I'm falling in love with this basketball team. We knew coming into this season that this year's squad would be young, talented, and fun to watch and that their development throughout the season, especially on defense, would determine their ultimate success. Well, through 16 games, this team is extremely impressive and probably ahead of schedule.
All college basketball fans knew that Kevin Durant was going to be good but maybe only the biggest optimists predicted he would be this good, this quickly. Durant is playing better than anyone else in the nation.
The great thing for Longhorn fans is that this team is not just one stud and a bunch of role players. The Horns have had at least one player score 20 or more points in all sixteen games this season, and Texas has had seven games in which two Horns scored 20 or more. It is quite an understatement that Texas presents an incredibly balanced offensive attack.
DJ Augustin is playing like the best point guard in the Big 12, AJ Abrams has more than adapted from bench / role player to go-to shooter and second leading scorer on the team, and Justin Mason has greatly exceeded expectations for his freshman season on both ends of the floor.
The only even minor disappointment among the starting five has been Damion James. James came to Austin as the reigning Mr. Basketball in the state of Texas and some thought he possessed the skills to head to the NBA after just one season. Although his offensive skill set is not as advanced as advertised, James has been a beast on the glass and is an improving post defender. And lucky for Coach Barnes, he doesn't need James to score points as the other four starters are all capable of scoring 20+ on a given night.
Let's take a look at how balanced this team has been during their 13-3 start.
Kevin Durant: 23.7 points per game (27% of team scoring)
Durant is the leading scorer on the team and in the Big 12. He has scored 10 or more points in all sixteen games. KD has gone over 20 points twelve times and over 30 points two other times this season. Durant is without question the go to guy on this year's team.
AJ Abrams: 16.7 points per game (19% of team scoring)
Abrams leads the Big 12 in three pointers per game, 3.94, and is eighth in scoring. AJ has scored 10 or more in eight games and 20 or more in six others. His season and career high came against Chicago State when he hit eight three pointers and scored 28 points. Conference opponents would like to play zone defense against the Horns to allow for easier double teams on Durant, but Abrams' three point accuracy almost single handedly forces opponents to play man-to-man.
DJ Augustin: 13.4 points per game (15% of team scoring)
Early on this season, DJ wasn't looking to score and Texas' offensive was not running as efficiently. Augustin has looked to score more recently as his ever improving dribble penetration allows him to get to the rim and the free throw line with regularity. DJ has scored over 10 points per game in each of the last nine games. Over that time the Horns are 8-1. Augustin shoots an eye-popping 50.7% from the floor. Not bad for a 5'11" guard.
Justin Mason: 9.7 points per game (11% of team scoring)
Mason's scoring average has hovered around double digits all season. Justin has gone over 10 points in seven different games this year. His scoring has dipped a little with the beginning of conference season for two reasons. First, Durant has been going bonkers and second, Mason has begun concentrating on defense even more. Mason usually draws the assignment against the opponent's best perimeter player.
Damion James: 7.2 points per game (8% of team scoring)
If James had better hands or better touch from the free throw line, he too would be averaging double figures. Even with his offensive limitations, Damion has scored in double figures five times this season, including a career high 15 points at Colorado. James has the potential to be a 10 and 10 guy this season and a 15-10 guy next season.
Game planning on defense to face this starting five must be a nightmare. Augustin, Mason, and Durant can all beat their defenders with the dribble; James, Mason, and Durant all have the ability to grab offensive rebounds outside their zone; and four starters can knock down the three pointer.
If you go man, you get beat off the dribble and give up too many easy points in the paint. If you go zone, Texas will kill you with the three ball and with offensive rebounds. Last, Texas has Kevin Durant. He simply cannot be defended by a single college player.
This team is so balanced and so talented. They are already outstanding on offense. When their defense catches up, look out. Texas may be the most dangerous non-top seeded team in the NCAA tournament.