We've got the big picture stuff covered below, but before we put this season to bed, let's take a look at the game notes from the USC debacle - at the very least to touch on all the things Texas -has- to improve upon next season.
- In my game preview, I wrote:
"The Trojans are a team capable of muscling around DJ Augustin. The Longhorns struggle on offense when Augustin's driving into the lane against teams that are built to stop that. USC is one such team, which means the flow of the offense needs to run through Durant. If USC decides they want to double and triple team him, Kevin's gotten better and better at finding open teammates. Even if USC goes balls to the wall on stopping Durant, we need things to go through him."
Unfortunately, Rick Barnes and DJ Augustin didn't get this memo, and the phenomenal freshman point guard had an abomination of a basketball game. Augustin finished just 1-for-8 from the field, with five turnovers, while doing a poor job of helping his team get good half court looks.
Augustin was so good, so often, this season, that it was easy to overlook the games in which he struggled, but they always came against similar teams - ones that defended him physically and denied his driving lanes. I hate to do it, but I urge you to look back at the February 1st Texas Basketball Report, when I wrote: "Smart teams will start spending more of their defensive capital on taking Augustin out of his game. Durant's going to get his points and rebounds - there's no doubting that - but to the extent that opponents can keep Augustin from being effective with his penetration, they can slow down Texas' potent offense."
Tim Floyd is a smart coach, and they did exactly that tonight. Rick Barnes and DJ Augustin have to spend the offseason working on ways to run the half court offense against teams that won't let him get to the hole at will.
- The other big problem in the half court today was the secondary guards' inability to complete (or even attempt) a post pass into Durant. If you want to complain about Rick Barnes, by all means, I urge you to bump this to the top of your list. Rick Barnes' guards have never been able to complete a pass into the post. Unfortunately, on a night like tonight when we really needed to have the ball in Durant's hands eight feet from the basket, this was a decisive weakness. Time after time after time, AJ Abrams and Justin Mason would reverse the ball along the perimeter without so much as a pump fake Durant's way. Any way you cut it, that's bad coaching. They're underclassmen, but they're not Special Olympians. Teaching these kids to throw a post entry pass should be among Rick Barnes' coaching skills. It is not.
- I understand that Rick was trying to mix things up because nothing was working, and though the idea was the right one (get away from the status quo), the chosen solution - playing JD Lewis for 20 minutes - was like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. It's not like there wasn't a mountain of evidence that suggested Lewis is a major liability on the court. For the season, Lewis was 11-41 from three point range on the year. That's 27%. If you're wondering, the much-maligned Connor Atchley shoots 30%. So, Lewis, presumably in there as a "shooting specialist," can't shoot the three point shot as well as a guy who makes everyone gasp with nervous anticipation anytime he puts up a shot. Did I mention that Lewis is also a non-entity on rebounding and a liability on defense? Craig Winder isn't much of an option either, but at least he's an athlete. Lewis is just dead weight.
- I feel badly for Justin Mason, because his offensive performance just fell off a cliff sometime in January, and never recovered. Somehow, he went cold, and Texas got reduced too often to a two-man show on offense. Damion James has his moments, but we really needed Mason to be a credible perimeter threat. I have no complaints about Mason's overall performance this year - I'm just noting how much it hurt us that he went cold.
- Kudos to Kevin for having another outstanding game in what might be his last for the burnt orange and white. He never got in that elite KD rhythm that we've seen at times, but even on a tough night, he had a magnificent performance. If it's his last one for Texas, let us all take a moment to thank him for the memories.
- Last, we just have to give Tim Floyd and USC a big bag of credit. I said before the game that their length on the perimeter made me nervous, but they were more than just athletic and rangy - they had a great game plan. They executed it well, hit their shots, played with composure, and more or less dominated the Longhorns. As much as we did wrong, they did right. And a lot of the things that we did wrong were because of things they did right. I've noted my allegiance to Rick Barnes as director of this program, but he got licked by Tim Floyd tonight. They were better prepared, and we didn't make the right adjustments. A tip of the cap to USC.