Posted February 17th, 2009 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

For the first time in the [tag]Rick Barnes[/tag] era the University of Texas basketball team is in real danger of not making the NCAA tournament. This could be the most any of the major three programs (football, basketball, baseball) has struggled in the regular season since their respective coaches arrived on the Forty Acres.

Rick Barnes is an amazing coach, but sometimes the players just aren’t there. For the 2009 UT basketball team that player is [tag]DJ Augustin[/tag]. Last year Augustin was recognized as the best point guard in the nation. He decided to leave after his sophomore year for the NBA, a move that has worked out for everybody but the Longhorns.

Texas has been spoiled in the backcourt in recent memory. The stellar play started with [tag]TJ Ford[/tag], next came [tag]Daniel Gibson[/tag], and then Augustin. Right now they’re stuck with Justin Mason who can’t score, [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] who can’t dribble or pass, and [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] who can’t shoot and struggles with consistency.

Every key member from last year’s Elite 8 team returned besides Augustin. Last year at this time Texas was playing for a number one seed and the talk around town was of national championships. This year the Longhorns are coming off four losses in their last six games, none to a top 10 team, and the talk is centered around if the team will even get to be a part of March Madness.

There is still talk of national championships on campus, but the sport is football.

Texas went through something similar following their Final Four berth when the then sophomore Ford decided to skip his last two years of college for the NBA. Barnes had his whole team coming back then too, but the group led by Brandon Mouton, Royal Ivey, and James Thomas at least made it to the tourney. On the message boards, at the water cooler, and on the couch most fans are looking for someone to blame. Has Barnes forgotten how to coach? Did the players regress that much? Who kidnapped [tag]Connor Atchley[/tag]?

The answers aren’t that simple. Or maybe they are. We’ve all heard the expression, “It isn’t the X’s and O’s it’s the Jane’s and the Joe’s.” The 2009 version of Texas basketball has proved the old saying to be right.

The Longhorn offense is set up for a player to dominate the ball and create for teammates who are coming off screens. Texas has the players to come off the screens but they don’t have the guy to get them the ball at the right time in the right spot. On top of that Barnes likes to have a guard who can shoot and score off the dribble. Texas has guards who can shoot and they have guards who can score off the dribble, but they don’t have any who can do both. This allows defenses to play a box and one, trailing Abrams, and making other people beat them.

So far Texas hasn’t done it enough. It is hard to imagine this same team beating UCLA and Villanova, but they did. And that fact leaves some hope, but with [tag]Kansas[/tag] and [tag]Oklahoma[/tag] still on the schedule it looks like a .500 finish may be in sight. With the Big 12 in a perceived down year, that just won’t cut it.

It is looking more and more likely that the Longhorn fate will be decided in the Big 12 tournament. And this year it has nothing to do with seeding. It will have to do with the bubble. A word Texas hasn’t had to worry about in a decade.

The good news is the cavalry is coming. Texas has a top three recruiting class coming in and they all can score. Just another reason to wish for next fall to get here.

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