Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The Morning After: Texas-sized letdown
By Eamonn Brennan
The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best hoops action. Try not to make it awkward.
No. 1 Kansas 80, No. 14 Texas 68: The act of sitting down, chatting on the Internet, and watching college basketball is nothing to complain about, so I'll do my best not to complain about Texas' ugly performance against No. 1 Kansas last night. You probably watched the game, so you don't need me to recap it; things were close until Kansas went on a devastating 22-0 first-half run, essentially sealing the game before Texas really had a chance to get going. The Longhorns never really climbed back into it, and Kansas cruised to an easy win in a game that was supposed to decide the Big 12 regular season. Instead, it solidified one fact: These Texas Longhorns are a major disappointment.
How did Kansas do it? A closer look at the advanced stats shows a relatively evenly matched game. The biggest difference was offensive rebounding. Texas usually bests their opponents on the boards, which has allowed them to get away with their otherwise stagnant offense these past few weeks. But last night, Kansas ripped 50 percent of its misses, while Texas could only recover 35.9 of theirs. Both teams shot about the same, and Kansas forced a few more turnovers, but there was your difference: The Jayhawks extended their possessions frequently and didn't allow Texas to do the same. The result was the ugly show you saw last night.
The question now is: Where does Texas go from here? Rick Barnes is apparently as confused about the Longhorns' rotation as the rest of us. He also seems convinced that the Longhorns were better earlier in the season because he played his veterans more minutes, which, OK, I guess, except why did he do that? Wouldn't it have made more sense to play your young players early, give them some big minutes in some easy blowouts, figure out what you have, and save your most crucial minutes for your veterans in the thick of the Big 12 season? Instead, the Longhorns are giving big minutes to guys like Jordan Hamilton, who has yet to figure out his role (and is convinced he needs to shoot every time down the floor), and the team is suffering for it. Now is not the time to tinker. If Barnes wants to salvage this thing, he should take a few notes from the coach that just beat them -- figure out your best rotation, set it in motion, and stick with it. The Longhorns don't have that cohesion. For the fifth time in three weeks, it showed.
Sure, some of you probably liked Villanova to come in a steal a really tough Big East road win at West Virginia. The Wildcats are very, very talented, and there's a reason their first conference loss didn't come until Saturday. But the Cats had to fend off a bad loss at Georgetown, travel to West Virginia in the midst of a brutal East Coast snowstorm, play one of the most athletic, efficient teams in the country, and do so in front of a crowd that on any given night may or may not throw loose change at your eyeballs. This was a daunting task. And Scottie Reynolds and Villanova delivered.
Villanova did two things most teams usually can't do against West Virginia. The Wildcats prevented offensive rebounds (or, at the very least, kept up with the Mountaineers on the offensive glass, negating WVU's huge advantage there) and shot really, really well, finishing with a 61.8 percent eFG and scoring 1.17 points per trip. On a night when I assumed West Virginia's size and athleticism would be too much for Nova -- especially on WVU's offensive end; who would guard the Mountaineers' bigs? -- the opposite was true. West Virginia couldn't handle Nova's quickness, and Jay Wright's team finished when they had to.