Category Archives: NCAA Basketball

Texas Men’s Basketball Hits The Hardwood

Believe it or not, while Longhorn nation has been dwelling on the end of a miserable 5-7 losing football season and the departure of several top assistant coaches, the Texas men’s basketball team has hit the court inside the Frank Erwin Center once again, beginning the season in the top 25 along with several other Big 12 teams, including (as of this posting), #3 Kansas, #6 Kansas State, #9 Baylor, #13 Missouri, #22 Texas, and #25 Texas A&M.

New 'Horns on the Hardwood: Tristan Thompson (left) and Corey Jospeth (right)

With some key, youthful additions (see also: Corey Joseph and Tristan Thompson), and some key departures (see also: Shawn Williams), head coach Rick Barnes has the ‘Horns off to a strong start, and one that hopefully won’t implode like last season. With shooting guard Jordan Hamilton back to launch three-pointers (averaging 20.0 ppg), work horse Gary Johnson continuing to lead the team in rebounding (7.6 rpg), Thompson adding his big-body presence both offensively and defensively (11.6 ppg, 2.3 bpg), and Joseph chipping in with court presence and ball handling (less than 1.0 on assists-to-turnover ratio), you have to like the game Texas brings to the court each night.

Let’s have a look at the results to-date, as well as what’s coming as we turn the calendar to 2011. The full listing of Big 12 conference schools schedules and their results can be found at Big 12 Sports.

2010-2011 Men’s Basketball Schedule/Results
Monday, Nov. 8 (ESPNU)
Texas (0-0) 83, Navy 52

Wednesday, Nov. 10 (ESPNU)
Texas (1-0) 89, Louisiana Tech 58

Thursday, Nov. 18 (ESPN2)
Texas (2-0) 90, #16 Illinois 84

Friday, Nov. 19 (ESPN2)
Texas (3-0) 66, #4 Pittsburgh 68

Tuesday, Nov. 23 (LSN)
Texas (3-1) 84, Sam Houston State 50

Saturday, Nov. 27 (LSN)
Texas (4-1) 62, Rice 59

Wednesday, Dec. 1 (LSN)
Texas (5-1) 76, Lamar 55

Sunday, Dec. 5 (FSN)
Texas (6-1) 56, USC 73

Saturday, Dec. 11 (LSN)
Texas (6-2) 101, Texas State 65

Tuesday, Dec. 14 (7:00 p.m. CT, LSN)
Texas (7-1) 70 v. North Florida 48

Saturday, Dec. 18 (3:00 p.m., CBS)
Texas (8-2) v. North Carolina

Wednesday, Dec. 22 (6:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
Texas v. #15 Michigan State

Friday, Dec. 31 (1:00 p.m. CT, LSN)
Texas v. Coppin State

Tuesday, Jan. 4 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPNU)
Texas v. Arkansas

Saturday, Jan. 8 (2:30 p.m. CT, ESPN)
Texas v. #4 Connecticut

Tuesday, Jan. 11 (6:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
Texas v. Texas Tech

Saturday, Jan. 15 (3:00 p.m. CT, Big 12 Network)
Texas v. oklahoma

Wednesday, Jan. 19 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
Texas v. #25 Texas A&M

Saturday, Jan. 22 (3:00 p.m. CT, CBS)
Texas v. #3 Kansas

Wednesday, Jan. 26 (6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN or ESPN2)
Texas v. Oklahoma State

Saturday, Jan. 28 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPNU)
Texas v. #12 Missouri

Monday, Jan. 31 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPN)
Texas v. #25 Texas A&M

Saturday, Feb. 5 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPNU)
Texas v. Texas Tech

Wednesday, Feb. 9 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
Texas v. oklahoma

Saturday, Feb. 12 (3:00 p.m. CT, ESPN/ESPN2)
Texas v. #9 Baylor

Wednesday, Feb. 16 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
Texas v. Oklahoma State

Saturday, Feb. 19 (12:30 p.m. CT, Big 12 Network)
Texas v. Nebraska

Tuesday, Feb. 22 (7:00 p.m. CT, Big 12 Network)
Texas v. Iowa State

Saturday, Feb. 26 (2:00 p.m. CT, Big 12 Network)
Texas v. Colorado

Monday, Feb. 28 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPN)
Texas v. #6 Kansas State

Saturday, Mar. 5 (8:00 p.m. CT, ESPN)
Texas v. #9 Baylor

Keep an eye out for more basketball coverage in the coming weeks, especially as Texas heads in to the meat of their non-conference and conference play.

