Well, it didn’t take much time for the ‘Horns to give up their #1 ranking in college basketball. As soon as the title was bestowed upon Texas last week, the team promptly scrapped by with an OT win against Texas A&M on Saturday night at home, and then followed that up with a loss to #9 Kansas State in Manhattan, KS, on Monday night in front of a raucous crowd of beard-laden fans (a tribute to KSU guard Jacob Pullen, whom since growing the Lincoln-like beard, has helped KSU stay undefeated).
Texas’ woes the last two games can be tracked to turnovers (nine v. A&M; 18 v. KSU), inconsistency, and poor shooting. While the defense continues to hold its own, the strengths (rebounding, depth, inside scoring) that had helped the ‘Horns to their first-ever #1 ranking have taken a backseat the past two games. Let’s face it, the team that has taken the court the past two games (at least in the first half of each contest) is not worthy of a top 50 ranking and they could be in for a big wake-up call come the middle of Big 12 conference play. On Monday night against KSU, the ‘Horns shot 36 percent from the field, slightly better than their 35 percent shooting effort against the Aggies. That is absolutely horrid.
And, let’s not even get started on free throws. Texas is miserable — as in, DEAD LAST — in the Big 12 Conference in free throw percentage. Monday’s contest saw Texas shoot 9-of-22 from the charity stripe, good for 41 percent. Well, use “good” liberally there. If you’re a scholarship athlete at a major conference school, not to mention a top recruit, how can you not make free throws? FREE throws. Does the coaching staff work on this stuff in practice? What’s the remedy? We’re nearly halfway through the season, when do fans begin to see a change? When are free throws going to help the team close a game out or put a team away?
Head coach Rick Barnes has to take serious look at his squad and decide who is going to step-up and be the go-to players down the Big 12 and NCAA stretch. While depth has helped the team get to this point, at times it may keep the team from having a consistent on-floor comfort level that can take this team deep in to March Madness. Combined with piss-poor shooting from the free throw line, and Texas’ lackluster performance the last two games could be a telltale sign of an early exit in March.
Next up, #21/UR UConn (11-6) up in the frigid Northeast on Saturday (CBS, 3:00 p.m. CT).