Posted on: February 17, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 4:55 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
Barring an unlikely collapse in Saturday's game at Nebraska, the Texas Longhorns could take over the No. 1 spot in the AP poll on Monday. On the hardwood, they play a very tough, smart brand of basketball.
The toughness is instilled by the teachings of Rick Barnes. The intelligence comes from the players themselves.
Texas leads the Academic All-Big 12 Men's basketball team with four selections, and an amazing three on the first team, which honors players who maintain a grade point average of 3.2 or above. We're not talking token practice players here, or starters with dodgy majors. The three first-team selections are Dogus Balbay, J'Covan Brown (both above) and Gary Johnson, with Jordan Hamilton on the second team (GPA between 3.00 and 3.19). Balbay, a native of Turkey, is preparing to graduate with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. The other three UT honorees are all Education majors.
Colorado had two first-team selections. No other school had more than one. Missouri and Baylor didn't make the list at all.
Congrats to the Longhorns for chucking the 'dumb jock' stereotype in the trash. There's no place for it down in Austin this season.
Read the full list of Academic All-Big 12 team honorees
Posted on: January 31, 2011 11:18 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 11:29 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
This is what Texas was supposed to be last year. Sometimes chemistry takes a season off.
However they got here, the Longhorns are a Final Four team this year. The 69-49 destruction of No. 16 Texas A&M in College Station just nine days after a similarly fruitful trip to Lawrence removed all doubt.
There are stars here, but they play as a team, and that's where the chemistry comes in. It was on display throughout the blowout in A&M's Reed Arena.
Team Defense: Aggie shooters found it nigh impossible to break free, no matter how many screens they ran their orange-clad tormenters through. Especially difficult to shake was point guard Dogus Balbay, who was hampered by a knee injury last year. On the rare occasions when Balbay was scraped off of his man for a split second, a teammate would pick up the opposing ballhandler until the senior from Turkey could recover. The team D was absolutely astounding.
Passing: They fed the post. They reversed the ball with alacrity. They ran flawless transition. They broke the A&M press. It was like watching a team-wide Vulcan mind meld in action.
Depth: Matt Hill and Alexis Wangmene are seldom seen for Texas, but they are absolutely crucial to a long run in the postseason. The upperclassmen provide Rick Barnes with big bodies who can spell the starters, which could come in very handy if Tristan Thompson or Gary Johnson gets in foul trouble. Each player made his mark in the beatdown of A&M, with Wangmene adding 5 points and 2 blocks and senior Hill leading the Longhorn rebounding effort. Brown and Florida transfer Jai Lucas provide similar insurance in the backcourt
Bench Leadership: J'Covan Brown was a big part of UT's problems last season, and he hasn't completely shaken his tendency to make boneheaded plays. In the first half, with his team up twenty, Brown flipped a no-look pass behind his back that was intercepted and turned into a transition bucket for A&M. Barnes yanked him off the floor, and Brown started to pout. Senior Gary Johnson clamped an arm around Brown's shoulders and pulled him into the next huddle for a teaching moment. It was an instinctive moment that worked: Brown got his head back in the game and ended up with 8 points.
Killer Instinct: The Longhorns never let up. It's pretty common to see the gap close on a blowout in the final five minutes as the leading team relaxes a bit and the trailing team starts drilling three pointers. Duke's sudden three-point explosion at St. John's on Sunday is an example of the phenomenon. No such thing happened in Reed Arena. The men in burnt orange continued to close out on shooters in the final minute. In short, Texas choked the life out of A&M calmly and methodically on Monday night.
With Jordan Hamilton playing the starring role, and the rest of the team forming an impenetrable phalanx behind him, it's difficult to imagine a Final Four without Texas.
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: January 31, 2011 2:39 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
We've heard a lot about the Pac-10 having a down year, and the ACC not really being up to scratch, but the Big 12 has been a disappointment as well. Baylor, Missouri and Kansas State have been ranked, but hardly dominant. Colorado showed a flash of life that quickly evaporated. With Texas and Kansas atop the league as usual, Mark Turgeon's Texas A&M squad looked like the best bet to make it a three-team race. Losing to Texas on the road was nothing to be ashamed of, but Saturday's stumble at moribund Nebraska was a puzzler.