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Longhorns in the 2010 NBA Draft

After an exciting season, followed by a huge post-season letdown, the graduates and early departures from the Texas Longhorn men’s basketball team made a stellar showing in the 2010 NBA Draft on Thursday night. In total, 10 Big 12 basketball stars were selected in the first two rounds, with Texas leading the way with three picks.

Both Damion James and Dexter Pittman, who had reached their eligibility with the program, as well as freshman Avery Bradley, made the jump to the NBA, with each of three going in the first 32 picks of the lottery draft and two in the first round. Let’s take a look at where they ended up:

1st/#19 pick – Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics)
Fresh off a disappointing loss to the L.A. Lakers in the 2010 NBA Championship, the Celtics were in need of an infusion of youth, especially with the impending retirement of Rasheed Wallace. With Bradley, head coach Doc Rivers gets a shooting guard who believes in Rivers’ approach to defense, and with some additional time to develop his shooting game, could be a threat on both ends of the floor. Let’s face it, Bradley’s a “coach’s player” – he’ll exceed at whatever his coaches ask of him. He’ll be a nice compliment to Rajon Rondo at the point, and with his speed, can run the floor with the best of them. A nice pick for the Celts, we’ll see how early he gets playing time. ESPN’s Bill Simmons should be stoked.

1st/#24 – Damion James (Atlanta Hawks)
The ‘Hawks finally made an appearance in the playoffs last year. Most of America probably forgot Atlanta even had a basketball team, or they reminisced about the Mogsey Bogues days in the Southeast. What Atlanta gets is another strong personality and work horse in James. He’ll continue to build on a young roster with a lot of depth. With James on board, Atlanta’s defense and rebounding will improve, and let’s not forget James’ scoring prowess. This is a really nice addition for the Hawks.

2nd/#32 – Dexter Pittman (Miami Heat)
Miami had an interesting draft, and they need a lot of help. With Pittman, they’ll get a player who hasn’t even reached his full potential on the basketball court. Under head coach Pat Riley (assuming he’s back at the helm), Pittman will learn how to play as a true center and hone his game to be a defensive presence and add timely rebounding and scoring to a team lacking an identity. He’s another “coach’s player,” and Miami is in need of some roster changes to help take the pressure off of Dwayne Wade. If “Big Baby” Davis is any indication in Boston, Pittman has a chance to make an impact in the starting line-up, or coming off the bench.

Other relevant Big 12 players drafted in the first two rounds of the 2010 NBA Draft:

1st/#6 – Epke Udoh, Baylor (Golden State Warriors)
1st/#11 – Cole Aldrich, Kansas (New Orleans Hornets, traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder)
1st/#12 – Xavier Henry, Kansas (Memphis Grizzlies)
1st/#20 – James Anderson, Oklahoma State (San Antonio Spurs)
1st/#21 – Craig Brackins, Iowa State (Oklahoma City Thunder)
2nd/#47 – Keith Gallon, oklahoma (Milwaukee Bucks)
2nd/#54 – Willie Warren, oklahoma (Los Angeles Lakers)

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Championships Not A Priority For Barnes?

Well, not exactly. Although Texas men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes wasn’t very clear on the distinction.

In a recent ESPN magazine article, Barnes said that he’d rather see his players be successful in their future careers (like the NBA) than to win NCAA championships.

“We would love to win a national championship, but we’re not obsessed with it because we’re obsessed with these guys trying to live their NBA dream. What’s happened to Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, T.J. Ford — I’d give up a national title for all of our guys to be able to live their dream.” – Rick Barnes

When one sits back and thinks about it, that makes sense. The problem in this instance was that Barnes’ comments were taken out of context, and they made a lot of Barnes-doubters jump all over the current coach for his lack of desire to be successful in the here-and-now.

But, not to worry, many pundits have come to Barnes’ rescue, including Austin American-Statesman reporter Kirk Bohls and ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas. Even Texas’ Big 12 conference foe – the Jayhawk Nation – has come to Barnes’ defense…kind of. And, they make a good point about Barnes taking some media relations training from Texas head football coach Mack Brown.

What are your thoughts? Was Barnes out of line with his comments? Or, is he spot-on in terms of “sacrificing” at the collegiate level and wanting his players to have a successful future career at the next level?

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Four Opponents Define ‘Horns “March Madness” Dreams

With the season more than halfway over, the #6 Texas Longhorns are in contention for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. But, with recent back-to-back losses to Kansas State and UConn clouding the horizon, head coach Rick Barnes needs to re-focus his squad for the remainder of the Big 12 Conference schedule, and find the keys to his team’s early-season winning ways.

