College Basketball Nation: Jordan Hamilton

Path to the Draft: No. 10 Texas

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
10:30
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In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

Top Five Draftees Since 1989

  1. Kevin Durant (2007)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (2006)
  3. T.J. Ford (2003)
  4. Tristan Thompson (2011)
  5. D.J. Augustin (2008)
Sixth man: Avery Bradley (2010)

The rest: Daniel Gibson, Dexter Pittman, Damion James, Royal Ivey, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph, P.J. Tucker, Chris Owens, Chris Mihm, Alvin Heggs, Lance Blanks, Travis Mays, Dexter Cambridge, B.J. Tyler, Terrence Rencher, James Thomas, Maurice Evans

Why they’re ranked where they are: Kevin. Durant. LaMarcus. Aldridge.

It’s not that simple. But the duo carries the most weight and responsibility for the program’s NBA legacy and standing in our “Path to the Draft” rankings.

In Durant, Texas is tied to a player who could end his career as one of the top 10 players in NBA history. And with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett likely retiring soon, the next great NBA power forward very well may be Aldridge, who has averaged at least 21 points and 8 rebounds in each of the past three seasons. He’s made the last two All-Star games and has evolved into one of the premier players in the NBA.

And he’s only 27. Durant is just 24. So the Longhorns’ stock will probably rise in the coming years.

It’s necessary to mention Durant and Aldridge because the rest of this list is not necessarily pristine when compared to the other teams we’ve ranked thus far and those we’ll unveil in the coming days.

T.J. Ford played eight years but a spinal cord injury interrupted a promising career. Still, he averaged 11.2 points and 5.8 assists per game.

Avery Bradley (9.2 PPG, 1.3 steals per game in 2012-13) could take on a larger role with the Boston Celtics or another NBA team in the future.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are building a strong post-LeBron James lineup. It certainly helps that second-year big man Tristan Thompson (11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG) looked like a future All-Star this season.

Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson hasn’t been the same player since James left town. But he’s just 27, so there’s still time to regain that old swagger.

Cory Joseph might have a future with the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s too early to know. There aren’t many 21-year-old point guards logging minutes in the postseason, though.

D.J. Augustin struggled with the Indiana Pacers this season, but he had three good years with the Charlotte Bobcats. Just five seasons into his career, it wouldn’t be prudent to pass judgment on his career yet.

Chris Mihm had a few solid years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Maurice Evans gets credit for longevity (nine years).

[+] EnlargeKevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)Ex-Longhorns Kevin Durant, right, and LaMarcus Aldridge should be NBA stars for years to come.
But Durant and Aldridge clearly anchor this list.

James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points (28 years old, 17 days) earlier this year. That record could be shattered soon. He has scored 12,258 points and won’t turn 25 until September.

The 6-foot-9 wing averaged 28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.3 BPG and 1.4 SPG this season. He shot 51 percent from the field. And he made 91 percent of his free throws.

Through six seasons, Durant established his place next to James on the game’s Mount Rushmore of future Hall of Famers and legends. He commands an Oklahoma City Thunder franchise that should remain in the NBA title picture for many years.

There are a lot of lists that utilize a variety of criteria.

We’re all about quality. And in our eyes, Durant, Aldridge and a few other noteworthy players are collectively worth more than a team such as Kansas that has produced dozens of NBA products but only one legitimate star since the 1989 NBA draft -- the cutoff for our rankings.

Texas is also top-10 because its best players have a lot of time left. We’ve already discussed Durant. Aldridge will earn more national recognition for his skills in the coming years. He’s a beast. Bradley and Thompson could rise in the next two or three seasons, too.

Yep, the Longhorns belong here.

Why they could be ranked higher: Durant is a superstar. His presence alone would justify a move up the rankings.

We’re measuring teams according to their abilities to produce NBA talent. And Durant has already had an NBA career that tops the pro achievements of entire programs.

And there’s so much potential with this group. Aldridge is a young star. Thompson will be.

If these were actual teams that competed against one another, it would be easier to make Texas’ case for a higher ranking.

Aldridge and Thompson inside. A bunch of solid guards in the backcourt. And Durant destroying defenders inside and outside.

Makes more sense now, right?

Why they could be ranked lower: So what’s the real difference between Texas (No. 10) and Syracuse (No. 20) and Kansas (No. 14)? The programs owe their rankings, in part, to the presence of superstars. But there was little substance among their respective squads’ overall pro legacies.

Durant is a stud. Aldridge could be an All-Star for the next decade.

But Thompson still has a lot to prove.

And this list features multiple players who fizzled once they reached the next level. J'Covan Brown, who left Texas prior to his senior season, isn’t even mentioned because he wasn’t drafted.

What else can Texas stand on -- other than Aldridge and Durant -- to justify its top-10 status?

What’s ahead?: There’s a bright future ahead for Texas. Durant could win a few titles. Aldridge might be the next great NBA power forward. Thompson could be the franchise star along with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. Bradley could blossom, too.

Even guys such as Augustin could improve.

Myck Kabongo entered this summer’s draft. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the NBA after limited playing time last season due to an NCAA investigation.

Texas is No. 10 right now, but a few years from now, the Longhorns might be even higher.

Final thoughts: There’s intrigue with this group because it features a multitude of current players. Its NBA rep could change soon.

Texas has produced one of the greatest players of this generation and another All-Star who’s matured into one of the league’s best power forwards. And Thompson, Bradley and others could boost the team’s profile soon.

Texas doesn’t have dozens of successful NBA players. But the ones who made it are some of the game’s most successful performers. We feel like if you have two of the league's top 15 players, you have to be right in the mix.

