I'm stuck in finals prep, so my schedule is all out of sorts. Morning Coffee will have to wait until later today. In the meantime, a few quick thoughts on last night's impressive win at the Garden:
- I agree 100% with txtwstr, who noted in the comments he thought AJ Abrams played his best game of the year. The diminutive guard let the game come to him, played within the offense, dutifully ran his defenders around the court, shot jump shots when they were open, and passed or went to the lane when they were not. As an off-ball, catch-and-shoot, play-within-the-offense guard, Abrams is a supreme asset. If that performance sticks going forward, I'm highly encouraged. Great, great game.
- So much other offensive goodness flows from Abrams playing that role to perfection. His shooting ability stretches the defense, for one, creating space for post players and his buddy Damion James, who looked equally comfortable in the flow last night. I still think James has another notch higher in his game that he can exploit by getting to the rim a little more, but he's finding his rhythm.
- The passing of this team I do not recognize. Entry passes to the post? Crisp ball reversal? Is Rick Barnes coaching this squad? There's still room to improve (getting the ball into Dexy, for example), but this is night and day from what we're used to. Encouraging.
- Rick Barnes has always been a great defensive coach, but this team does more than play great individual, jam-your-jock defense; they play impeccable team defense. The help is so natural and well-timed. You could sell instructional videos off what this group did last night.
- The early season schedule? Kudos to Barnes; Villanova wasn't prepared for a game like last night's. We were.
- After a few ugly possessions, Rick's adjustments to Villanova's three-quarters court pressure forced them to retreat. Good coaching.
- Twice in the last two games we've inexplicably flirted with a little zone defense in the second half. Twice it sparked an opponent run. I don't think we'll see much more of that against teams with strong guard play.
- Most exciting development? Texas has looked 3- or 4-seed good the last couple of games... and we're not anywhere near our ceiling yet. Chappy (flashing offensive excellence with increasing frequency), Pittman (body control is coming along), Ward (great defense, not nearly as useless on offense as I anticipated), Johnson (learning the difference between aggressive and out of control)... and on and on... This is a team with depth, talent, and lots of potential to develop. Though I wonder whether the offense can develop to a consistently high enough level for Texas to become a serious Final Four contender, after the last two games I'm convinced it's within reach. After the season's first couple games I didn't think that the case.
- More on individual players in Friday's first season installment of the Texas Basketball Report.