Tonight, the Longhorns play their third game in a row against a solid mid-major opponent. After playing close games aganst Mercer and South Alabama, Texas will not get much of a breather against Stephen F. Austin. While the Lumberjacks lost several key players from their team a season ago, they still will run out a starting five containing capable scorers like Desmond Haymon.
Over the first two games of the season, the Longhorns have spent a portion of each game in zone defense, and have struggled to prevent shooters from getting clean looks from three. Coach Brad Underwood's Lumberjacks will play lineups with four or five players who can all step out and shoot the three. If Rick Barnes wants to give his young team some reps covering shooters in the zone, Stephen F. Austin will give him that opportunity.
Of course, Barnes might not want to give his team as many chances to defend the three point arc in zone in this game as he did in the first two.
For the Longhorns, this represents their first chance to face a team that they can really overpower inside. Both Mercer and South Alabama brought talented centers to Austin, but SFA lineups often feature only one or two players who are 6-5 or taller.
So if I am making predictions, one of my predictions is that one of the Texas big men will have a big game. While a season ago SFA was one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, a new coach and the loss of star center Taylor Smith to graduation leave the Lumberjacks vulnerable on the boards. Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh won't face anyone remotely close in size in this game.
Another potential theme that could emerge in this game is turnovers. Lumberjack sophomore point guard Trey Pinkney has a history of being shaky with the ball. This could be a game where Isaiah Taylor and Demarcus Holland really get a chance to get after an opposing ball handler defensively.
Kenpom.com picks Texas to win this game 65-59. If the Longhorns guard shooters all game long, instead of just half the game, this one might not stay that close.