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Survival in Manhattan

Yes, the #7 Horns (23-4, 11-2) won on the road in the Big 12, 65-64, over Kansas State (14-10, 5-8) yesterday night in Manhattan. We maintain a tie for the conference lead with Kansas. And the Horns have successfully set up a one game showdown for the crown on our home court. But the Horns have played awful the last two games. There is no way Coach Barnes is happy with our performance last night.

1.    Defense Our vaunted zone defense is now porous. We gave up 81 points to OSU. We only gave up 64 points to Kansas State but that is more a reflection of them missing shots than us playing good pressure defense. KSU shot just 4/17 from behind the three point arc. If they had made a few more threes, they would have pulled the upset. We are also giving up way too much dribble penetration. JamesOn curry drove past, around, and through our defense all game long. Kansas State's guards are not even good and they had no trouble finding angles and penetrating the top of the zone. We are also not rebounding. Going into the OSU game, we were averaging 11 boards per game more than our opponents. OSU outrebounded us and KSU almost did. The final total was 34-32 Texas, with none bigger than Buckman's offensive rebound in the final minute. Last, we are not forcing turnovers. Kansas State turned the ball over just six times. Barnes might be wise to try some pressure man to man or some full court pressure against Kansas. If we play the same weak 2-3 and don't rebound the ball, Kansas will beat us.

2.    Offense We started the game on a 14-4 run. We were hitting open shots, feeding the post, and earning assists on just about every made basket. The first four minutes of the game were our best since Baylor. After that, we reverted to the same stagnant Barnes half court set that Bean and I have pissed and moaned about for years. This is the one were the guards dribble side to side about thirty five feet from the basket for the first twenty seconds. Then, a big man sets a weak screen. The defense pressures the ball, our big man fails to roll to the basket and instead flares out for a three pointer, and the guard dribbles further sideways as the shot clock ticks down. Sometimes we are able to turn the corner or hit an open man for a twenty footer, but that is not good basketball. We must penetrate. Kenton Paulino and Daniel Gibson have to take the ball to the basket. The Horns must also get the ball to PJ Tucker or Lamarcus Aldridge on the low blocks every possession. Dropping the ball to the low post puts so much pressure on the defense. There is not a player in the Big 12 who can guard Tucker or Aldridge one on one. If they try, we pound them all game long (see Baylor in Austin). If they double, then we have open looks on kickouts.

I am frustrated by this team right now, so I won't write too much more. We have three NBA players on the team. We have beaten West Virginia, Iowa, Memphis, and Villanova, but this team is not playing its best basketball right now. Worst case scenario, as my pessimism rears its ugly head, we lose to Kansas and OU and possibly A&M and head to the Big 12 tourney and the NCAA tourney struggling. Best case scenario, we tighten up our defense, pressure the ball, force turnovers, get the big men involved in the offense more consistently, and roll into the Big 12 and NCAAs as legitimate favorites to make the Final Four. This team could head in either direction.