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Texas Basketball: Legends Classic Notes

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Now that I've calmed down a little bit, let's talk a little bit about our performance in the Legends Classic.  The good news is that we should have won both games.  As I made clear, the officials played no small part in both outcomes -- we got absolutely jobbed in both games -- but the bulk of the failures are still are own. 

Our team defense and rebounding showed signs of development, but we weren't able to play well for two full halves.  Consistency is going to be critical for this group, and as young as we are that's a lot to hope for; this is likely to be an issue all season.  Second, our odds of making the NCAA Tournament are tied directly to how far -- and how quickly -- Kabongo and McClellan can come along this season.  Both have shown flashes of important contributions, but they're both in the adjustment phase where they're learning to play with Big 6 caliber athletes.  Third, Rick Barnes has got to do a better job managing our end games, and he didn't do us any favors in either loss -- one reason I'm not too fond of his calling out J'Covan as harshly as he did.  You've got some stepping up to do, as well, Rick.  And fourth, we simply have to do a better job with avoiding cheap fouls.  The officials were horrible in East Rutheford, but part of it's our lack of size and lack of experience/maturity.  We can't afford to lose Holmes and Kabongo and Brown for significant stretches of the game.  It just can't happen.

After the jump, some individual player notes.

J'Covan Brown -- Brown's fourth foul against NC State was utter horseshit, and yes, given his importance to the team he needed to shut up and take it, but he had every right to be miffed.  He literally didn't touch the player and got whistled.  Those who are trashing JCB right now aren't paying attention to the maturity and leadership he's displayed over the past two years.  One technical foul -- and even that barely looked deserved -- and overwhelmingly positive attitude the rest of the time.  The argument that Brown needs to grow up is essentially an argument that because he's so important to the team, he must be perfect.  Well, okay -- sure, that would be really helpful, but let's not confuse that standard with him being some renegade hothead.  Those days are long gone, and I'm disappointed in Barnes for calling him out like he did.  Frankly, the way the last two games were being called, Barnes should have gotten a technical foul for his players, rather than blaming them for everything.  And like I said above, Barnes has his own blame for our losses to work on.

I don't need to say much about his on-court play, which was brilliant throughout.  He was, if anything, too unselfish at times and we need to run just about every offensive possession through him.  He's the best guard in the Big 12.

Myck Kabongo -- The freshman point guard got his first taste of Big 6 caliber athletes and he struggled.  There's no reason to worry -- with Myck the question is absolutely 'when,' not 'if.'  It's hard to remember, but even the most talented freshmen take a half season to get going; even the great Kevin Durant didn't really get cooking until his masterpieces at Tech and Colorado.

Jonathan Holmes -- By far the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the early season, Holmes is our second-most important player (behind Brown).  Holmes is athletic, he can extend you to 20 feet, he's got great handles, good quickness, and terrific touch around the rim.  His defense and rebounding are a work-in-progress, but there's already been progress in this young season.  Both Oregon State and NC State's rallies came when Holmes got in foul trouble; we need him to be out there for 30 minutes a game.

Sheldon McClellan -- Like with Holmes, there's progress every game with McClellan, and if that progress continues he's going to be a crucial player for us by conference season. He's already close to supplanting Lewis as a starter, and his length and athleticism help him provide value this team desperately needs.  I want to see him focus on being a rebounder; everything else is coming along very nicely.

Julien Lewis -- He's a gamer and he's got a pure stroke, but he struggled at the Legends Classic -- like Kabongo he had difficulty with the length and strength of Big 6 caliber athletes.  The game's moving a little fast for him right now, but the core strengths are there.  He's a freshman.  It'll take a little while before the consistency develops.

Alexis Wangmene -- Lexi had a strong tournament for us, providing precisely the kind of value we need from him.  If he could give us 6-8 rebounds a game, he'll be an important player for us.  Wangmene's performance this weekend was very encouraging, and important if he can provide that kind of value consistently.  We'll see.

Clint Chapman -- Chapman had a poor showing in both games, fouling out against Oregon State and picking up 3 fouls in 9 minutes against NC State.  The offensive skill is real, but his feet and lateral movement are both still incredibly slow, limiting his value against athletic teams.  Which, needless to say, the Big 12 is loaded with. 

Jaylen Bond -- He's an explosive athlete, but he hasn't figured out how to put it to productive use yet.  The reports of his mid-range game appear to be greatly exaggerated, but he does have real ability to finish around the rim.  He needs to find his inner Damion James and get after it on the glass, because being undersized and without the ability to create his own shot that's the only real way he can make a consistent impact. 

Sterling Gibbs -- He's fine as a low-usage back up, but the game is moving waaaay too fast for him right now and on a deeper team he'd be redshirting.  He's fearless and confident, which I like, but he's going to keep turning it over way too much to play more than 5-10 minutes a game.

All in all, there's still plenty to like about this group of players, and look, we should have won both of these games.  This team can be good.  But we also saw why this team could easily fall short of the NCAA Tournament.  We're young, we're undersized, and for both reasons we're prone to foul trouble.  If the foul trouble trend continues, we're going to the NIT, no two ways about it.  Our pressure man-to-man defense has been pretty good to us, but it's leading to too many fouls, which then sends us into a zone, which has its own set of issues.  This was all predicted, of course. so there aren't any easy answers here.

We'll get a chance to do some of the developing we need to do against some easy opponents, and if we can sweep the small schools and beat UCLA and Temple, we'll be in good shape heading in to Big 12 play.