Posted February 18th, 2010 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

Despite strong performances from freshmen Avery Bradley and the newly patient Jordan Hamilton, the Longhorns continued their freefall Wednesday night at Missouri. The team fell to the Tigers 82-77 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Video “highlights” of the Horns falling to 6-5 in conference play are below…

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Posted January 30th, 2010 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball, Feature, Live

Follow along live with 40 Acres Sports on Twitter and below for our thoughts and analysis during today’s Texas game versus [tag]Baylor[/tag] on the Big 12 Network. We’ll be live right around tip so join us to discuss the game at 3:00pm Saturday.

Feel free to leave comments and questions using the live tool, but not all comments will be published. Read below for more notes on comments and how the live blog will work. Hook ‘em!

(continue to read full live blog …)

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Posted January 27th, 2010 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball, Feature, Live

Follow along live with 40 Acres Sports on Twitter and below for our thoughts and analysis during tonight’s conference basketball match-up on ESPNU. We’ll be live right around tipoff for Texas versus [tag]Texas Tech[/tag] so join us to discuss the game at 8:00pm Wednesday night.

Things might be a little less wordy than normal, but please feel free to leave comments and questions using the live tool, but not all comments will be published. Read below for more notes on comments and how the live blog will work. Hook ‘em!

(continue to read full live blog …)

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Posted January 23rd, 2010 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball, Feature, Live

Follow along live with 40 Acres Sports on Twitter and below for our thoughts and analysis during today’s big hoops match-up on CBS. We’ll be live right around tipoff for Texas versus [tag]Connecticut[/tag] so join us to discuss the game at 3:00pm Saturday afternoon.

Things might be a little less wordy than normal, but please feel free to leave comments and questions using the live tool, but not all comments will be published. Read below for more notes on comments and how the live blog will work. Hook ‘em!

(continue to read full live blog …)

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Posted December 22nd, 2009 by Ross
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

WTH?! (What the Heck?) moments are attempts to find the memorable and the off-beat perspective on Longhorns sports. Here are some interesting moments from the Texas basketball game against the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Cowboys Stadium was a less than optimal game watching experience. (Image: TexasSports.com)

Cowboys Stadium was a less than optimal game watching experience. (Image: TexasSports.com)

Pregame WTH Jerry’s World?! Re-issuing this WTH tagline again. Walking into the Death Star you were immediately attacked by beer vendors. Where were you guys at the Big XII championship football game?! Make sure you are a fan of Miller products because Bud Light and Coors cannot be found.

1st Half (15:47) WTH Baby Video?! The Big Daddy video board was not enough so the Cowboys set up a smaller four sided video underneath for fans to see player names, fouls and points. Unfortunately, the baby video was often wrong or did not change with the substitutions that were happening on the floor. It was cool to see the time elapsed photos of converting the facility into a basketball arena. Shout out to the video producer who showed the UT Pom Squad often. So often that we noticed that one of the girls took out her belly button ring!

1st Half (9:12) WTH FREE throws?! UT is awful at the free throw line. On successive trips to the charity stripe [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] and [tag]Damion James[/tag] missed both free throw attempts. The team was 50% for the first half and clawed their way back to finish at 70% for the game. This will be a glaring weakness for the team this season unless head coach [tag]Rick Barnes[/tag] starts passing out $20′s for every made free throw at practice.

Half Time WTH Wholly Guacamole?! Never heard of the product and probably will never eat it. The sponsor for the halftime did provide us a funny moment when two youngsters played a very terrible game of pong on the giant video board. The best part was when the little brother started shoving the sister while she was playing.

2nd Half (13:11) WTH Balbay?! As UNC was trying to stage a comeback, Dogus Balbay was awaiting the inbound pass after a Tar Heel basket. The ball was rolling around the court so Balbay dropped kick the ball right into Alexis Wangmene’s grill.

2nd Half (4:39) WTH PB&J?! With a shout out to the teams of the past (BMW – Blanks, Mays, Wright), the new group of Pittman, Bradley and James put together a string of blocks, shots and dunks to get the 38,052 in attendance (3/4 Longhorn fans) up off their feet. Damion was the leader with 25 points and 15 rebounds followed by Dexter who had 23 points and 15 rebounds. A career day for a freshman was put in by Avery Bradley who finished with 20 points. The freshmen team that Barnes has put together will have many more career days on the 40 acres.