And there’s still room for this program to elevate its NBA profile, too.
There weren't too many major slips in last night's NBA draft; if anything, most of the players selected in the first round felt like they went higher than expected. There were no green room mishaps, no embarrassing Brady Quinn-style debacles. But for a few random, blasÚ trades, it was a relatively drama-free night.

Perhaps the only true slip of the first round -- if you can even call it that -- belonged to Texas small forward Jordan Hamilton. Before the draft, Hamilton was seen by many as a potential lottery pick. Some thought he could go top 10. Others thought mid-first round was just about right. Few seemed to predict what actually happened: Hamilton fell to the Dallas Mavericks (and was traded to the Denver Nuggets) at No. 26, 12 picks below the lottery threshold.

Hamilton seemed to impress scouts with his mixture of athleticism, scoring and versatility, and few players in the draft are capable of creating matchup problems the way the Longhorn can. So why the drop? Defense? Attitude? What about -- gasp -- sabotage?

In fact, Hamilton told Chris Tomasson (hat tip: Norlander) that his former coach, Rick Barnes, told NBA teams Hamilton wasn't "coachable." From Tomasson's Twitter feed:
J. Hamilton: “(Barnes) called some teams and said that I probably wasn’t coachable and things like that. But I feel like I can be coachable'

Asked Jordan Hamilton how knows Rick Barnes allegedly called teams and said not coachable. Wouldn't give names, said "got some feedback.''

More Hamilton on Barnes: “I love Texas and everybody is entitled to their opinion.’’ But Hamilton still later called Barnes “great coach.’’

Usually, this is the part where we criticize Hamilton or Barnes for ... well, I'm not sure what, exactly. Frankly, I don't see much wrong here. Far as I can tell, Barnes wasn't bashing his player or holding a grudge. He was asked for his opinion by NBA teams -- organizations filled with coaching contacts, old friends and colleagues -- and he was honest. Hamilton did have some coachability issues at Texas, and his penchant for wandering on defense undermined the huge strides he made on that end of the floor as a sophomore.

Nor does Hamilton seem to put off by the news. He wasn't petulant or angry. If anything, he seemed to expect it. He still called Barnes a "great coach." There seems to be some respect there. It's OK stuff all around.

Now, if I'm Barnes, do I want the world to know I may or may not have given the NBA a negative impression of one of my first-round draft picks? Probably not. That's not the sort of thing high-level recruits like to see. But Barnes has a long and impressive history of sending players to the NBA. (Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph were both drafted in the first round, Thompson all the way up at No. 4.) This little snafu certainly won't change that.

Texas adds another guard to recruiting class

May, 16, 2011
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Texas was one of the losers at the NBA draft deadline as Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph were among the players who decided to leave school. With the Longhorns also losing Dogus Balbay and Jai Lucas, who each completed their eligibility, the team needed another guard.

That issue appeared to be taken care of Monday when former Maryland signee Sterling Gibbs, the younger brother of Pitt standout Ashton Gibbs, announced his commitment to Texas on Twitter.

Sterling Gibbs was released from his letter of intent following the retirement of Gary Williams, who described the 6-foot-1 Gibbs on signing day as "a very smart point guard." According to the Washington Post, the writing was on the wall with the arrival of new coach Mark Turgeon.
The new coach said that if any recruits did not stay in the fold that it would be a mutual decision. This past Saturday, when Turgeon took a commitment from junior guard Seth Allen of Fredericksburg Christian, it was a clear indication that he was willing to part ways with Gibbs. Turgeon had recruited Allen when he was at Texas A&M and Allen said the two had developed a strong coach-player relationship.

In Gibbs, Texas gains a player who it could potentially play alongside J'Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo, the McDonald's All-American point guard from Canada who is expected to make an immediate impact.

It's also some positive news for the Longhorns, who have been hurt by the unexpected departures to the NBA and even seen state senators criticize a $200,000 raise for coach Rick Barnes amidst a state budget crisis.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona 70, Texas 69

March, 20, 2011
3/20/11
8:52
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TULSA, Okla. -- Thoughts on Arizona's 70-69 win over Texas:

Overview: Arizona advances after leading virtually all game, losing the lead in the final minute, and then pulling out the victory in a wild series of plays in the final 30 seconds. Derrick Williams' three-point play with 9.6 seconds left provided the winning points, and Texas' last chance ended with a missed J'Covan Brown drive and a melee for the rebound.

Turning Point: When Jordan Hamilton called timeout after grabbing a rebound with 14 seconds left and Texas up two, instead of holding the ball and waiting to be fouled. The Longhorns were called for a controversial five-second call on the ensuing inbounds, and Arizona got a chance to steal the game from there.

Key player: Arizona All-American Williams was frustrated for much of the game by the big and physical Texas front line, but he scored the Wildcats' final five points and finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.

Key stat: Brown, Hamilton and Gary Johnson scored 55 of Texas' 69 points, while center Tristan Thompson and the rest of the Longhorns struggled. Thompson finished with three points and six rebounds.

Miscellaneous: Arizona got contributions from just about everybody, most notably Solomon Hill (16 points and eight rebounds) and Jordin Mayes (16 points, 4-for-4 from 3-point range). They helped offset terrible games from point guard Lamont Jones and forward Jamelle Horne (both scoreless).

What's next: Arizona advances to play Duke in Anaheim in the West Regional. Texas goes home after another unsatisfying NCAA tournament.

Preview: Sunday in Tulsa

March, 20, 2011
3/20/11
8:00
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TULSA, Okla. -- This has become the Bill Self Subregional.

The Kansas coach is everywhere or, more accurately, his past is everywhere.