Let’s take a look at four remaining opponents which pose the biggest threats, and opportunities, for the ‘Horns as they close out the regular season. You can also find this post on Bleacher Report.

oklahoma
So, they’re not as legitimate as expected with an 11-8 record, but rivalries exist on and off the football field in Austin and Norman. Guard Willie Warren was expected to be the force behind the sooners squad in 2009-2010, and while he has done his best, with three freshman in the six-man line-up, the team has struggled to a 2-3 record in Big 12 play to-date. While Warren contributes 17.6 ppg, and has three other starters in double digits, the team’s inconsistency has blown their shot at the NCAA Tournament unless they finish strong. With a rivalry in the balance, oklahoma could give Texas a run for their money in Norman on February 6 before a trip to Austin in March.

Texas A&M
It seems as though every year, an Aggie has their coming-out party at the ‘Horns expense. This year, two seniors pose the biggest threat to Texas – guard Donald Sloan (17.5 ppg) and forward Bryan Davis (9.7 ppg) – both who play big and aggressive against the ‘Horns every outing. The Aggies have already given Texas a tough game, a 72-67 overtime loss in Austin, when junior forward Nathan Walkup made his statement with 13 points. In recent years, Texas and Texas A&M (14-5) have split their two conference games, and this season, don’t expect the Aggies to give the Longhorns any less of a fight in College Station. After all, as their fight song alludes, “t.u.” is their most hated foe.

#24 Baylor
Seriously. With a record of 15-3, the Bears history of sporting a solid backcourt continues to define the team’s success. Headlined by starting guards LaceDarius Dunn (19.2 ppg) and Tweety Carter (16.2 ppg), both who may own the best first names in college basketball, Baylor has only lost three games by a combined 16 points – not to mention giving #2 Kansas a run for their money in Lawrence. Add forward/center Ekpe Udoh (14.2 ppg) to the mix, and head coach Scott Drew has his team on the brink of bringing Baylor to the top of the Big 12 heap. Texas has Baylor twice in the closing clip of conference play, and you could see the Bears grab one of those two if Dunn and Carter are hitting their shots.

#2 Kansas
This will prove to be the tilt that decides the Big 12 Conference, and potentially a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for both teams. Like many other college basketball powerhouses, Kansas (19-1) simply reloads year-after-year, and despite key losses to graduation and the NBA draft, head coach Bill Self has guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich as the dominant forces leading the Jayhawks this season. Collins (16.0 ppg) and Aldrich (11.2 ppg) are the headliners, but heralded freshman Xavier Henry (14.3 ppg) has made his presence felt, along with forward Marcus Morris (12.4 ppg). The Jayhawks are perhaps the only team in the Big 12 Conference that can even come close to Texas’ bench depth, and their transition offense is purity to the eyes of basketball fanatics across the country. With Aldrich and Texas’ Dexter Pittman battling for space in the paint, and both team’s guards shooting it up from beyond the arc, this has the makings of an instant classic. It’s both a blessing and a curse that these two teams – playing in opposite divisions of the conference – are guaranteed to see each other only once every season.

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‘Horns Get Bearded In Manhattan

Sonofa…

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).

Two reasons not to go on a blind date in Manhattan, KS.

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).

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We’re #1: Forget DKR, How About The Erwin Center?

It’s been hard holding out on posting this for a while now because one never wants to jinx an undefeated Texas athletic season, but Eyes Of TX just can’t contain the excitement any longer. After #1 Kansas lost to a depleted #10 Tennessee squad on Sunday, the ‘Horns are now #1 in the country for the first time in school history and off to the best start in almost 80 years at 16-0. Not a bad pre-season analysis, if you ask around.

After the Texas football team ended their season with a disappointing, yet exciting, loss against Alabama in the BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, the student body has been given a shot of basketball adrenaline with seniors Damion James and Dexter Pittman, and freshman phenom Avery Bradley leading the way toward a second Final Four since 1947. What’s that you say, “Texas is a basketball school now?” Well, Pittman put it best in a recent Sports Illustrated article, “No. This is Colt McCoy’s school. He’s just letting us borrow it.”

Pittman’s modesty doesn’t give the ‘Horns enough kudos for becoming the #1 team in the nation, so let’s explore how Texas battled its way to the top:

Texas is winning every statistical battle with opponents. Most importantly, the ‘Horns are scoring an average of 23.9 points more than their opponents each game (even with their dismal 63 percent shooting at the free throw line this year). The ‘Horns also out-rebound other teams by almost 10 rebounds a game. Finally, the Burnt Orange defense has held opponents to 37 percent shooting from the field.