The Aggies have dropped to No. 16 in today's polls, and the weak showing by the conference at large gives them precious few remaining opportunities to recover their mojo. Tonight is a huge one, as the Longhorns travel to College Station for the rematch of the January 19 game in Austin, which Texas won 81-60. There's no such thing as an easy road trip in the Big 12, and that goes double for this rivalry game in the underrated environs of Reed Arena.
Khris Middleton (right) was the most effective Aggie in the earlier loss, putting up 16 points. Jordan Hamilton led the UT scoring, laying 27 points on a team that was ranked in the top ten at the time. Freshman big man Tristan Thompson also scored in double figures, so A&M's task tonight is clear: stop the Longhorn forwards.
Easier said than done. Just ask Kansas, who ripped off a big early lead against the Longhorns in Allen Field House before Hamilton and Thompson began to find the range. J'Covan Brown had the biggest performance that night, playing 29 minutes and scoring 23. It's a performance he has been unable to repeat since, having scored a combined ten points in 30 minutes of play spread over Texas' last two games.
So, it's the interior defense, then. A&M doesn't block a lot of shots, but that's just the eye-candy part of defense. An opportunity lurks in the ability of Middleton and David Lobeau to draw fouls, which both players do well. If Texas is forced to become tentative inside, A&M plays the lock-down perimeter defense to tilt the game in their favor. Surprisingly enough, A&M has the Big 12's most efficient offense; they should provide a stiff test for the league's -- nay, the nation's -- best defense.
If A&M notches the win, their at-large profile gets a huge boost toward a top-four seed. Then the mission becomes to separate from the league's fading squads and saddle up for one last big shot at Kansas on March 2.
The campaign for greatness begins tonight, deep in the heart of Texas.
Texas will play at Texas A&M at 9:00 p.m. tonight on ESPN
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: January 22, 2011 6:25 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2011 8:47 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
Last week, we marveled at how physically tough Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell is, when he returned to the court just over two weeks after being shot in a robbery attempt. This week, we were stunned by the news that KU's Thomas Robinson lost his mother just hours before a home game against No. 10 Texas.
He played. He stayed in town and played. That's incredible mental toughness, especially when you add in the fact that two of Robinson's grandparents also passed away recently.
Robinson and his teammates may have been a little emotionally raw. Robinson committed four early fouls and had to sit out the entire second half. The Jayhawks struggled without his energetic presence in the second half, playing flat and blowing a 35-23 halftime lead as J'Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton outhustled and outshot the Jayhawks to claim the Texas program's first-ever victory in Allen Field House, winning 74-63. KU's national-best 69 game home win streak came to an end, adding yet another dimension to the growing rivalry. Duke University currently holds the longest streak as a result, standing at 30 straight in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
In addition, the Kansas loss left Ohio State and San Diego State -- both 20-0 -- as the only unbeaten teams in men's DI basketball.
It was a chippy, ugly game. Rough play got out of hand, and technical fouls were assessed on Brown, Brady Morningstar, Josh Selby and Jordan Hamilton.
One intriguing development was Bill Self's decision to leave Selby in at point guard even after he had been involved in an altercation and some silly fouls. The freshman's shooting and passing were way off, and he was clearly rattled. It's entirely possible that Self placed more value on teaching his likely one-and-done lead guard a lesson that he hopes will pay dividends down the road in March than he did on a January win.
Regardless, Texas showed the type of physical toughness that could propel the team deep into the NCAA tournament this season. Hamilton led the Longhorns with 17 points and nine rebounds, and Texas' own freshman point, Cory Joseph, also had nine boards to go with his 11 points. No Jayhawk had more than six boards. UT's team defense kept KU's shooters off-balance and closed down the inside game in a historic win for the visitors.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 11:13 am
Edited on: January 21, 2011 1:02 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
Prior to the formation of the Big 12, the Texas/Kansas rivalry was nonexistent. Thanks, primarily, to Rick Barnes building the Longhorns into a perennial powerhouse, the annual game has become a matchup that both teams and most fans circle on the calendar when schedules are announced each season. The intensity of the rivalry is honed a bit by the fact that Kansas plays in the league's North Division and Texas plays in the South, so there's no reciprocal game; the host school pours a season's worth of passion into beating an arch-rival, knowing that only a Big 12 tourney game could ever provide a second chance for the loser.