He’s an Oklahoma native and Oklahoma State alum whose first two head-coaching jobs were in this city, at Oral Roberts and Tulsa. Then he went to Illinois, where he succeeded Lon Kruger and preceded Bruce Weber.

Kruger played Weber Friday for the right to face Self Sunday. Weber won, which pits Self and Kansas against Weber and Illinois. And that means the subject of the mock funeral Weber held for Self early in his Illinois tenure -- in an effort to get players and fans alike to quit talking about the departed coach -- came up Saturday.

This also marks the second straight year that Self has faced an underdog that defeated UNLV to get to the Jayhawks. Last year it was Northern Iowa, and you know how that turned out -- also in a game played in Oklahoma.

But despite all the Self connections, that’s only half the matchup here. And the potential exists for two excellent games at the BOK Center Sunday night.

No. 5 seed Arizona (28-7) vs. No. 4 seed Texas (28-7), 6:10 p.m. ET (TNT)

What to watch: Can the Wildcats’ efficient offense produce against the Longhorns’ relentless defense? Arizona shoots 51.6 percent from two-point range and 39.6 percent from 3. Texas allows opponents to shoot only 42 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively. Whoever gets the advantage in that strength-on-strength matchup will probably win the game.

Who to watch: Arizona forward Derrick Williams against Texas’ Tristan Thompson. Williams is the guy who makes Arizona go, an All-American who has cranked his play up even higher -- through four postseason games he is averaging 22 points and 8.5 rebounds. Williams also had the spectacular blocked shot that clinched the game against Memphis on Friday -- but Thompson is the guy who swats shots in bunches. The freshman rejected a career-high seven of them against Oakland, and he’s likely to get the first defensive call against Williams.

Why to watch: Arizona has been must-see TV its past two games, winning one (Memphis) and losing one (Washington in the Pac-10 tournament final) at the very end. Texas has at times looked like the best team in the nation, including for about 30 minutes against Oakland on Friday. And there will be plenty of future NBA players on the floor, whenever they decide to turn pro.

What they’re saying: “I’m coming back next year. I’ve already signed up for summer classes.” -- Texas’ Thompson, who projects as a lottery pick but delivered that news in the Longhorns locker room Saturday. Now we’ll wait and see whether he really means it.

“He’s not going to like this, but he took a lot of shots. That’s just his game. Any kind of shot is a good shot for him.” -- Williams on former AAU teammate Jordan Hamilton, volume-shooting forward for Texas.

“It’s overwhelming as a coach that’s getting ready to play against Texas to watch him offensive rebound. … He might be the nation’s best offensive rebounder.” -- Arizona coach Sean Miller on Thompson.

Of note: Both schools have demonstrated impressive recruiting reach. Arizona has two players from New York and one from St. Louis in its probable starting lineup, plus a pair of Californians. Texas starts one Texan, Gary Johnson, but otherwise fills out its first five with two Canadians, a Turk and a Californian.

No. 9 seed Illinois (20-13) vs. No. 1 seed Kansas (33-2), 8:40 p.m. ET (TNT)

What to watch: Last year at this stage, the top-seeded Jayhawks felt the pressure and played tightly against underdog Northern Iowa in a shocking loss. Self said he wants this year’s team to relax and enjoy the NCAA experience, but acknowledged that he thought Kansas was again tight for a half against Boston University on Friday. Illinois, meanwhile, should be afforded the chance to play with a relaxed attitude. The seasoned Illini are significant underdogs with nothing to lose, and a victory would redeem what has been a disappointing season. Kansas has the better team, but also the greater pressure.

Who to watch: Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey. Leading his team in both scoring (14.9 points per game) and assists (6.1), he’s vital to the Illini’s chances. Especially his distributing. They’re 15-0 this year when McCamey dishes out seven or more assists. For Kansas, the focal point of Self’s pound-it-in offensive approach is the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff. They’ll take their muscular physiques and all-court games up against an Illinois front line that has an abundance of length but not the same amount of girth.

Why to watch: After what happened last year to KU in the round of 32, miss this game at your peril. But also because Illinois, if it plays the way it did Friday against UNLV, could have a legitimate chance to win.

What they’re saying: “Last year we were kind of No. 1 the whole season, and everyone had us picked as the favorite. I don’t know if that was more of a burden to us than a good thing. We’re not trying to hold onto anything this year. We don’t have anything to hold onto.” -- Kansas guard Tyrel Reed, on the (slightly) lesser pressure on the Jayhawks this season.

“When he plays and plays well, we’re a top team in the country. We can compete with anybody.” -- Weber on McCamey

“I wouldn’t say he’s one of my best friends, but we have a cordial relationship.” -- Weber on Self.

“I have total respect for him as a coach. … But we’re not close. We don’t talk.” -- Self on Weber.

Of note: One of the things that makes Kansas so hard to cover is the shooting ability of its guards. If defenses distort themselves too much to collapse on the Morris twins inside, they risk leaving Reed, Brady Morningstar and Tyshawn Taylor (among others) open on the perimeter. And lately, that’s been a bad trade-off. In KU's past two games, the Big 12 title game against Texas and the NCAA opener against BU, the Reed-Morningstar-Taylor trio has made 12 of 25 3-point shots. ... Weber had no update on the status of swingman Jereme Richmond, who was suspended for the UNLV game for what the coach termed a violation of "athletic department team rules." Weber said the school will discuss Richmond's status privately Saturday and make an announcement on his status Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Texas 85, Oakland 81

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
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TULSA, Okla. -- Quick thoughts from Texas' 85-81 win over Oakland Friday afternoon.

