Posted December 2nd, 2008 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

What have we learned so far about this UT team?

What have we learned so far about this UT team?

Texas is entering the teeth of their pre-season schedule with [tag]UCLA[/tag], [tag]Villanova[/tag], and [tag]Wisconsin[/tag] coming up on the schedule. Texas has already been tested in the young season at the Maui Invitational. The Longhorns finished third after losing a close one to Notre Dame. Every season presents different questions about a team, but after a handful of games we’re starting to learn some key things about the Longhorn basketball team.

1. [tag]Justin Mason[/tag] is going to be the point guard. I know [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag], and his father, want him to be a point guard but the fact is the senior sharp shooter isn’t one. The former McNeil star wasn’t one in high school and he won’t be in college. Barnes allows Abrams to play point on some occasions but clearly this team is served best with Abrams running the base line working off screens. Mason showed the ability to run the point and beat defenders off the dribble when he had a monster dunk that ended up being the play of the night on SportsCenter after the Notre Dame game. Even if Abrams could run the point consistently it would put the Longhorns at a disadvantage on the offensive end if Mason played the off guard because Mason possesses fewer skills at the “2” than Abrams does at the “1”. Look for Mason to be the point guard going forward.

2. [tag]Damion James[/tag] is the key to the season. The Longhorns looked the best offensively Wednesday against [tag]Oregon[/tag] even with Abrams not being a huge part of the offense. The success was due to the focus on pounding the ball into the paint and the willingness of James to play from the inside out. James struggled the first two games of the tournament in shot selection as he seemed to try too hard in prove he can play on the wing. James is one of only six returning players in the nation to average a double-double last season. Even though this team will rely more on his perimeter skills James can not forget what has made him a star. He must attack the basket and be a factor on the glass for the Longhorns to make a run at a Final Four. James’ work ethic is unquestioned so there should be no doubt he will do whatever it takes to improve in these areas.

3. This team misses [tag]DJ Augustin[/tag]. This is a no brainer. Augustin was the best pure point guard in the nation last year and is already making an impact in the NBA. The Longhorns led the nation in turnovers (9.4) last year with Augustin at the point. Without him Texas is already averaging 15 a game this season with the combination of Mason and Abrams running the ball. As Mason, and [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag], continue to get more comfortable as the man at point the Longhorns are sure to improve in the area. With the pressure and intensity Texas is able to produce on the defensive end it is imperative that this team value the ball on the offensive end. Nothing is going to come easy this year on the offensive end and Texas can not afford to give away possessions to good teams.

4. Defense, Defense, Defense. [tag]Rick Barnes[/tag] loves defensive teams. He must love this one. The Longhorns are already being called the best defensive team in the nation after only five games. The Longhorns pressure the ball at will and with James playing on the perimeter are able to add length and athleticism that Barnes has not been able to muster at Texas. The Longhorns are going to give opponents fits all year with their effort on the defensive end and they are going to have to keep it up, especially early in the year, as the offense finds an identity. A good defense can keep you in games that the offense is struggling in and with only one proven outside shooter on the team it is likely there will be a few games where Texas is going to have to win ugly.


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