Texas scored the first 15 points of the game, led by 24 at the under-8 timeout, and coasted the rest of the way to an 85-53 win over Alcorn State in the opening round of the 2k Classic. The Horns will head to Madison Square Garden in New York to take on Iowa on Thursday evening in the semifinal round of the tournament.
There's not a whole lot of nutritional value in the win itself -- after all, Cal just throttled Alcorn State by 34 points. So basically, apply the transitive property and the ugly truth emerges: we're a middling Pac-12 team. Fire Rick Barnes!
I dunno... Let's wait and see. We might be a good bit better than that.
The accidental three was a lucky break, but through two games he's also intentionally attempted 5 three point shots and made 3 of them. He only attempted 19 three-pointers all of last year and connected on just 5, but I told y'all he could shoot. He's got great wrist action, and when his feet are square he's an excellent shooter.
Taylor got some rest in the second half, but finished with an outstanding game line of 12 points (5-8 FGs, 2-3 3PFG), 3 rebounds, 5 assists and just 1 turnover in 21 minutes, good for an Offensive Rating of 162.
Pretty damn good, although let's be honest: Isaiah Taylor is no Connor Lammert.
The 6'9" junior had himself a hell of a game, racking up 8 points and a team-high 7 assists. He also knocked down a couple more three pointers and has now hit 3-of-6 from beyond the arc through two games. Lammert rebounds well, plays solid defense, drops dimes like John Stockton, and has range out to 20 feet. There's a reason Myles Turner isn't going to play 30 minutes a game for us this year, and it doesn't really have anything to do with Turner himself.
The significance of shooting well. I thought this team was a better shooting squad than their percentages indicated a year ago, and in the early going there's some reason to believe that this season will indeed be better. Through two games we've knocked down 19 of 47 from long distance (40.4%), and while there's no way we're going to shoot 44% of our field goal attempts from three (47 of our 108 shots this year have been treys) and we want to be careful about extrapolating too much from two games against overmatched opponents... what we've seen is potentially relevant as an antigen for teams that try a pack-the-paint defensive strategy. That will prove to be an awfully expensive transaction if a 40+ shooting percentage is the price teams will have to pay for sagging into the key on defense.
Check his amateur status. How sure are we that Myles Turner is really a freshman? Has anyone confirmed that this guy is 18 years old and never attended college until now? I'm skeptical, because I'm sorry, but when was the last time you saw a true frosh run the length of the floor and post the blocks in transition? Kevin McHale?
Yes, Myles Turner is phenomenally, wonderfully talented, but what's endeared him to me is that he does the little things -- the stuff that a lot of college players never learn to do. Like running the length of the floor to post in transition. Or using a quick pump to gauge a defender's engagement. Rolling to the basket from a pick and giving the player with the ball a target with an outstretched hand. Myles Turner is a young phenom eager to develop his old man game. The kid announced his college choice in a bow tie and bucket hat, for crying out loud.
(All that said, I'm not gonna lie: I love Turner's two-handed, pelvis-in-your-face monster dunks, which are very much of this day and age.)
Players like Turner typically don't even start studying the little things until they become professionals, in large part because they have such immense talent. Turner already carries himself like a professional is expected to. It makes him easy to like, and it's going to make him a lot of money. It's going to be a fun year having him in Austin.
Revisitng the Minutes Matrix. I took a crack at projecting the minutes of our 11-man rotation before the season tipped off, and while the first two games have more or less been glorified scrimmages, our data set now includes 80 minutes of live action. Let's take a crack at a fresh projection and see what's changed from the original Minutes Matrix.
We're going to blow a lot of overmatched opponents out of the water, and it appears we'll look to use a portion of those minutes to try to steal some rest for our key players (Taylor, Holmes, Ridley) and keep everyone in an 11-man rotation happy and engaged. Come January, with the fierce competition of Big 12 opponents and a solid two months of data on our own players and how they play together, that rotation will tighten considerably, with more minutes going to the core line ups.
My adjustments from the pre-season projection include:
* A slight downtick in minutes for Taylor, Holmes and Ridley for the aforementioned reason: I think we'll try to rest them when we can.
* Croaker looks like the odd man out unless he shoots his way into more. I can see he's trying on defense, but he's still struggling to stop guys from blowing by. He'll continue to sit more often than not unless and until that changes.
* I bumped up both Turner and Barnett, with both looking even more developed / polished than I expected, and I was high on both of them already. Barnett's physical gains over the last six months are impressive (and might be affecting his shot a bit right now, but he'll adjust).
* Kendal Yancy very quietly had an excellent game tonight, and I'm sold on his ability to keep developing that jumper. It's still a year away from a consistency standpoint, but the foundation is there. He gives us a lot of Holland-like value, and is further along in the development of his outside shot than Holland was. If Yancy works as hard to improve as Holland, he'll be a great four-year player for us, too.
Other than that, I think my original projections were about right. What about you? What's caught your eye from the first two games in? Any big surprises or disappointments?
Next: 6:00 pm Thursday vs Iowa (2k Classic Semifinal in New York City)