Overview: Texas played about 30 minutes of dominant basketball and 10 minutes of shaky basketball in defeating the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland mounted a spirited comeback that got as close as five points in the final minute, and had a Reggie Hamilton 3-pointer spin out that could have cut the deficit to three, but couldn't come any closer. The Longhorns' size played a major factor in limiting Oakland inside.

Turning point: Leading by seven points early in the second half, Texas went on an 11-2 run to boost the lead to 16. Oakland was in serious catch-up mode after that.

Key player: Tristan Thompson won a high-level paint battle with Oakland's Keith Benson, racking up 17 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven blocked shots.

Key stat: Texas has been a wobbly free throw shooting team this season but made 80 percent of its attempts on Friday, which helped the Longhorns preserve their lead late.

Miscellaneous: Jordan Hamilton's 3-point struggles continued for Texas, but he drove the ball with authority to finish with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow sophomore J'Covan Brown led the Horns with 21 points and also chipped in six rebounds.

What's next: Texas moves on to the round of 32 to face the winner of Memphis-Arizona. Oakland ponders life without Benson.

Previewing Tulsa: The day games

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
7:06
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TULSA, Okla. -- The NCAA tournament is back here for the first time in 26 years, and in a shiny modern arena -- the BOK Center.

Historically speaking, this has been a good town in which to launch a big tournament performance. In five previous NCAA tourneys in Tulsa, four teams have started their Final Four run: Houston in 1982, Notre Dame in 1978, Louisville in 1975 and Kansas in 1974.

The Jayhawks, here as the No. 1 seed in the Southwest Region, certainly hope that history repeats, as opposed to their catastrophic NCAA history elsewhere in the state. Kansas was shocked in the second round last year in Oklahoma City, and in the first round by Bucknell in 2005.

A brief breakdown of the two day games Friday:

No. 13 seed Oakland (25-9) vs. No. 4 seed Texas (27-7), 12:15 p.m. ET (CBS)

What to watch: This will be a primo interior matchup, and the winner in the paint may win the game. The Golden Grizzlies have one of the best big men in the country in 6-foot-11 Keith Benson, the Summit League Player of the Year who averages 18 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocked shots. But he’s going up against the Longhorns’ array of physical postmen, led by freshman Tristan Thompson (13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks). Texas might be the best interior defensive team in the nation.

Who to watch: The most talented player on the floor will be Texas forward Jordan Hamilton, a versatile scorer who at 6-foot-7 is a matchup nightmare. Most importantly for the Longhorns, Hamilton appeared to get his shooting stroke back at the Big 12 tourney in Kansas City, where he made 48 percent of his shots. In the previous six games, half of them losses, Hamilton made just 31 percent of his field goals. If Hamilton is hot, it will be tough for Oakland to win.

Why to watch: This has upset potential. Oakland is a very talented offensive team that got valuable NCAA tourney experience last season and played a rigorous non-conference schedule to prepare for this moment. Texas is a national title contender -- but is also not invincible. And if Thursday afternoon showed us anything, anyone can be beaten -- or at least taken down to the wire.

What they’re saying: “I don’t think we’re scared,” Benson said. “We’re coming in with the mindset of getting the upset.” … Thompson, on Texas’ late-season struggle: “To be honest, we totally forgot about that. We’re not focused on what happened in the past. Situations happen, and we got the losses and that’s good for us to experience those heartaches. But now it’s tournament time. We know it’s a lose-or-go-home situation, so now we’ve got to pull up our socks and it’s time to grind.” (It is assumed the freshman meant win-or-go-home, but that was the quote.) … Oakland coach Greg Kampe, on seeing President Barack Obama pick Texas in his bracket for ESPN: “I didn’t vote for him either, so I guess we’re even now.”

Of note: The Grizzlies have played seven teams in this tournament and went 1-6 against them. The victory was at Tennessee. The losses were against Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and West Virginia. Texas is 8-5 against the NCAA field. … Oakland has won eight straight and averaged more than 90 points in that span. In other words, it would love to turn this game into a shootout. … Texas has advanced to 12 straight NCAA tournaments, and has won at least one game in eight of those.

No. 12 seed Memphis (25-9) vs. No. 5 seed Arizona (27-7), 2:45 p.m. ET (CBS)

What to watch: Which green group handles the pressure of the tournament best? The Wildcats have only two players who played meaningful minutes in Arizona’s previous NCAA tournament game -- Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne combined to play 57 minutes and scored five points in a Sweet 16 blowout against Louisville in 2009. Not a single current Tiger played in Memphis’ previous tournament game, a Sweet 16 loss to Missouri in ’09. The Tigers’ coach, Josh Pastner, has never led a team into a Big Dance game either.

Who to watch: The best player on the floor is Arizona forward Derrick Williams, a 19-point, 8-rebound guy who can get his points efficiently -- and from anywhere. He’s a 62 percent shooter, a crazy 60 percent from 3-point range and 74 percent at the line, where he takes 8.5 foul shots per game. Memphis has some size in Tarik Black and Will Coleman, but the question is whether either can check Williams all over the court.

Why to watch: To see which traditionally powerful program is on the rebound fastest. Both missed the Big Dance last season after coaching changes, and both now have taken steps back to national contender status. Arizona (four Final Fours, one national title) won the Pac-10 regular-season title this year to re-establish itself in Year 2 under Sean Miller. Memphis (three Final Fours, no titles) had to earn its bid by winning the Conference USA title on UTEP’s home court in Year 2 under Josh Pastner.

What they’re saying: Coleman, on the youth of the Tigers: “We’re all goofy. We’re a goofy bunch of guys that just like to have fun, and there is nothing wrong with that."