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Posted March 1st, 2009 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

Harrison Smith had career night, but it came due to massive struggles from Justin Mason and Varez Ward

Harrison Smith had a career night, but it came due to massive struggles from Justin Mason & Varez Ward.

Stop if you’ve heard it before, the Texas basketball team is struggling. The Longhorns followed their huge home victory up with a close and ugly win over [tag]Texas Tech[/tag] and then a loss in Stillwater to [tag]Oklahoma State[/tag].

In both games Texas was sloppy on the offensive end. Texas’ main problem is their personnel combinations. The whole season hinged on [tag]Justin Mason[/tag] and/or [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] being able to play the point consistently. Both were given chances and both failed.

That inability forced another point guard into the starting lineup. And that is Rick Barnes’ dilemma, do you move [tag]Damion James[/tag] to the four and play the small guards and a big like last year’s team or do you bring Mason, your best perimeter defender, off the bench to keep James at the three with two big men.

The answer so far has been James to the four. The decision has brought mixed results, but I don’t think Barnes likes the decision. All offseason Barnes stressed getting bigger in the back court. Playing Mason at the three makes Texas one of the smallest perimeter teams in the country.

But what choice does he have?

[tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] is hurt. [tag]Alexis Wangmene[/tag] is hurt. [tag]Connor Atchley[/tag] has been sacked. [tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag] can’t play over 20 minutes per game. And I’m not sure [tag]Matt Hill[/tag] still can play without his hair. Barnes has put more faith in [tag]Clint Chapman[/tag] as of late, but the sophomore is nothing more than a role player with some offensive upside at this point.

The fact is the Longhorns hands, or hooves, are tied. This is last year’s team without a superstar point guard who can shoot from the outside. For all intents and purposes that is like saying the Bulls were the same team when MJ was trying to hit curveballs in the minor leagues.

Barnes’ team has two conference games left ([tag]Kansas[/tag] and [tag]Baylor[/tag]) before the conference tournament. As long as Texas splits those games and wins their opening round tournament game they’ll get into March Madness.

Luckily Texas won some early games against big name opponents and Blake Griffin can’t handle contact or NIT would have been what this team had for supper.

There aren’t any great teams in college basketball. North Carolina, Connecticut, Duke, [tag]Oklahoma[/tag], and everyone else have shown the ability to drop a game they should win. That fact gives Texas hope if they can hang in there and get to the tournament. The Longhorns could be a bracket buster this year.

Maybe not.

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Posted November 19th, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

Dogus Balbay could soon be the team's starting PG

Dogus Balbay could soon be the team's starting PG

One of the major strengths for Texas this year will be their bench. The amount of depth the Longhorns possess, especially in the front court, allows Rick Barnes’ team to play the up tempo, physical style that he feels they need to play with in order to be successful. Here is a look at the main bench contributors headed into the season.

Guards

Texas will rely heavily on the trio of [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag], [tag]Justin Mason[/tag], and even [tag]Damion James[/tag] in the back court. The main contributor off the bench will be Turkey product Dogus Balbay. The other guys will have to show some major qualities to earn playing time later in the season.

[tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] - The speedy Turk missed all of last season with an injury before getting to play this summer for his home country’s under 20 squad. Balbay likes to penetrate from the point. His jump shot is not where it needs to be yet. Teams will look to play underneath Balbay until he proves he can knock down the mid range jumper. Balbay plays with intensity and isn’t afraid to mix it up on the defensive end. With Texas lacking a true point in A.J. Abrams and Justin Mason don’t be surprised for Balbay to start receiving more and more minutes.

[tag]Varez Ward[/tag] - Not much was expected of Ward coming into the fall as the freshman came in under the national radar. Since practice has begun however Barnes has grown to love Ward’s ferociousness on the defensive end. Barnes likens him to a young Justin Mason, and in Barnes’ book that is a major compliment. Ward is not polished on the offensive end, but he can come in and help on the boards and in defense. He has a decent jumper and an above average first step. Ward could be the surprise player of the year.

