Posted February 23rd, 2009 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

What a difference a week makes? Last week at this time the fans on the 40 Acres were left scratching their heads wondering out loud if their Texas Longhorns were really going to end up in the NIT.

One week later on the back of [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] scoring ability and the inability of player of the year candidate Blake Griffin to take a hit the Longhorns are right back in the thick of things after a win over [tag]Oklahoma[/tag]. The team now holds wins over Oklahoma, [tag]UCLA[/tag], [tag]Villanova[/tag], and [tag]Wisconsin[/tag]. Out of their eight losses only the [tag]Arkansas[/tag] and [tag]Kansas State[/tag] losses can be considered bad.

The style of play Texas uses makes every game a dog fight. The style is a double edged sword. Every game being close makes teams vulnerable to lesser teams who are hot down the stretch of a ball game, i.e. Kansas State. The style also keeps a team in a game they probably shouldn’t be in, i.e. Oklahoma.

Texas’ back yard mentality stifled the Sooners in the first half while Griffin dealt with foul trouble and a glass chin. The Longhorns made a run to push out the lead, but anyone who has watched this team play all season knew Oklahoma would make a run. In fact, the Sooners made two double digit to zero runs in the second half as the Longhorns struggled to score when Abrams was being guarded and forwards [tag]Damion James[/tag] and [tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] struggled with their mid-range game.

Texas has been prone to long dry spells offensively all year because of inconsistent point guard play. The major bright spot, besides the win itself, on Saturday night has to be the emergence of [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] as the true starting point guard.

The move makes this team the same as last year’s with the trade at the one guard Balbay for [tag]DJ Augustin[/tag]. While the trade is nowhere near even, it does allow [tag]Justin Mason[/tag] to stay on the floor and concentrate on defense and clean ups instead of running the show and more importantly it puts James back at power forward where he can slash to the bucket and be a monster on offensive rebounds.

Balbay has the ability to penetrate the lane and either finish with his underrated athleticism or find a shooter in the corner. Abrams can shoot from anywhere at any time, but the other Texas shooters like James, Mason and [tag]Connor Atchley[/tag] enjoy success when they catch and shoot. The ease in which their shot came off of drive and kick plays has been missing all season. When Abrams was the point guard the offensive relied on isolation and pick and rolls, when Mason was the point guard he had the ability to get to the bucket but only to get himself points, but now that Balbay is the man at the point the whole Texas offense has opened up.

Another positive that came from beating the Sooners was the play of [tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag]. The big guy dominated the paint even when Griffin was still healthy and fresh. He also made the key rebound and bucket of the game following an Abrams miss with less than 15 seconds left in the second half.

Saying Atchley is struggling on par with our economy. And just like the guys in Washington it looks like head coach [tag]Rick Barnes[/tag] is at a loss on what to do. Barnes has started him, brought him off the bench, played him inside, and even tried playing him at the small forward for stretches. Atchley played decent against Oklahoma but he is not the threat he once was. There was a time some were calling him the best pro prospect on the roster this year. Not anymore.

Pittman received the start because of the matchup with Griffin, but after his strong play with Griffin out of the game don’t be surprised to see Atchley coming off the bench for the rest of the season. If Pittman does get the start it will mean Atchley would be the second big man to come off the bench after Gary Johnson. Right now Johnson and Pittman do more for this team, and while I’m sure it is hard for Barnes to sit a senior who has given so much for the program Barnes still has to do what is best for the program. At this time that may be taking away significant minutes from Atchley.

While the win has many guaranteeing a tournament berth for the Longhorns, Texas still has work left to do. They have three winnable games against [tag]Texas Tech[/tag], [tag]Oklahoma State[/tag], and [tag]Baylor[/tag] before finishing up in [tag]Kansas[/tag] against the Jayhawks before the Big 12 Tournament.

If Texas can go three of four in that time they’d finish at 10-6 in conference. That gets Texas in no matter what happens in the tournament because believe it or not the nation respects the Longhorn basketball program more than the fans and students do.

Share

Related Posts

0 Comments

Comments are closed.

Texas FanGuide - Texas Longhorns fan app with roster, news, and team schedule

Subscribe to the 40 Acres!

Don't miss breaking news or another story from your favorite Longhorns fan site, subscribe to our RSS(?) feed!

Become a fan of the 40 Acres on Facebook