Williams, on choosing Arizona over Memphis in recruiting: “That’s all I did is ate barbecue the whole time (on his official visit to Memphis). It was a great time, a great experience for me. … Pastner did recruit me very hard. Like I said, I couldn’t go wrong either way whether I chose Arizona or Memphis, but I’m glad I chose here.”

Pastner, on the feeling of winning the C-USA tournament Saturday and seeing Memphis in the field the following day: “Those 40 hours, it was probably the greatest 40 hours of just adrenaline, of emotion, of just being happy that you can experience. If somebody came to me today and wanted to give me $100 million to trade for that, I wouldn’t. I mean that.”

Of note: Tulsa is a Memphis-friendly location. The city is only about a six-hour drive, so expect a fair amount of Tiger blue in the stands. … Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said he spoke with Miller earlier this week and that Miller has “zero interest” in other jobs, most notably North Carolina State, where he was a former assistant coach.
Yes, the 2011 John R. Wooden Award finalists are here. The award is organized by the Los Angeles Athletic Club and voted on by "nearly 1,000 members of the media that cover college basketball," and if you're surprised at the idea that there are 1,000 college hoops writers in the world, well, you're not the only one. (Lots of those ballots go to columnists and generalists who don't specifically cover the sport year-round ... but that's a topic for another blog post on another day.)

Who made the cut? The list is below, and it includes pretty much everyone you'd expect from a list of college hoops' best and brighest individual stars. The rundown:
Well, done, Los Angeles Athletic Club. That is a borderline peerless list.

But it isn't perfect. The most notable omission (perhaps the only notable omission) is Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, who has been one of the best players in the country throughout the season. Ken Pomeroy's latest player of the year award list ranks Jones as the eighth-most productive player in the country this season, and while Pomeroy's POY metric doesn't account entirely for the defensive side of the ball, player of the year awards are never all that concerned with the defensive end -- Brooks and Burks probably wouldn't be on the list above if they were -- so Pomeroy's list is as good a statistical look as we have. And, well, yeah: Jones should be among the Wooden candidates. There's really no getting around it.

That said, his omission isn't criminal. Jones deserves some POY consideration, but let's be real: He's not winning the award. Nor are 19 of the players listed above. Unless something radical changes, Fredette is going to win the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards. If the voting does change anytime soon, the award is likely to go to Walker, Smith, or Sullinger.

In other words, this list has all the usual suspects. We'll see if any of the candidates has time to unseat the Jimmer in the weeks to come. It's unlikely ... but, hey, you never know.

Bracket Impressions: Andy Katz

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
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Quick hitters on the bracket:

  • The First Four will be a good watch. Well, at least the two games involving bubble teams. USC has proved it can beat just about anyone in the field. The matchup against VCU will be one of the better early-round games. Clemson is one of the toughest defensive teams in the field and UAB is one of the more controversial picks. Oh, and Kevin O'Neill has been reinstated to coach the Trojans, meaning there are plenty of storylines in Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • I liked Oakland as a possible Sweet 16 team when I watched the Golden Grizzlies early in the season, but once again it's all about matchups. I don't like Oakland beating Texas because of the Longhorns' ability to defend on the perimeter.

  • Wisconsin couldn't have drawn a worse matchup than sneaky-good Belmont. The Bruins can win a first-round game. The Badgers struggled against Wofford and Cornell last season and now Mike Bruesewitz is hurt. This isn't a positive draw for Wisconsin.
    [+] EnlargeBelmont's Ian Clark
    Don McPeak/US PRESSWIREIan Clark and No. 13-seeded Belmont could be a tough out for Wisconsin.

  • The committee doesn't play the matchup game. But geez, how odd is it that Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who played and coached at Arizona, has his first game as a head coach in the NCAA tournament against Arizona? UCLA and Ben Howland against Michigan State and Tom Izzo on the first day? Wow. It would have been hard to predict that in the preseason.

  • There will be blood during the Butler-Old Dominion 8-9 game in D.C. This is going to be a battle with two teams that like to grind defensively.

  • Florida State's Chris Singleton told me after the loss to Virginia Tech that he could have played in the ACC tournament but it was coach Leonard Hamilton's decision. He said he is going to play in the NCAA tourney. If he does, the Seminoles should beat Texas A&M.

  • Georgetown's Chris Wright said he's playing in the NCAAs. But the Hoyas didn't get an easy draw. The Hoyas have to prep for two different styles in USC and Virginia Commonwealth. The better matchup for Georgetown would be VCU. USC has the bigs in Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson that could cause problems for the Hoyas in the second round.

  • The two toughest teams to predict in the Southwest Regional are playing in the 8-9 game. UNLV and Illinois have shown flashes of playing at a high level or looking very pedestrian. Neither team can beat Kansas.

  • Vanderbilt can't catch a break. The Commodores drew hot mid-majors Siena and Murray State in recent tournaments and lost to both in the first round. Richmond is on a roll right now with the A-10 title win. The Spiders will be a trendy 12-5 upset pick.

  • A Purdue-Notre Dame Sweet 16 game in San Antonio would be an intense affair. JaJuan Johnson and Ben Hansbrough have the ability to put up monster numbers. But whoever wins that game will probably fall to Kansas. That's my pick.

  • Utah State finally may win a first-round game. The Aggies have been playing do-or-die type affairs for weeks with little margin for error. Kansas State was a bad stock to buy since the Wildcats have been all over the map. The Aggies have the personnel to get to the Sweet 16 and if Belmont were to upset Wisconsin, or even if it didn't, a win over K-State could pave the way for Utah State to get to New Orleans.