[tag]Harrison Smith[/tag] - Smith is now a junior and it’d be hard to think he is going to receive any more than clean up duty. Smith has shown some ability, but has not been consistent enough on defense for Barnes to rely on him. Maybe early in the season Smith can make an impact and force Barnes to play him. Without that or an injury Smith’s chances will likely be limited.

Forwards/Centers

This is where Texas’ depth will be an advantage. While the back court will remain the same for much of the game, Barnes will look to wear out opposing big men by sending waves of player’s their way. [tag]Connor Atchley[/tag] will get the majority of minutes at center, so look for most substitutions to come at the four position.

[tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] - Johnson will be the team’s six man, and will most likely earn the most minutes at the position even if he isn’t technically the starter. He gives Texas toughness on the inside. The Longhorn staff is hoping for a come out year from Johnson in the likeness of Damion James’ sophomore season. There is no doubt Johnson can play defense and rebound, but his ability to score is what could make him key for this team. Texas is going to need to get points from Johnson off the bench, and his ability to consistently produce will be a major factor this season.

[tag]Alexis Wangmene[/tag] - The sophomore from Cameroon had a tough off season. He suffered a major family tragedy and has had a hard time, understandably, refocusing completely on basketball. Having Matt Hill back will help UT as Wangmene gets back on track. He has unbelievable upside, and hopefully will get his mental state back in order to show it off.

[tag]Matt Hill[/tag] - Everybody’s favorite afro is back after missing last year’s season with an injury. The hair might not be the same, but his play should be. Hill did very well when he was healthy enough to play. He possesses some good low post moves, and his length makes him a playmaker on the defense side of the board. He hustles very hard, but needs to improve his rebounding skills. A lot of times a year off’s exactly what a player needs, and it is certain that Hill is eager to get back out there and play basketball.

[tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag] - I’m going to admit off the bat that I’m a huge fan of Pittman’s. He has come into the program and busted his tail to get his weight under control enough to get on the floor. Pittman is never going to be thin, but he has gotten in better shape each year and is posed to be the number one guy at center off the bench. Pittman’s goal is to be able to play over 20 minutes a game. His ability to do that without getting into foul trouble would allow Texas to play Mason at point, Abrams at two, James at three, slide Atchley to four, and play Pittman in the middle. Texas has been killed late in tournament by not being able to match up with the length of teams like Syracuse in the Final Four, and Memphis last year. Pittman gives them a chance to do that as long as he plays smart and stays in shape.

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Posted November 18th, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

AJ Abrams will need to more than score this year.

AJ Abrams will need to more than score this year.

Texas enters the upcoming basketball season ranked in the top ten and poised to make another successful tournament run. Rick Barnes wants his team to be tough and physical, winning games on the defensive end. This team may represent that more than any team he has had in Austin. The Longhorns come into the season with nine out of their ten man rotation from last year. The team only lost one player, but it might have been the worst possible one to lose. Point guard [tag]DJ Augustin[/tag] now plays in the NBA and Texas will spend the early part of the year figuring out who will control the ball. [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] wants to play more point, but the team plays better when he plays off the ball and [tag]Justin Mason[/tag] runs the point. The addition of Turkish slasher [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] may provide the answer when it is all said and done.

Here is a breakdown of what to expect from the starters. We’ll look at the bench players in an upcoming feature.

Point Guard

[tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] – Abrams has already become the most prolific three point shooter in school history. In the off season the former McNeil star tested the NBA waters and what he found was that his only chance to make a living in the league is to become a point guard. Abrams is too small to play the two in the NBA, but he fits perfectly into the role at the college level. After thinking about making the jump, Abrams decided to return for his senior year. [tag]Rick Barnes[/tag] has allowed AJ to play more point in the off season, but it is a position that AJ failed to play well at even in high school. It is likely that Texas will rely on a point guard by committee until someone steps up in the role. Expect Abrams to play the point more early in the season than he will as it gets into February and March because Texas will need him to do what is best for this team and not what will give him the best chance to get drafted.

