I am always at a loss as to how to handle writing up things like tonight's Texas Tip-Off. Game narrative never makes much sense, as no one really cares all that much about who wins and who loses. In this case, the freshman heavy Orange team won, thanks to Mo Bamba and Jericho Sims completely controlling the interior and the glass; It was the difference in the game. When the Orange team sealed the affair off a Bamba drive and miss that Sims tapped back in it was a fitting end.
Rather than a blow by blow account of the critical possessions, I figured it would perhaps be better (or at least easier — I have been drinking some bourbon for reasons I will detail below) to instead assemble some notes about what I saw and thought as I watched the two hour telecast.
- Jase Febres cut his hair, which is super disappointing. I miss the tall, springy hairstyle he was sporting in Australia this summer.
- Unlike previous seasons, this year the Texas Tip-Off included several pregame events. The first was a dance contest that pitted several students against Andrew Jones and Jacob Young. High on the list of things that I do not give a shit about are dance contests involving Andrew Jones and Jacob Young. This prompted me to pour my first real drink of the Texas basketball season before things had even started in the team's first public exhibition of the fall. It was Very Old Barton; I am a connoisseur of bottom-shelf bourbon.
- After the dance contest, which was as boring and terrible as it sounds, a three point contest and dunk contest were next. The dunk contest, which matched up Kerwin Roach and Jericho Sims, was at least mildly entertaining. And to its credit, the three point contest was over quickly.
- With so much damn nonsense, the Texas basketball team mercifully chose to play a 24 minute scrimmage, which kept the whole event to a reasonable length and prevented me from consuming more Very Old Barton than what is advisable on a weeknight when I am trying to get a blog post done.
- Let's talk about Mo Bamba. The Texas freshman's length has an obvious impact on the game. He blocked a number of shots in the short scrimmage, starting off with a block of James Banks (a player who isn't exactly small himself). Bamba is already a very good player who showed as much on the offensive end — facing up to the basket and driving the ball, shooting from the perimeter, running the floor, and going to the glass. But Bamba is still just scratching the surface of the player that he will some day become. At some point — and it may not happen for a few years — the light is going to really come on for him. When it happens... well, I don't want to yet say out loud what I think might happen. Maybe it is just the Very Old Barton talking.
- This iteration of the Texas Longhorns basketball team is big, fast, and crazy athletic. If this team can take care of the ball and hit a few shots it will be really good. But that is a big if. Tonight the shooting was on point, while the play was at times ragged. Overall, this team looks likely to play with a much faster tempo than we have seen at Texas in a while. We saw inklings of this over the summer; it is the style of play that the team tried to play before being methodically cut up by older Australians.
- Dylan Osetkowski is nursing a wrist injury, so we didn't see the full range of skills and contributions that he is expected to bring to this team. Osetkowski and Bamba look like the team's two best players right now, with Kerwin Roach and Andrew Jones following close behind. Osetkowski did make some nice plays and went end to end off of a defensive rebound, just like we wrote about in Smart Texas Basketball 2017.
- Oh, Winstar Resort commercials, how much I have missed you. Everyone's dream vacation is to go to some nondescript hell hole at the Texas-Oklahoma border. And somehow, you make it look fun, even if we know that the portrayal in your commercials has nothing in common with what is almost assuredly a grim reality.
- Late in the game, backup center James Banks got really active, moving and reacting to his guards' dribble penetration to find a few dunks and some points at the free throw line. He even knocked down a ten foot shot from the baseline. It was critical in bringing the white team back into the game. It was almost as if Banks could see Jericho Sims activity on the glass eating away at his future minutes. I remain convinced that Banks is going to be a really important defensive anchor at some point in his basketball career, and finding ways to additionally contribute on offense will help him earn minutes.
- Kerwin Roach looked really good. He shot the ball well, made some plays on offense, and was quick and active. I think he can have a very nice season this year, particularly now that he doesn't have to be the team's primary ball handler.
- Texas freshman point guard Matt Coleman, who will be Texas' primary ball handler, didn't have his best night. I am not too worried; he looked a lot better in Australia.