Texas Longhorns: college basketball

Saddle Up: Texas in the spotlight

December, 4, 2012
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Texas vs. No. 15 Georgetown, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: It is easy to take shots at Rick Barnes. It is easy to look back at the NBA talent that has passed through Austin, and to contrast that with the lone Final Four on Barnes' résumé, and accuse Barnes of not actually being able to coach, and to accuse Texas fans of being too obsessed with football to even notice (which seems especially questionable). If you can relay these sentiments in a comedic manner, well, that's just the icing on the cake.

Barnes has himself to blame for some of this. Some of his best teams should have gone deeper in the tournament than they did, and the buck has to stop somewhere. But it is hard to look at Barnes' overall record -- 14 straight NCAA tournament berths, three conference titles (in a league, standard disclaimer, that also includes Kansas), a 333-130 record entering this season -- and not start to wonder whether the backlash doesn't deserve a backlash of its own.

Or maybe it's just easy to feel bad for Barnes this season.

If you saw Texas in Maui in November, you saw the youngest team in the country play some of the more tentative, ugly offensive basketball you could ever see. As a result, the Longhorns lost -- not only to the ever-ugly USC Trojans but to Division II Chaminade. So it was easy to rip Barnes once more.

But when you consider the fact that Barnes spent pretty much all offseason expecting to have star point guard Myck Kabongo available, and then lost his team's undisputed leader and best player to an NBA-workout/agent-relationship-related NCAA inquest a few days before the start of practice. Under similar circumstances -- loaded with youngsters, missing its best player and leader -- what team wouldn't struggle?

In any case, there are some green shoots in Texas. For one, Kabongo shouldn't miss the whole season (this seems about right, but we'll see). More than that, though, is that Barnes' team has already played some of the best defense in the country -- one of his recent teams' most consistent trademarks -- by holding opponents to the worst 2-point field goal percentage in the country so far this season, and by blocking 19.8 percent of their opponents' shot attempts. (Highly touted freshman center Cameron Ridley is clueless on offense, but boy can he protect the rim.) Granted, Texas' opponents have not exactly been Indiana. But for all its offensive struggles (see: turnovers), this Longhorns team appears very capable defensively.

Do I think Barnes & Co. will beat Georgetown on a neutral floor Tuesday night? I do not. Otto Porter is too good; the Hoyas are too polished. Do I think Texas is better than that whuppin' the Silverswords gave them in Maui? I do. Will Kabongo's eventual return make them a top-half Big 12 team? I think so.

Sure, this could be the year Barnes finally misses an NCAA tournament. But I wouldn't bet on it just yet.

No. 25 NC State at Connecticut, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Even at their incoherent worst, NC State has too many individual weapons -- C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, hyper-efficient freshman T.J. Warren, less-efficient-but-still-good freshman Rodney Purvis, distance specialist Scott Wood -- to not be a good offensive team. And thus far, the Wolfpack have scored the ball at a pretty efficient clip. What they have not done, as Seth Greenberg detailed in a great film analysis today, is guarded anybody. Thus far -- and this includes games not only against Michigan and Oklahoma State but against UMass, NC Asheville, Penn State and Miami of Ohio -- the Wolfpack have actually regressed from last year's defensive effort, in all the predictable ways.

For example: Last season, per KenPom, Mark Gottfried's team created turnovers on 18.6 percent of opponents' possessions; this season, NC State is performing even worse (17.2 percent, ranked No. 306 in the country) than that.

It's easy to look back now and ask everyone what they were thinking picking NC State to win the ACC (and I, having picked Duke and routinely doubted the Wolfpack, always feel doubly tempted), but as much as I disagreed with the logic I could at least understand it: NC State was crazy talented. And they are. And so they score points, even when they don't play fluid, together basketball. But it isn't enough to merely score. If the Wolfpack want to be great -- if they want to challenge for their conference title and go deep in the NCAA tournament -- they have to guard. They haven't thus far, and that's really all you need to know.

We'll see whether that changes in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Connecticut will come right at them -- Shabazz Napier & Co. are hungry, almost as hungry as their quasi-interim coach, and they've knocked off good teams on big stages (Michigan State in Germany) already this season. Gottfried has spent much of his time preaching the importance of togetherness to his team, of toughing out wins as a group, and rarely in basketball is that quality more transparent than on the defensive end. However small it may be, can the Wolfpack take a step?

