Looking for something to do before the Texas Bowl kicks off later tonight? The Texas basketball team takes to the hardwood mid-day to face the 3-7 Rice Owls.
Rice is probably worse than their 3-7 record would indicate, as only one of those three wins came against a Division I opponent, and that win was against a team from the SWAC. The Owls did play close games against William and Mary and Washington State, and took Mercer to overtime before losing.
But hey, this is what happens when a 7-23 team fires its coach, watches its best player transfer to Duke, and the remaining roster is on the young side. Under first year head coach Mike Rhoades, it would be hard to argue that the Owls are actually worse this season than they were last year, and with such a young team adopting to a totally different approach to basketball, this should count as progress.
Let's talk about this new approach to basketball for Rice. After a successful ten year run as the head coach at Randolph-Macon (D-III), Mike Rhoades spent five years on Shaka Smart's staff at VCU. Rhoades has implemented the full court man-to-man pressure approach that he learned from his former boss. The Owls match up full court, and will look to double team dribblers opportunistically along the sidelines. Rice has forced some turnovers this season, although the turnover rate has been a little lower than what is really needed to make this sort of defense go. The Rice defense has also done a better than average job of keeping the ball out of the paint, but has been hurt from beyond the three point line. When Texas breaks the Rice pressure, scores should come fairly easily.
For a turnover-prone Texas team, the Rice full court pressure will provide a useful challenge for Demarcus Holland, Javan Felix, and Kendal Yancy.
On offense, Rice is led by lead guard 6-3 sophomore Marcus Jackson, who is a solid outside shooter and playmaker. Jackson will share ball handling duties with 5-9 junior Max Guercy. 6-7 senior Seth Gearhart is an inside/outside threat and is probably the source of Rice's most efficient offense. Rounding out the likely starting five is spot up shooter Bishop Mency, Rice's most effective three point threat so far this season, and 6-10 sophomore Andrew Drone.
Rice's offense features a heavy amount of ball screening. Jackson and Guercy will frequently attack off of screens, looking to draw in the defense so they can kick the ball out to an open shooter. Rice takes close to half of their field goal attempts from three point range, so closing out well on shooters will be important for the Texas defense.
This is your game thread.