With that in mind, I've picked out ten amazing performances that have made this rivalry special over the past decade.
10. Collins Goes Out Strong (2010): In his final career game vs. Texas, Sherron Collins had to come up big down the stretch, as the #14 Longhorns staged a home rally against the #1 Jayhawks. KU's winningest all-time player scored 15 points to go with five assists and four steals to seal the deal.
9. UT Sweeps (2004): Bill Self was the new guy on the block at Kansas, and he got an early taste of defeat at the hands of the Longhorns. Byron Mouton scored 23 at home to lead a convincing 82-67 win, then poured in 18 more in the Big 12 tournament semis to pace #11 Texas over the nation's #14 team.
8. Simien Dominates (2005): The rare KU superstar who actually hailed from the state of Kansas, Simien led the scoring in a game that turned out to be Rick Barnes' worst loss since he came to Texas in 1998. The final result was a 90-65 blowout as Simien showed his determination to protect his (Allen Field) house.
7. Damion James Comes Alive (2008): After sitting out much of the first half due to foul trouble, Texas star Damian James came out with ferocious intent in the second half of a 72-69 home win. James finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. All but two of the points came in the second stanza, and all of the boards were second-half production.
6. Morningstar's Double-Clutch (2010): Not much needs saying. This one's purely visual.
5. Aldridge Goes Off (2006): No, not Cole Aldrich. LaMarcus Aldridge. This is the kind of performance, like Byron Mouton's in '04, that really fuels a rivalry like this one. Whether the nation at large takes note or not, the respective fan bases remember when these types of games happen. This 80-65 drubbing of the Jayhawks happened at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, and big man Aldridge was unconscious, scoring 18 points on 9 of 10 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds, and blocking four shots in one of his best college games.
4. Mario Pops for 30 (2008): In hindsight, it was a preview of what Mario Chalmers would do for the Jayhawks as they captured the national championship. At the time, however, it was just one more of the several battles for the championship of each other that UT and KU have joined. Chalmers went a wicked 8 of 12 from behind the arc in the Big 12 tourney's final game. It was his career high at KU, and helped the Jayhawks earn a #1 seed in their tournament run of destiny. Texas' D.J. Augustin had 20 points and 9 assists in a losing effort.
3. T.J. Ford Fills the Stat Sheet (2003): 25 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists. That's how close T.J. Ford came to notching a triple-double in Allen Fieldhouse in January of 2003. It was a typically amazing performance for the point guard who led the Longhorns to the Final Four that year. Had he been able to get the Horns past Syracuse, there's little doubt that the ensuing battle with Kansas for a national title would have been epic.
2. Collison Cowboys Up (2003): Yep, same game. That's how tough the 2003 matchup was for both teams. It was a real battle royale, as KU's Nick Collison basically had to become a one-man wrecking machine inside to gut out the home win. His 24 points and 23 rebounds inspired a standing ovation from none other than Dickie V, who called it "one of the most special efforts I've ever seen."
1. Kevin Durant (2007): There was only one season in Austin, and just two games against Kansas, but KD was an absolute joy to watch, for friend and foe alike, in that season. #15 Texas went to Allen Fieldhouse on March 3, and KU barely rallied to overcome Durant's 32 points, six three-pointers, nine rebounds and two blocks to pull out the win. Just eight days later, in the Big 12 championship game, the Hawks needed OT to pull out the victory, as Durant fired up 37 points, grabbed 10 boards and again blocked two shots. Just a smidge of help from anyone not named A.J. Abrams, and 2007 could have been an even more legendary year for the Longhorns.
#11 Texas will journey to Allen Fieldhouse to take on #2 Kansas on Saturday. The game will be televised at 4:00 p.m. on CBS | Video Preview
Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: January 10, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2011 3:13 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
The helter-skelter realignment of conferences over the summer was driven by football. Or, more accurately, driven by the television revenue college football produces. Every school that changed allegiances was looking for a better financial deal.
Three programs, however, made headlines by remaining aloof from the process, more or less. Notre Dame opted to keep its football team unaffiliated and its other sports in the Big East. Brigham Young went independent in football and will move its hoops team to the West Coast Conference.
Texas, on the other hand, allegedly spurned offers from every other major conference to stay with the diminished Big 12. The soon-to-be-Pac 12 wanted to retain television rights from all members in order to form a league-wide network. That didn't sit well with the Longhorns, because they feel they're big enough not to have to share equally.
