glass at both ends, and will block the occasional shot.
That makes Houston sound pretty good, but the story changes when we look at defense. Dickey's young roster doesn't defend particularly well, not that Dickey has ever had a reputation as a defensive wizard. Ken Pomeroy rates the Cougar D as the 278th best in Division I. In particular they are weak inside, allowing opponents to make 66 percent of their shots at the rim. Overall they allow a field goal percentage of 50 percent on two point attempts.
While Houston has played an up-tempo style all season, it is an approach that also favors Texas, as a wide open game plays to the strengths of players like Myck Kabongo. While Texas' half-court offense has been excruciating, the transition game has actually been pretty good. If things break right for the Horns, Myck Kabongo could turn this game into his own personal layup drill.
Still, although I never write about it, I always worry about the psychological aspects of the game. I never write about these things because I am in no position to assess them, but these things are real. Our brains are important, and they do affect performance. After being kicked all season long, I wonder how much this team wants to keep playing. It would only be natural to want to end things and just phone it in tonight, the way Kentucky did in their first round NIT game last evening.
We shall see.