As I approached Continental Airlines Arena, Rick Barnes words echoed in my mind: "We know it's going to be Cameron North." Even with the expectation of a pro-Duke crowd, nothing could have prepared me for the sea of blue that was filing into the arena. Once inside, the effect was amplified, as the arena's narrow concourse forced patrons to mill about uncomfortably close to one another.
The arena sat nearly 20,000 and it is no exaggeration to say that some 16,000 of those fans were wearing some item of clothing with "Duke" on it. Most of those 16,000 were wearing blue. Cameron North was a total misnomer. This was a gigantic arena filled with nearly 20,000 Duke fans. Cameron seats about half that many.
From the opening tip, I was befuddled by what I saw. I immediately turned to Erin and asked, "Why is Kenton Paulino guarding J.J. Reddick?" She asked an appropriate question for someone relatively new to Texas hoops: "Who is Kenton Paulino?"
KP actually played an outstanding offensive game, as he was the only Texas player who thought it wise to take the ball to the basket. Still, he wasn't nearly quick or aggressive enough to chase Reddick around the court. The worst of it was that Rick Barnes didn't seem to notice, or care.
Meanwhile, the referees let Shelden Williams absolutely thug-defend our post defenders. He should have had three fouls in the first five minutes; instead he had one. And Duke built an early lead that they never relinquished.
The Texas basketball players didn't play well on Saturday, but the real culprit was Rick Barnes. We were woefully unprepared for Reddick, the adjustments to what Duke (and the referees) were doing were nonexistent, and there didn't seem to be ANY gameplan whatsoever on offense. No attempts to penetrate. No attempts to create mismatches with our better athletes. No attempts to fast break, or press.
We looked like a JV squad just happy to be scrimmaging with the big boys. I've never been embarrassed to be wearing the Burnt Orange, but it took a cameo appearance by Vince Young on the big screen at Cameron North to keep that streak going.
I can still hear the chants: "Over-Rated! [Clap-Clap. Clap-Clap-Clap]" Cameron North indeed.
Fortunately for Texas, basketball is nothing like football, and one loss does not a season end. We'll be much better in March, but this ought to serve as a wake up call for both Rick Barnes and the players. Especially for Rick. He's got more talent than he did in 2002 when T.J. Ford and crew made the Final Four. What Rick Barnes needs to realize, though, is that this time doesn't have TJ Ford to do all the coaching and play-making on the court. If we want to be anything short of a bunch of talented athletes that get outplayed by good teams, Rick's going to have to do some actual coaching. It can't come soon enough.