Everywhere else: No. 5 Louisville has a tricky challenge on its hands at Charleston. … Northwestern goes to Baylor, where it will face as athletic a team as it will play all season, and that's not usually how the Wildcats like to roll. … No. 8 Arizona should handle Southern Miss in Tucson, but it's worth watching, if only because the Golden Eagles are the best opponent a really good-looking Arizona team has faced thus far. … No. 21 UNLV has an intriguing road game at Portland. … Oklahoma travels to Arkansas, which showed some flashes against Syracuse this weekend. … Georgia and Georgia Tech square off in a rivalry game. … Same for Harvard and Boston College. … And I'm guessing Lamar coach Pat Knight will hear a word or two from the Purdue faithful in West Lafayette tonight. Just a hunch.
J'Covan Brown's big day has finally arrived, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be happy with the results.
The former Texas guard went pro a year early at a time when, as the Big 12’s top scorer, his stock couldn’t have been higher. But 20.1 points per game only gets you so far on draft boards.

Going into tonight’s NBA Draft (6 p.m., ESPN), Brown’s hopes of hearing his name called don’t look great. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound guard entered the pre-draft process as a potential second-rounder, but poor conditioning at the draft combine in Chicago -- he had the combine’s highest body fat percentage at 12.5 percent -- certainly didn’t help.

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Hoops freshmen raise the bar

May, 8, 2012
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ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf takes a look Kentucky's run to the title. Freshmen led the way and as Medcalf writes, it changed things for programs and recruits alike.

Kentucky's freshman-led push to the national championship increased the pressure that recruits next season and beyond will encounter as soon as they sign. For next season's top freshmen, reaching Atlanta, site of the Final Four in 2013, won't impress. National championships are the expectations now.

Before Kentucky won the program's eighth national title, freshmen had proved that they were elite and capable of winning it all.

The Fab Five should have done it twice. Carmelo Anthony starred in Syracuse's national title game victory over a veteran Kansas squad in 2003.

But the NBA's age limit changed the bar. Coaches grabbed talented prep kids who had no plans to stay beyond one season. Here, and then, gone. No time to jell. No time to fix the kinks. Only in-season development plans, because they knew these stars weren't coming back.

Some of those young teams came close. Others missed the mark.

(Read full post)

Dick Vitale's top 40

April, 23, 2012
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Dick Vitale has taken a look at the recent NBA draft announcements and how they will affect teams next year. With that, Dickie V has ranked his top 40.

No surprise that his top four are Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Kansas. Those four have been the consensus teams for next season.

Texas also made the list. The Longhorns check in at No. 20.

Read the full rankings here.

Way-too-early Bracketology

April, 16, 2012
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Sure it's only been two weeks since Kentucky was crowned national champs, but that doesn't mean we can't make some early bracketology projections.

Joe Lunardi has done just that and Texas is in the field for, what would be, a 15th consecutive season. Lunardi has the Longhorns as a No. 6 seed facing a No. 11 Purdue team.

By the way, Lunardi's No. 1 seeds are Indiana, Kansas, Louisville and Kentucky.

Check out the full bracket.

LHN breaks down the 2012 hoops class

April, 14, 2012
4/14/12
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video

William Wilkerson joined Longhorn Extra and Lowell Galindo on the Longhorn Network to talk about the Cameron Ridley signing and Texas' 2012 recruiting class.
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When the Longhorns come out of the tunnel at the Frank Erwin Center next season the back end of the warm-up line will look entirely different than it did last season.

You might have to strain your neck a bit to notice.

Thanks to Texas’ incoming recruiting class, which is ranked No. 4 by ESPN, the Longhorns will have three players above 6-foot-10 on their roster.

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William Wilkerson on The Adams Theory

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
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William Wilkerson joined The Adams Theory with Sean Adams and Chance Mock to discuss Cameron Ridley's signing and what he brings to the Longhorns.

Listen to the full interview here.

Board Meeting: April 11, 2012 

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
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Welcome to your daily Board Meeting. Each evening we’ll update you on the day’s hottest topics on the HornsNation forum.