Shooting Guard

[tag]Justin Mason[/tag] – Mason is the classic Rick Barnes guy. He is more junk yard dog than basketball player. Mason is by far Texas’ best perimeter and may end up being the guy that handles the majority of the point guard duty. He isn’t going to “wow” anybody with his ball skills, but he is a solid player that plays his hardest on every possession he is on the court. Mason fits perfectly into the style of play this team is going to have to adopt to be successful. Texas is going to have to dominate on the defensive end, rebound, and fight for points on offense. There is no doubt that the talent level at the lead guard position will take a hit with the loss of Augustin, but the steady play of Mason should provide the Longhorns enough ability to make a serious run at the Big 12 championship. Mason’s stat line isn’t going to blow anybody away, but he does so many things well he is going to be invaluable for this year’s team.

Small Forward

[tag]Damion James[/tag] – James made the transition from inside player to wing player last year and it could end up being the best thing that has happened to this team heading into this season. His freshman year was spent collecting rebounds and scoring put backs as [tag]Kevin Durant[/tag] dominated the ball. When Durant left, UT needed a big player on the wing. James made the transition with ease. He ended up being one of the only players in the country to average a double-double and enters the season on most people’s All-American watch list. James could up being the most important player on the roster. His play will be a huge determinate of where this team ends up. If he can continue to be a force on defense and the boards while keeping his three point percentage up Texas will be a nightmare match up for most teams. James has struggled creating offense off the dribble, but summer reports had him working tirelessly with Kevin Durant on just that, and if he puts it all together he will likely be a lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft.

Power Forward

[tag]Clint Chapman[/tag] – Heading into the season most thought [tag]Gary Johnson[/tag] would start at the four. Against Stetson Chapman got the start. Chapman isn’t a better player than Johnson so the thought must be that Chapman compliments the starters better and Barnes wants Johnson to be his sixth man off the bench. Chapman is going to give you hustle, rebounding, and the occasional bucket around the basket. Barnes is not going to draw up many plays for the sophomore from Oregon, but he does have the skills to score if given an opportunity. The Longhorns need length in the front court and Chapman may give them more of that than Johnson. I wouldn’t think he’d stay in the starting lineup for the whole season as Barnes may look to change who starts at the four depending on practice and game performance on a week by week basis. Texas has a lot of options at the position with Chapman, Johnson, and [tag]Alexis Wangmene[/tag].

Center

[tag]Connor Atchley[/tag] – Atchley was the biggest surprise on last year’s team. He provides match up nightmares because of his ability to step out and nail the outside jumper. Atchley also proved he could provide defensive help by leading the team in block shots. He isn’t the most physical player, but the roster has plenty of those. Atchley just needs to continue to do what he does best. He stretches the defense and has even worked on a sky hook. Barnes may trust Atchley more than any other player on the roster and with the loss of Augustin will look to the senior for on court leadership. Especially in the front court where there are talented, but young and inexperienced players behind him. Atchley is best suited to play at the four, and we may see a little of that if he is paired with [tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag] in the front court. Texas’ most dangerous lineup would be Abrams and Mason in the back court with James, Atchley, and Pittman playing in the middle.

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Posted March 30th, 2008 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball, NCAA Tourney, Quick Hits

Longhorns lean more on Dexter Pittman for defense. Facing a much more athletic lineup than Stanford, might be a game where we need Gary Johnson to shine.

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Posted March 27th, 2008 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball, NCAA Tourney

After playing well in hostile territory in the first two rounds, the Longhorns come home to Texas for the Sweet 16. On Friday the Horns will take on [tag]Stanford[/tag] in a 2 vs. 3 match-up in Houston. The Cardinal pose the biggest challenge in the tourney yet for Texas, particularly the giant Lopez twins down inside.

The 14 feet of Lopezes in the paint means the Longhorns need a big game defensively from the likes of [tag]Connor Atchley[/tag], [tag]Damion James[/tag], [tag]Gary Johnson[/tag], [tag]Alexis Wangmene[/tag], and big [tag]Dexter Pittman[/tag]. On the offensive end Texas needs another hot shooting night out of junior guard [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag], but open looks won’t come as easily as they did in the previous two games.

Watch the SI.com video preview of Stanford below:

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