Winning against a tough schedule. As Eyes of TX stated before the season started, Texas scheduled some of the hardest teams in the nation in 2009-2010. Low and behold, head coach Rick Barnes’ nutty strategy has worked thus far with convincing victories over two top 10 teams, North Carolina and Michigan State, and strong programs like Iowa, USC and Pittsburgh. Texas’ stamina will continue to be challenged as the Big 12 schedule brings teams like #3 Kansas, #13 Kansas State, #22 Baylor twice and Texas A&M twice (first game is this Saturday at 3 p.m. PT on ESPNU). With this remaining schedule, one can’t help but be nervous about how long this undefeated season will last.

Deep bench and game stamina. After watching battles against USC, Iowa, North Carolina and Michigan State, every game the ‘Horns win comes down to one factor: outlasting opponents. With nine players with more than 150 minutes played this season, and four players averaging double digits in scoring, Texas proves its deep bench tires out opponents and is one of the main reasons the Horns remain undefeated.

With Kentucky’s freshman stud John Wall continuing to amaze basketball fans across the country, and the ultimate potential of the Wildcats that everyone keeps talking about, Texas has to keep its momentum going into a tough conference schedule to solidify its #1 ranking. However, with Avery Bradley coming into his own by averaging 26.5 points in his first two Big 12 games against Colorado and Iowa State, and Damion James continuing to add to his 45 career double-doubles, Eyes of TX is pretty confident about the ‘Horns staying in the top spot through January (well, maybe for another week at least).

On the downside, they’ll have to do without freshman Shawn Williams, who after an ankle injury against Texas State early in the season, will undergo surgery and will likely apply for a medical redshirt this season.

Hook ‘em!

Thanks to BigBopper for his thoughts on why Texas is (and will continue to be) the #1 basketball team in the land.

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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. North Carolina Tar Heels

Saturday, December 19
2:00 p.m. ET
ESPN

In what is building up to be one of the biggest games in recent Texas basketball history, the unbeaten and #2-ranked Texas Longhorns will face off on Saturday afternoon with the storied #10-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in the new Texas Stadium in Arlington.

#2 Texas Longhorns (9-0)
The ‘Horns have yet to face an elite opponent in the 2009 season, yet after starting off the year ranked #3, they’ve quietly crept their way up to #2 right behind Big 12 Conference foe Kansas. As you may know, the 2009 squad is loaded with talent, including returning seniors center Dexter Pittman (13.7 points and 6.2 rebounds/game) and forward Damion James (15.4 points and 10.1 rebounds/game), not to mention a swath of talented freshman from across the country that allow Texas to go deep in to games with fresh players. All told, the ‘Horns have five players averaging double-digit points per game, but they will need to rely upon the experience and leadership of the seniors on the big stage, and lay off the 3-point shot, which has been their go-to shot selection early in the season.

Texas center Dexter Pittman

To be successful in this game, and down the stretch, head coach Rick Barnes has to get more production out of his players at the free throw line, where they have been miserable to-date with only two players shooting better than 70 percent from the line. Those “free” points will help Texas extend and hold a lead late in games, and it will be critical not only to Saturday’s match-up, but to their long-term success in 2009.

Coming in Saturday’s game, the ‘Horns have a few key injuries including guard J’Covan Brown (who has been cleared to play) and forward Shawn Williams (who will not play) – both sustained left ankle injuries in the game against Texas State last week.

#10 North Carolina Tar Heels (8-2)
The Tar Heels are young and talented as well, and despite two early season losses to #24 Syracuse and #4 Kentucky, they have knocked off #15 Ohio State and #9 Michigan State. In addition, the Tar Heels have experience on the bench against the ‘Horns by way of former Kansas coach Roy Williams, who led his Jayhawk teams against Barnes in year’s past. Williams’ current squad is led by two strong forwards in Deon Thompson (averaging 17.1 points and 8.1 rebounds/game) and Ed Davis (14.0 points and 9.5 rebounds/game), but also get strong play from their point guards Marcus Ginyard and Larry Drew II. All told, those four players average about 28 minutes a game, and the Tar Heels are capable of playing deep in to their bench just like the ‘Horns. Without a true center, however, it will be interesting to see how they match-up against Texas’ Pittman in the paint, not to mention guard/forward James who can play inside or out for the Longhorns.

For a full preview, including strengths and weaknesses of both teams heading in to Saturday’s match-up, check out this article on ESPN.

Hook ‘em!

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