Turns out, the school had the right idea. The theoretical "Longhorn Network", dedicated to televising only UT sports, is nearing reality, according to a January 9 article in the Austin newspaper.
ESPN and the University of Texas are "very close" to concluding negotiations to pair the two entities and form an exclusive television channel dedicated entirely to Longhorn sports , an ESPN executive said Sunday.Texas is one of the few schools in the nation -- Stanford, LSU and North Carolina are others -- that experiences significant fan support for so-called non-revenue sports. The Longhorn baseball team competes annually for top honors at the College World Series, for instance. That, in addition to a wide-spread and extremely loyal fan base, makes the proposed Longhorn Network a much better deal for Texas than the school could have ever found in another conference. Keeping the Big 12's remaining nine dwarfs around and feeding them slivers of the revenue pie while still retaining the ability to mint cash of their own through unshared TV revenue is about as good a deal as UT could hope for. Two-thirds of each season's game schedules are automatically filled, and the Horns still have an easy in to BCS bowl games.
Basketball-wise, Texas will gain more exposure, without having to defer to the likes of Kansas for Big Monday, etc. The whole thing is basically a win-win for everyone wearing burnt orange today. Texas is firmly in the driver's seat of college sports and especially the Big 12 right now, with an innovative approach to making money that puts them in the rarified realm of the two previously mentioned private, faith-based universities.
When future TV rights fees are negotiated, there still won't be too many programs that might hope to wield this kind of leverage, but it's an intriguing concept to keep an eye on. While everyone else huddles together seeking safety (and wealth) in numbers, a handful of programs will step away from the crowd to become captains of industry. Texas is clearly one of that lucky minority.
There's a reason they call it the Lone Star State.
Posted on: January 5, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: January 5, 2011 6:47 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
Watching last night's Texas-Arkansas basketball game, I felt a slight warm glow of nostalgia for the Southwest Conference. I grew to adulthood during the last days of that league, and attended college at a Big Eight school before the Texas schools arrived. There was something dangerous, edgy and lawless about the SWC (oh, right, literally lawless), though that had mainly to do with football.
Just for kicks, I figured it would be fun to see how the basketball teams of the SWC have done since the breakup of the league. I'm going with only the teams that were still in the league in the 1990s, because Oklahoma and Oklahoma A&M (State) left in the early part of the 20th century. Arkansas left in 1991, but we'll start the accounting at the '96-'97 season, when the league officially dissolved.
Arkansas Razorbacks (261-195) This number would look a lot better if I started the counting in 1991, when the Razorbacks actually left the SWC, because it would include Nolan Richardson's Forty Minutes of Hell era, and a national championship. His successors, Stan Heath and John Pelphrey, took the program to the NCAA tournament just three times with one win on the big stage.
Baylor Bears (219-213) It's really saying something when a program becomes more lawless after leaving the SWC. The story of the Dave Bliss era in Waco is still gut-churning and sad to this day. Recalling that, and the program's historical ineptness in the revenue sports regardless of conference affiliation, it's tough to do anything but smile at the resurgence of the green and gold under straight-arrow Scott Drew.
Rice Owls (182-247) I watched Rice down LSU on a CBS College Sports broadcast last weekend, and the camera crew in attendance at Autry Court panned across the rafters of the building to show that the banners hanging there celebrated the school's long history of Nobel Prize and Rhodes Scholarship winners, rather than basketball glory. The Owls actually put together a 22-win season in the WAC in '03-'04, but haven't been to the NCAA tournament since Lou Henson took them in 1970. Other than geographic proximity, there was absolutely no logic to Rice's inclusion in the SWC.
Texas Longhorns (338-146) The Longhorns had one losing season in '97-'98, but the rest of their story as a Big 12 team is overwhelmingly positive. That's because Rick Barnes was hired after that dismal season, and has taken the Longhorns to a Final Four (2003) and a 30-win season (2006). There have been 13 NCAA tourney appearances since the breakup of the SWC. Kevin Durant's one season in Austin was a thing of beauty. In addition, UT more or less runs the entire Big 12 conference nowadays.
