Posted March 21st, 2007 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball

LaMarcus AldridgeTexas’ NCAA Tourney run may have ended Sunday with a loss to USC, but the Horns are running away with their first round game in SI.com’s What If Tourney. It’s the third year they’re running the tournament that tries to decide who would win the national championship if high school players had never been allowed to enter the NBA early and everyone had to spend four years in college.

The Longhorns add [tag]LaMarcus Aldridge[/tag], P.J. Tucker, [tag]Daniel Gibson[/tag], and C.J. Miles back to the team. Those four guys along with [tag]Kevin Durant[/tag] and D.J. Augustin would make for an incredibly good and incredibly athletic team:

Kevin Durant is nearly impossible to stop. Add Aldridge, Tucker, and Gibson and you can subtract the word nearly from that last statement. Aldridge, who averaged 15 points and nine rebounds last season has shown great strides in his rookie year, including a 30-point performance against the Bobcats this month. Who knows how good he’d be as a junior in college?

Keep D.J. Augustin at point guard, and move Gibson, who goes from playing with LeBron to Durant, to his natural two-guard spot. Along with A.J. Abrams and Jazz guard C.J. Miles off the bench, Texas’ athleticism and depth are mind-blowing. If anything, the additions add some experience to a team whose top eight scorers are freshmen or sophomores.

Having Aldridge back in the middle of the Texas defense would have made a huge difference for this team. He’s easily the guy I’d most want back. He can run the floor well with all these young guys, play tough defense, and give the Horns a scoring threat down low. Of course having Gibson playing the two would be pretty nice as well. He’d have gotten a ton of open looks with Aldridge and Durant, and size at the guards was a real problem for Texas at both ends of the court this season.

A starting five of Augustin, Gibson, Durant, Tucker, and Aldridge sure would’ve been fun to watch. The three guys who left early probably aren’t regretting it one bit (especially when they look at their bank accounts), but it’s hard to believe at least one of them didn’t decide to stick around for a chance to play with Durant. Any one of those guys could have made a real impact on this year’s young group of stars.

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Not a huge surprise at all as all rumors pointed this direction, but Texas sophomore guard Daniel Gibson is staying in the NBA Draft. Probably a tough decision for Gibson, which is why he waited till the last minute to make a final decision. If he had returned for his junior season he would have been the Longhorns’ shooting guard, a position he’s not suited for in the NBA. With his height, his future is at point guard and another season at Texas would not have helped his NBA stock at that position. Gibson is likely to go somewhere in the middle of the second round in June 28th’s draft, where there is no guaranteed money.

With Gibson gone, Texas will have a completely new starting five next season:

PG: DJ Augustin/AJ Abrams
SG: Justin Mason/AJ Abrams
SF: Kevin Durant/Damion James
PF: Damion James/Matt Hill
C: Connor Atchley/Dexter Pittman

Should be an interesting season, let’s hope the guys can grow up quickly and gel early in the season. Play well enough early to make the NCAA Tournament and be playing their basketball in March.

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Longhorn junior forward [tag]PJ Tucker[/tag] announced at a press conference yesterday that he’d be entering this year’s NBA draft but not hiring an agent. He’ll be able to talk to teams and work out at the league’s pre-draft camp in early June to get a feel of his possible draft position. How high is high enough to stay in? PJ isn’t saying.

This isn’t a huge surprise, as Tucker doesn’t have much to gain by returning for his senior season. His game is already very mature and the main thing he lacks, height, isn’t going to improve with another year in school. Because it’s the first year of the new age limit, the majority of experts see this as a very weak draft and expect next year to be much deeper. Tucker will likely be the same player in a year, so getting into this year’s weak draft may be to his advantage. I expect him to stay in the draft and to go late in the first round.

Rumors also have sophomore guard [tag]Daniel Gibson[/tag] entering the draft. Gibson’s situation is very diffferent. For one thing he definitely needs another year to improve his game and I don’t believe he’s ready for the NBA. He’s certainly got potential, but his game and his pocket could certainly benefit from another season at Texas. The issue with Daniel is that he wants to be the Longhorns’ primary point guard next season and that may not be in the team’s best interest. With his height he’ll likely play the point at the next level, but with blue chipper D.J. Augustin coming in Gibson would most likely be playing a good deal of shooting guard for the Horns.

Both players have until June 18 to decide to return to school and withdraw from the draft.

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