This will be our last Texas Basketball Report until we erupt into full blown March Madness coverage, which we assure you will be extensive. Today we focus on the Big 12 tournament weekend and all the important storylines.
Keep Kevin Healthy This one's got to go at the top, right? The Longhorns have secured an invitation to the field, are safely out of the scary 7 through 10 seed range, and are more or less playing only for a tournament championship and a couple spots of seeding. As much fun as it would be to win the Big 12 tournament, that title pales in comparison to the real prize, so getting the squad to the Dance with everyone (and especially Kevin) in tact is critical. I'd just as soon Texas lose a game they shouldn't to Missouri with Kevin playing 20 minutes than have the Horns use their star for 40 minutes and/or him get injured in a win. As much as the guys around Kevin have developed this year, there's no kidding ourselves: we sink or swim with Durant
Use The Bench Extensively This ties in with the first point, but if there were ever a time for Rick to run the bench ragged, this would be it. There's no downside, and who knows, maybe somebody on the bench gets on a roll and shows they can give us minutes in the NCAAs. I'd love to see Matt Hill get a lot of work on Friday night, both to get him back in to the flow of things and to see prep him for the Madness. Putting Craig Winder out there for 15 minutes is a smart idea, as well. He's an extremely limited player no matter what, but part of his problem is he plays so sparingly. I'd like to see Rick use Winder for a big chunk of plays so that he can show Craig exactly what he wants from him in the video review. "Watch this five minute stretch, Craig. You played good defense, were active on the defensive glass, and played within the offense. That's what we need from you in your relief minutes." Remember: Connor Atchley started coming around in March of last year, and wound up being a decent contributor off the bench. Rick would be wise to let the lesser-known players get some real action. (And, of course, the starters are exhausted at this point in the year. Let's not run them further into the ground.)
Five To The Glass It's great that Texas has such a strong fast-break offense, but we need to work on getting five to the glass against bigger teams. We can't get killed on offensive boards like we did against Kansas. It'd be nice to see Texas establish themselves as a team committed to rebounding.
Practice The Art Of Timeouts There was a point early in this season when I admired Rick's decisions to let the kids "play through" tough stretches. Young teams have to grow up, and I understood the logic behind them. Those days, of course, are long gone. Either they're grown up, or they're not. If another team is making a run - use a timeout. If Kevin is sitting on the court indian style because he cannot expend any more energy - use a timeout. If DJ Augustin needs to pee really badly - use a timeout.
Final Thoughts As fans, we'll have fun enjoying a few more games of Big 12 basketball, but we needn't concern ourselves too much with the outcome. I just want to leave Oklahoma City with everyone healthy and not too tired.