Texas A&M Aggies (233-208) The late 90's and early '00s were not kind to the Aggies. Smart hiring decisions turned them into one of the best teams in the Big 12 since then. A&M had Billy Gillispie before the fall, and Billy Clyde, for all his faults, is still the last visiting coach to win a game in Allen Fieldhouse. Mark Turgeon has proven to be the perfect long-term coach for a program that is turning into an annual contender in one of the nation's toughest leagues.
Southern Methodist Mustangs (215-211) The Mustangs went from abysmal in the SWC (think single digits in the win column) to merely mediocre in their runs through the WAC and C-USA. Don't try to blame the famous Death Penalty, either. the football team is back in the bowl picture, so what the heck is wrong with hoops under former wunderkind Matt Doherty?
Texas Christian Horned Frogs (235-238) TCU has a bad case of jimmy-leg. They just can't hold still, which would make sense if they were bullfrogs, but Horned Frogs tend to stand their ground. Nonetheless, the team has journeyed through the WAC, C-USA and Mountain West in a relentless bout of gridiron social climbing that has finally led them to a future Big East berth. Don't hold your breath for better results on the hardwood.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (249-206) If anyone misses the SWC, it's these guys. James Dickey led the boys from Lubbock to 30 wins and an undefeated league mark in 1996, en route to a Sweet 16 showing in the NCAA tournament. Once his team jumped to the Big 12, the tourney bids dried up, and the Raiders finished 12th three times, 11th one time and tied for 7th another. Two tourney wins from that '96 season were vacated by the NCAA, and scholarships were stripped from the school, leaving it destitute until Bobby Knight took over in 2001. The subsequent tenure of his son, Pat, has been nothing to write home about.
Houston Cougars (213-231) James Dickey, you say? Well here he is again. Old SWC coaches tend to show up at Houston, for some reason. Dickey was preceded in Houston by Tom Penders, who was the head man at Texas back in the day. The days of Phi Slamma Jamma never made the transition to C-USA, but the Cougs have some good seasons here and there. Dickey seems like a good short-term option in the coaching retread league.
Do we miss it? Probably not. Too much basketball mediocrity then and now to make us wish for more. Plus, the never-ending academic and financial misconduct in the SWC was pure havoc. For teams like Texas, Baylor and A&M, the sporting landscape actually got better (over time) when the incestuous infighting of the in-state recruiting playground was put to death. Still, it's fun to reminisce.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 11:20 pm
Posted by Eric Angevine
Some unexpected squeakers gave us this evening's bold-print headlines.
Pitt doesn't like pressure
Looking at this game beforehand, everything pointed Pitt's way. The top-5 national ranking and the advantage in size and athleticism was bad enough, but the fact that one of Keno Davis's former assistants, Pat Skerry, was sitting on the opposite bench after a summer job-hop was almost insult to presumed injury. Except that the Friars came out in a 2-3 zone that seemed to have the Panthers flummoxed. Only Gilbert Brown was able to shoot over the zone, hitting 5 of 6 treys, and the Providence pressure produced 22 turnovers on steals and passes that shot out of bounds. Pitt eventually found a way to hit Gary McGhee inside in the second half, and narrowly averted an upset at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Pittsburgh doesn't have an elite ballhandler these days, and they'll face much tougher zones than the one Providence threw at them. Syracuse comes to mind, for instance.
Minnesota's high-low game is in the tank
The departure of Devoe Joseph was a blow the Gophers did not need. While the starters did well enough to win, and four starters scored in double figures, there's a story between the stat lines. It took a heroic five blocks and 16 rebounds from Trevor Mbakwe -- nine of the boards on the defensive end -- to keep Minnesota in the game. At home. Against Indiana. Yeah, that's a problem.
The Crash Davis rule is still in effect
Arkansas forward Michael Sanchez doesn't see much court time, so perhaps he can be forgiven for not knowing all the rules. He got into the game early against Texas tonight, got tangled up with another player under the basket, and reacted poorly when the refs called a foul on him. Words were exchanged, and a technical foul was added to the personal. Television audiences couldn't hear what Sanchez said, but the announcers on press row pretty much repeated this line from Bull Durham verbatim.
I've never seen Crash so angry. And frankly, sports fans, he used a word that's a no-no with umpires.Then again, Sanchez didn't get thrown out of the game. He may have wished he had, because it was an ugly 79-46 road beatdown for the Razorbacks.