1. Nkemdiche coming to Texas?: It seemed as if the recruiting season was slowing down after the spring game as Texas focused on which defensive backs and remaining targets to pursue, but Robert Nkemdiche might have changed the equation.

The defensive end, who projects to be one of the top players in the 2013 class, spoke with Max Olson and expressed his interest in taking a visit to Texas.

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Cameron Ridley has finally signed with Texas thus ending the speculation and the angst that has lasted for five months and, oh say, about 13 years around Austin.


Of course, Ridley is only responsible for those five months. That’s how long it has been between the early signing period -- the one in which the 6-foot-10 center from Ft. Bend Bush High just outside Houston declined to sign -- to this. Those other 13 years? Well, that’s how long it has been since Texas had a real-life, back-to-the-basket, drop-stepping, space-eating center in the program.
[+] EnlargeCmaeron Ridley
Davide De PasCameron Ridley will give Texas a big body in the post that should also help the perimeter game.
There were some guys who tried to, shall we say, fill the void. Dexter Pittman maybe best fits that description. But he never averaged more than 5.9 rebounds or 10.4 points and as a senior and only played 19 minutes per game. Connor Atchley, Chris Owens, Jason Klotz were all supposed to be guys who could, on a good day, possibly step in a time or two and be big in the lane.

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Sterling Gibbs leaving Texas

April, 10, 2012
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AUSTIN, Texas -- This time it wasn’t the NBA draft that lured away a Texas player.

It was the lure of playing time.

Sterling Gibbs, a backup point guard has elected to transfer from Texas. The rising sophomore played sparingly as a freshman on a team that had just nine scholarship players.

Gibbs appeared in 30 games, but started none. He averaged 7.5 minutes and 2.6 points per game.

Gibbs is the second player to elect to leave Texas this offseason. Guard J'Covan Brown gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the draft. Texas was able to hang onto point guard Myck Kabongo and that undoubtedly played a large role in Gibbs’ decision to transfer.

Texas signed Javan Felix, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound point guard from Saint Augustine High in New Orleans, in the fall. Felix was already expected to be Kabongo’s backup or even run the floor with Kabongo on occasion. Felix is rated 72 in ESPN’s top 100 players.

With the departure of Gibbs, Texas has five players currently on scholarship and another five who signed letters of intent in the fall. The Longhorns also recently picked up a commitment from shooting guard DeMarcus Holland (Garland, Texas/Naaman Forest). Post player Cameron Ridley, a top 10-rated recruit, is also expected to sign his letter of intent when the spring signing period begins Wednesday.

That leaves Texas with 12 scholarship players. The Longhorns continues to hope to add one more to get to the maximum 13 -- small forward Devonta Pollard. The 6-foot-7 Pollard has Texas among his final four, but just recently completed a trip to Alabama and is headed to Georgetown this weekend. Pollard to ESPN’s TideNation he will make his decision when he returns from Georgetown.
Class of 2012 shooting guard DeMarcus Holland gave his verbal pledge to the Longhorns during an official visit on Saturday, he’s told HornsNation.

"I'm very excited to be able to be a part of the great future they have down there," Holland said.

Holland, who stands 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, is Texas’ second commitment from Garland (Texas) Naaman Forest. Prince Ibeh, a 6-foot-10 center rated No. 59 in the ESPNU 100, has already signed with the Longhorns.

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Board Meeting: April 4, 2012 

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
7:30
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Welcome to your daily Board Meeting. Each evening we’ll update you on the day’s hottest topics on the HornsNation forum.

1. Quick but important Torrodney Prevot note: William Wilkerson reported on a tweet from Prevot stating that he has decided to wait until possibly October to announce his commitment.

Is that a good thing for Texas? Tough to say. It’s going to be a fight to the finish for Prevot between Texas, A&M and LSU, but the Longhorns can afford to dig in here and commit to getting his commitment. As Wilkerson points out, Texas class is loaded as is and the staff is prioritizing its targets. They’ve started reaching out to DBs and an offer could go to Vincent Taylor, but if Prevot stays interested in becoming a Longhorn, Texas will stay after him.

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