  • Pitt should breeze to the Elite Eight. I'll be surprised if it doesn't get to its first Final Four since 1941.

  • Gonzaga got an 11-seed, but got St. John's sans D.J. Kennedy. The Red Storm started the season losing to a WCC team at Saint Mary's and I think they'll end it losing to a WCC team in the Zags.

  • Jimmer Fredette could pull a Stephen Curry and lead BYU to the Elite Eight. The reason? The bracket is winnable for the Cougars. UCLA and Michigan State aren't getting out of the first weekend and Florida is beatable.
    [+] EnlargeBYU's Jimmer Fredette
    Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesBYU's Jimmer Fredette is the kind of player who can carry a team on a deep tournament run.

  • For much of the last two months, George Mason was a popular pick to go far in the NCAA tournament. But the matchups aren't favorable after Villanova. Ohio State has too much balance and strength inside for the Patriots.

  • Princeton can cause Kentucky's younger players problems, but the Wildcats have figured out how to play together more consistently. A Kentucky-Ohio State Sweet 16 game in Newark would be a tough ticket.

  • Marquette isn't playing well enough for me to buy into the Golden Eagles, but Tu Holloway can lead Xavier for a few rounds.

  • If Syracuse plays up to its potential, this bracket could open up for the Orange to at least get to the Sweet 16.

  • Isaiah Thomas proved he can be like Kemba Walker and Fredette, and make game-winning shots. Who takes that shot for Georgia?

  • North Carolina didn't defend well against Duke on Sunday in the ACC tournament but the Tar Heels will not lose in Charlotte. No way. The Tar Heels will be playing at home for two games. Book them to Newark.

  • I thought UNC could get to Houston, but I don't like the Tar Heels getting past the Buckeyes. It's all about matchups.

  • Paging Tennessee? Part of me is convinced the Vols are in position to be the most dangerous No. 9 seed. If the Vols play up to their potential, they could beat Michigan and Duke to get to the Sweet 16. But Tennessee could also lose badly to Michigan and the Wolverines' 1-3-1 defense.

  • Texas is a No. 4 after projecting as a No. 1 a few weeks ago. Which Texas team will show? If it's the one that is sharing the ball, defending and has Jordan Hamilton taking quality shots, then the Longhorns can knock off Duke and be on the doorstep of playing as host in Houston.

  • The bottom part of the West bracket will be about Kemba Walker. The UConn star led the Huskies to an incredible five-game run in the Big East tournament. Can he do it again in the NCAA tournament? Playing either Cincinnati or Missouri, assuming the Huskies beat Bucknell, is a good draw.

  • How about Temple playing Penn State, two schools from Pennsylvania playing in Tucson, and Louisville and Morehead State, two schools from the state of Kentucky, playing in Denver?

  • I'm done doubting Louisville's Rick Pitino. This Cardinals team has shot down every question and continues to win. The Cards could be playing Kansas in the Sweet 16 in San Antonio. Talk about a fun game.

  • San Diego State was treated well by the NCAA tournament committee. The Aztecs earned a No. 2 seed by losing to only one team -- even though it was twice -- in BYU. The Aztecs will play in Tucson and then possibly Anaheim. I like their experience, defense, fast tempo and half-court game. If D.J. Gay is on, especially defensively against elite guards in this bracket, then the Aztecs can advance. They're the one team not on the No. 1 line that I have getting to Houston.

  • This bracket will be dominated by star players having headline games, just like we saw during Championship Week.

  • We should see plenty of upsets, but when the Final Four is upon us in a few weeks, I don't see Ohio State or Kansas losing. I'm less confident in Pitt, but the Panthers have a favorable bracket. I'm going with OSU, KU, Pitt and SDSU.

Big 12 championship preview

March, 12, 2011
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Three things to watch when Kansas faces Texas.

Big men on big men

You won’t find many matchups with more skilled big men than the ones going to be on display Saturday when Kansas and Texas meet for the Big 12 tournament title. Kansas’ twins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, have the size advantage over Texas’ Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson, but the Longhorns have the league’s premier swing man in 6-foot-7 Jordan Hamilton. Johnson will draw the task of trying to shut down Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Morris. In the semifinal against Colorado, the Morris brothers each scored 20 points for the first time in the same game. They combined for 40 points and 21 rebounds. Thompson scored 13 in the Longhorns' win against Texas A&M on Friday and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. Making matters more interesting is the chippiness between the groups. Markieff Morris talked a little trash to the Longhorns waiting in the tunnel between games on Friday night, and the Longhorns reciprocated.

There’s no doubt about it, this game will ultimately be decided in the paint. Win the glass and win points in the paint, and the title is there for the taking.

The start

Kansas has stumbled to early deficits against Oklahoma State (seven points) and Colorado (12 points) before rebounding for wins, though it took a miss by the Cowboys at the buzzer for the Jayhawks to advance.

The first time the Jayhawks played Texas, they sprinted to an 18-3 lead in the opening minutes before losing, 74-63. That loss ended Kansas’ 69-game winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse. The atmosphere in the Spring Center will be similar this time around, but Kansas might find making a comeback much more difficult against top-10 team Texas. A good start will be important, and most often that means getting the Morris twins touches early on.

Making history?

Big 12 titles are nothing new for Kansas, which is 7-1 in championship games. The Jayhawks have won the tournament in four of the past five seasons. Texas, meanwhile, has never won the Big 12 tournament, and neither has any other team from Texas. The Longhorns are 0-5 in championship games. They’ll get a sixth try tonight, with a chance to make a little history and reserve a spot in Texas hoops history as a team that’s done something no other Longhorns team has been able to achieve.

