Depending on when you actually get to reading this post we will either be 25 hours out from tipoff against the Longhorns. It could be less for some of you. Time is short and there can be not better time than now to get the point of view of this Texas team from a Texas fan. That means Peter Bean from the venerable Burnt Orange Nation.
J`Covan Brown really exploded this season. Was scoring 20 points a night the role that most Texas fans envisioned for Brown before this season?
I don't know if folks were expecting him to lead the Big 12 in scoring, but anyone who read my season preview shouldn't have been surprised by Brown's breakout season. I've been pointing out since the middle of last season that he's one of the best pure basketball players that's ever played at Texas, and I can't say that I'm shocked that he's put together the kind of season that he has. In terms of pure hoops instincts, there are few more natural basketball players around. He's a joy to watch... and a pain in the ass to defend.
(more after the jump)
The loss of Wangmene was a big blow to Texas' already thin frontcourt, leaving the Longhorns with just three forwards -- which is also to say, 15 fouls. Texas will try to deal with Gates using the length of Clint Chapman (6-10) and the body strength of Jaylen Bond, but really, the player who we needed for Gates was Wangmene, who did a great job bodying up Kansas' Thomas Robinson. Without him, Texas may play some zone, or it may do some doubling with help coming from the backside guards. Or Barnes may just live with whatever Gates can give Cincy and focus the defensive energy on limiting everyone else.
I really like what I have seen from Myck Kabongo this year. Is he the best of this group freshman?
Kabongo is the best of a very good group, although 6'4 wing Sheldon McClellan isn't far behind. Both players are exceptionally talented, but like most freshmen have had an up-and-down season as they've adjusted to the college game. Of encouraging note for Cincy fans, the two have struggled most this season against long guards who play smothering perimeter defense, which the Bearcats certainly feature.
Speaking of the freshman 4 members of the 2011 class were consensus top 100 guys. Will they be back in 2012 making this season effectively a bridge or will Barnes have to start over from scratch again next year?
I'm not sure any current head coach in college basketball has been hit as hard by losing players early to the NBA as has Rick Barnes. Texas isn't the only program sending so many studs on to the Association, but Barnes' has been snakebit with the timing, repeatedly missing out on opportunities to have squads favored to reach the Final Four when a key player or two leaves early.At this point, I'm too terrified to venture a guess about what will happen this time around. But we'll be in great shape if for once we get everyone back.
This is something of a historical golden age for Longhorns Basketball. Thats what the stats and the records of Barnes tenure say. But more importantly does it feel golden?
That depends who you ask, I suppose. There are plenty of casual fans who see Texas as having "only" reached one Final Four -- never mind the five Sweet 16s and three Elite Eights -- as some sort of indication that Barnes can't win big, like Kansas big, and therefore we should look for someone else. But most diehard Texas hoops fans (we're dwarfed by the number of diehard football fans) do feel like we're in the Golden Age and are hopeful about return trips to the Final Four under Barnes. That's pretty much all you can ask for.
Despite this being the longest sustained stretch of success for Texas I have heard snippets from the outliers among Horns fans that the program has plateaued and that Barnes should be let go. How far out on the fringe are those spouting that line of thought?
See above. Texas fans who pay attention to college basketball closely know that we have one of the Top 10 coaches in the game. Those who don't think we should be doing more. Whether or not Barnes wins that national title many of us think he can, there's no question Texas would be insane not to find out.
Lastly a prediction for Friday's game?
This Texas team is hard to figure out -- not just game to game, but half to half. I'll say this, if I were drafting players from Cincinnati and Texas to put on my squad for the NCAA Tournament, I'd select J'Covan Brown with the first pick. We'll see how far that goes on Friday, or if Cincinnati's experienced and athletic guards get the better of Texas' freshmen. So no prediction from me, but I do expect the game to be very competitive. Hopefully Friday's game is a memorable one. Hook 'em.
Thanks again to Peter Bean check out the crews fine work over at Burnt Orange Nation. There is another post coming tonight on the aforementioned J`Covan Brown see stay tuned for that. In the meantime I'm out. Go Bearcats!
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