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Morning Coffee Wants All Your Awards

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Honestly, I've been studying way too much and tomorrow I get a rare opportunity to sleep in. So, onward with the content, including tomorrow's morning notes. 'Cause there's no way I'll be up in the morning to write 'em then.

Our marriage to football sure can make our sports lives miserable when things aren't going well. That, of course, is why I'm a polygamist. So while I'm in a quarrel with my football bride at home, I'm happily enjoying my nights out with the rest of Texas sports.

Like basketball! The Longhorns' sweep of the Legends Classic vaulted the team to a #8 national ranking in both the AP and ESPN Coaches polls, with AJ Abrams being named the Big 12 Player of the Week after averaging 26 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists over Texas' two games. He hit an absurd 12 of his 20 three point attempts.

Let's stay with that theme - absurd numbers - for a moment here: the Longhorns as a team are shooting 56.7% from the field and 52% from beyond the arc. Sustainable? No. But a damn impressive way to start the season. Equally encouraging, the 'Horns are turning the ball over only 10.6 times per game, a fantastic number that, if maintained, will keep Texas near the top of the offensive rankings all season long. (Adjusting for tempo, the Longhorns are only turning the ball over on 14.7% of their possessions, the fifth best rate in the country.)

Weaknesses? There are a few. On offense, Texas isn't grabbing many offensive rebounds and isn't getting to the free throw line much at all. On the rebounding, part of that is lack of opportunity: when you shoot nearly 60% from the field, there aren't many second chances to be had. Also, while I think the low numbers in each category actually do reflect a concern for the team, the silver bullet for each is sitting on the bench waiting for medical clearance to play. This team is going to be that much more dynamic and well-rounded when Gary Johnson is able to take the floor.

Defensively, Texas is a mirror image of what it was last season: great 2-point FG% defense and terrifyingly bad 3-point FG% defense. The Longhorns do a pretty good job of collapsing on the paint and have played far more zone over the past two seasons than Rick Barnes ever has at Texas, but that's allowed opponents ample good looks from beyond the arc. It's difficult, too, because Texas is going to have Augustin and Abrams (each under 6' tall) out on the floor 85% of the time. In some sense, Texas is going to have to live with that weakness, which means the offense will need to keep clicking as it has.

All in all, though, Rick Barnes couldn't have asked for a better start from his team. Color me excited.

On to the Gazelles and more award hoarding, as Texas players picked up nine Big 12 postseason honors, including five first-team All Big 12 selections. Head Coach Jerritt Elliott was named the conference's top coach, Juliann Faucette picked up Freshman of the Year honors, while Ashley Engle, Destinee Hooker, Michelle Moriarty, and Lauren Paolini joined Faucette on the All Big 12 First Team. Brandy Magee was named honorable mention All Big 12; Texas' six All Big 12 awards were the most in the conference.

The #3-ranked Gazelles jump into NCAA Tournament action this Friday as they host first and second round matchups at Gregory Gym. The 'Horns will face Texas State in the first round on Friday at 6:30 p.m. immediately following the New Mexico St-LSU first-round contest at 4:30. The winners of each Friday match will face off Saturday at 6:30 p.m. for the right to advance to the Gainesville Regional next weekend.

TexasSports.com reports that all-session ticket pacakges ($6-$18) for the matches at Gregory this weekend are on sale now at the Texas Box Office online as well as at Bellmont Hall. Individual session tickets ($5-$10) go on sale at the Gregory box office on Friday.

One more ticketing note: TexasSports reports that fewer than 500 tickets remain for the men's basketball team's Big Monday showdown with Texas A&M on February 18th. Tickets can be purchased online at the Texas Box Office or by calling the UT Athletics Ticket Office at 512-471-3333.

Okay, a little bit of football news is in order: Chip Brown is projecting the Longhorns to land in the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas. Chip has Missouri beating Oklahoma this Saturday to earn a spot in the national title game, with the Fiesta Bowl selecting Kansas as its at-large replacement. In that scenario, the Big 12 would have two teams in the BCS, thereby keeping the Gator Bowl behind both the Cotton and Holiday Bowls in the selection order. With the Cotton Bowl selecting before the Holiday Bowl, it's certainly possible they'd take Texas over Oklahoma, whose fanbase may be less eager to travel after making the trek to San Antonio for the Big 12 title game this coming weekend.

By the way, if Oklahoma wins the Big 12 and earns a trip to the Fiesta Bowl? It will be their seventh BCS Bowl appearance in eight years. There's a reason Texas fans are disgruntled with Mack Brown's performance outside the VY run.

Speaking of the Big 12 Title Game, the Sooners open as three-point favorites over the #1-ranked Tigers. Given OU's head-to-head win and superior talent on defense, that's not terribly surprising, but it is a little odd seeing the nation's top ranked team as an underdog in its conference championship game. It's been an interesting year.

--PB--