Casting our ballots: Big 12

March, 2, 2011
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A quick look at the player and coach of the year races in the Big 12:

Player of the Year

[+] EnlargeMarcus Morris
Anthony Gruppuso/US PresswireKansas' Marcus Morris is averaging 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Marcus Morris’ improvement has been dramatic, enabling him to step into one of Kansas’ vacant leading-man roles after being a complimentary part his first two seasons in Lawrence. Morris has raised his scoring average from 12.8 to 17.3, his rebounds from 6.1 to 6.9 and his assists from 1 to 1.4. He’s also shooting 61 percent from he field and a no-fluke 36 percent from 3-point range (23 made 3s on the season).

Combine that with KU’s top-five ranking and leading position in the Big 12, and Morris is my narrow choice over Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, Colorado swingman Alec Burks and Texas forward Jordan Hamilton. All of them have their flaws.

Pullen has been the best player in the league of late, but he was suspended three games for NCAA rules violations and failed to take the leadership role Kansas State was lacking early when it floundered under high expectations. Burks might be the league’s biggest talent and has had a fine year, but he plays for a mid-pack team -- and this is a team game, so team results matter. Hamilton is a devastating offensive player when he’s locked in, but he’s shot horribly and indiscriminately as the Longhorns have lost three of their past four, and he seems to be backsliding to some of his bad freshman habits.

So I’ll go with Morris, but there’s plenty of room for disagreement here.

Coach of the Year

I’ll cast a somewhat tepid vote for Texas A&M’s Mark Turgeon. Every time I watch the Aggies play, I come back to the same thought: How does this team have the record it does? There is no great talent, no surplus of athleticism, no sprawling collection of McDonald’s All-Americans -- yet still, A&M is in the upper echelon of the league. Its 22 victories (nine in Big 12 play) owe a lot to the coach, who has been a consistent winner where many never thought it could be done.

Turgeon lost his top three scorers and leading rebounder from last season’s 24-10 team, and it really hasn’t mattered. The Aggies, picked to finish sixth in the preseason, still are successful in a tough league (currently third) and have a couple of quality nonconference wins as well (Temple and Washington). They turned freshman role player Khris Middleton into a go-to scorer as a sophomore, more than doubling his average from last season (7.2 to 14.6), and filled in everyone else around him.

So he’s the choice (narrowly) over Kansas’ Bill Self, Texas’ Rick Barnes and Colorado’s Tad Boyle. As with the player of the year, you can make a compelling case for any of those guys. But the choice here is Turgeon.

Click here to find out who our panel of 15 experts picked in each of the nation's 10 best conferences.
Throughout November, December and January, there was always that sneaking suspicion, that voice in the back of your head: Could Texas, like last year's baffling team, still fall apart?

[+] EnlargeJordan Hamilton
Bruce Thorson/US PresswireJordan Hamilton and Texas are searching for answers during an unexpected rough stretch.
I thought we were well past that point. After all, the Longhorns weren't just beating their Big 12 foes: They were, thanks to an historically stifling defense, pulverizing them. Texas won its first 11 Big 12 games by an average of 16.4 points. The only team to hold them to single digits in that span was Baylor, which lost 69-60 in Austin, and the stretch also included a thoroughly impressive 11-point win in Lawrence, Kan.

As of Feb. 16, this team looked like a No. 1 seed. Heck, it looked like the best team in the country. With a defense this good, there was no chance the Longhorns could fall apart, right?

In the immortal words of Charlie Murphy: Wrong. Wrong.

After last night's home loss to the surging Kansas State Wildcats, Texas is at sudden risk of repeating last year's dramatic conference collapse, only later in the season and in even more unexpected fashion. Last year's No. 1-ranked Horns started to dissolve early in conference play, early enough to eventually slip all the way to a 9-7 record in the Big 12 and a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. This year's slide -- if this is truly a slide -- won't be nearly as precipitous if only because the Longhorns don't have enough time left in the season to fall below, say, a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. But considering how well this team played deep into February, it might be just as dramatic.

So: Are the Longhorns really sliding? Does losing three out of four, two of which came on the road to desperate bubble teams, and one at home to a suddenly swag-tastic Kansas State bunch, really constitute a slide?

This much is for sure: In those three losses, Texas's defense has gone missing. From Basketball Prospectus's John Gasaway:
Just a few short days ago the Longhorns were on-track to have by far the best defense that any major-conference team has shown us in recent years. But in losses to Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas State (hardly a murderers' row of offenses, by the way) the Horns have allowed 1.17 points per trip. What in the world happened? The other teams' shots, finally, started to fall. In those three losses opponents have made 55 percent of their twos and 38 percent of their threes. Last night in K-State's 75-70 win in Austin, Rodney McGruder and Curtis Kelly shot a combined 14-of-24 for the Wildcats. Two weeks ago the very idea of posting such numbers against this defense would have been outlandish. Lastly Texas is simply fouling more often. This is more than a defense simply coming back to the pack. It's a defense coming apart at the seams.

It hasn't helped that Jordan Hamilton and the rest of Texas's offense has disappeared, too. Hamilton, once a player of the year candidate, is 15-of-58 in the losses to Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State. The rest of the Longhorns haven't been much better. Still, Texas has averaged 1.12 points per possession in the three losses, and besides, Texas' offense has never been its key feature this season. That feature is -- or at least was -- its defense. You don't need tempo-free stats to realize that giving up 58 points in the second half to Colorado is a good sign your defense isn't playing very well.

