GAME TIP: 1:00 CT
Dual apologies for the lack of a Baylor postame piece and, now, a somewhat abbreviated hoops preview. Computer issues are to blame. (For a solid-as-always pre-game look at this afternoon's contest, check out Longhorn Road Trip.)
There will be a Baylor Postgme React (delayed to Monday evening, in all likelihood), but there's not much time to do a comprehensive preview of the hoops team's season opener against UC-Irvine today. Fortunately, both my parents teach at UCI these days and, even as the basketball team has settled into a prolonged slump of mediocrity, my poor father -- a college hoops junkie who played college ball himself -- continues to go to all the Anteaters' home games, so I know enough about UCI to offer a few quick pre-game thoughts.
The two key Anteaters to watch are 6-5 forward Eric Wise, who last year averaged a team-best 14 points and 6 boards as a freshman (All-Big West second team) and 5-10 senior guard Michael Hunter, who's not unlike the similarly diminutive AJ Abrams in that he's not great as a distributor but has an accurate, quick-release jump shot and a scorer's mentality. Hunter is comfortable looking for a quick pop beyond the arc after using a ball screen or pulling up in transition on the break. Ward-Balbay-Brown will need to keep track of Hunter, who can get hot in a hurry.
Beyond those two, the roster is pretty pedestrian. Patrick Rembert will run the point but isn't capable of breaking down a defense on his own. Texas will want to keep close 6-2 Derrick Strings, the other likely starting guard alongside Hunter and Rembert. Strings has a nice stroke from downtown and has potential to be more of a slasher/scorer this year as a sophomore.
The big trouble for UCI, if you hadn't guessed from the guard-heavy previewing thus far, will be in the frontcourt, where the Anteaters lack both size and talent. Starting center Zack Atkinson will be banging with Dexter Pittman at 6-9, 220, which is a mid-day snack for Big Sexy. The aforementioned Wise is a very nice player, but Texas' size and strength on the interior makes this a tough game for him. A +15 rebound differential for Texas wouldn't surprise me in the least.
All told, this is a squad that is not at all well-constituted to deal with Texas' size, strength, and athleticism. If Texas' perimeter defense is sloppy and the 'Eaters get hot, they might stick around for a while, but even if the 'Horns play poorly this afternoon, they're going to wear down UCI by the end. If they play well, this one will be over early.
Prediction: Texas 78 UC-Irvine 56