Where do the Longhorns go from here? Rick Barnes, for his part, doesn't care about the criticism -- familiar thanks to last year's collapse --- that is sure to start swirling around his team's suddenly underwhelming play. From the New York Times's Pete Thamel:
“I would have cared 10 years ago,” he said of critics questioning his 19-18 N.C.A.A. tournament record. “This is not the most important thing in my life. It’s what I do, but it’s not the most important thing in my life.” [...]

“I don’t care,” Barnes said late Tuesday of the criticism. “I’ve been in this so long, I could care less about what other people think. I quit a long time ago worrying about that.”

Hamilton shares his coach's apathy, for lack of a better word, about fans' sudden and understandable hesitancy in picking the Longhorns in their theoretical 2011 NCAA tournament brackets:
“Honestly, I don’t care what nobody thinks as far as trusting Texas or anything like that,” Hamilton said.

So, yes, Texas is struggling. Its head coach is already deflecting meta-questions about his perception. Its star player is defiantly dismissing doubting outsiders. Its defense is disappearing. Its offense can't carry it through.

And still, all is not lost. It's important to keep this in perspective. Sure, Texas has lost three of its past four games. Sure, the Longhorns aren't locking anyone down. But it's only three games. There's nothing inevitable about this, nothing that says Texas has to keep playing worse and worse as the season goes along. It might feel that way. Last year's team never turned it around. But last year's team wasn't ever as good as this one, and you don't dominate for as long as this Texas team did without some serious ability backing you up.

For much of the past year, Barnes and Hamilton have talked about their team's leadership and chemistry, how last year's team was never on the same page, how personalities clashed, and how this year's team would be different. For most of the season, it has been. For the past three games, it has not.

So, no, you can't fault Texas fans for hitting the panic button. They should be. But you can remind them that three games does not a season make. You can remind them that one win is all it takes to right the ship, to unlock the ability that can mysteriously go missing in the midst of a college basketball season. You can remind them, in case they need proof, that the team that beat them last night -- Kansas State -- was in this exact place just two weeks ago.

Nothing in college hoops is ever preordained. Two bad weeks can be a nightmare. Two good ones can be a dream. But the next two weeks are always just around the corner, and those are always the most important.

Katz: Observations from the week

January, 24, 2011
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1. The coach of the year race may come down to three recognizable names: Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, Texas' Rick Barnes and San Diego State's Steve Fisher. At this point in the season, Calhoun may be the favorite with the Huskies picked near the bottom of the Big East. UConn does have the potential player of the year in Kemba Walker, but the Huskies still had to find ways to win against Michigan State, Kentucky, at Texas, Villanova and Tennessee in a collective manner and Calhoun has molded this young team around Walker. It has been his best coaching job in years, despite missing the first practice while at an infractions hearing answering questions about whether he promoted an atmosphere of compliance. The irony is that Calhoun just signed a new four-year deal last spring amid an unexplained absence last season that appeared like he might retire. Now he's looking as energized as ever.

Barnes has done a sensational job with the Longhorns, a year after his most difficult season. Texas is doing a masterful job of winning big-time games at Michigan State, over North Carolina in Greensboro and at Kansas as well as asserting itself over Texas A&M to become the top team in the Big 12. Barnes is maximizing the talent and has Jordan Hamilton playing within the system after he never turned down a shot last season. The defense has been solid and freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph came in ready to contribute at a high level.

Fisher is completing quite a career turnaround after being fired at Michigan. The Aztecs were the Mountain West Conference preseason favorite and they are living up to the hype. San Diego State has experience at all five positions and has won games playing quickly and in the half court.

2. Pitt is the best team in the Big East. If there were any doubts all you had to do was watch the start of the game against Syracuse and then see how the Panthers held on to win that game at the Petersen Center. Pitt has the most experience of any team in the Big East and it has showed. The only blip was getting pushed around against Tennessee in the Pittsburgh Penguins arena. Pitt did beat Connecticut at home and Texas in New York, so the Panthers do have a rightful argument to be the second best team in the country behind Ohio State. Pitt isn't as talented as it was two seasons ago when it was a layup away from a Final Four. But with the Big East champ likely getting a No. 1 seed, the Panthers could be on a similar path to the Final Four.

3. Under the radar moves. One of the least publicized coaching moves happened in Conference USA when Donnie Jones went from Marshall to Central Florida, and Tom Herrion moved on from being a Pitt assistant to Marshall. The moves couldn't have turned out any better for both schools. Jones led Central Florida into the Top 25 earlier this season. Now, the Knights and their youthful roster have hit the skids, falling to 1-4 in the conference. But the Knights are 14-4 overall and did knock off Florida and Miami on neutral courts.

Meanwhile, Marshall beat West Virginia earlier in the week in a nonconference rivalry game. Marshall, like UCF, has been nipped in C-USA, losing by one to East Carolina on Saturday to drop to 1-3, but both teams are a tough out for every C-USA opponent. You can expect that Marshall and Central Florida, which have arguably combined for the best nonconference wins in the league, to be pests throughout the conference season.

4. Florida State is the second best team in the ACC. That's the answer to the ACC's season-long question after this past week. Now it looks more like the Seminoles' loss at Auburn was the fluke, not beating Duke or holding on to beat NC State after that win. Florida State went on the road this past week and beat Miami, and then came back home to beat Boston College. The Seminoles have one of the best players in the country in Chris Singleton -- who can defend Kyle Singler well -- and suddenly a more than capable side act in Derwin Kitchen. The Seminoles aren't as offensively challenged anymore. Leonard Hamilton has this team playing up to its potential and in position to -- gasp -- win the ACC. Fear not ACC fans there will be at least two NCAA tournament teams with Duke and Florida State.

5. Not so fast. OK, so I got ahead of myself when I made my bold prediction that Colorado would make the NCAA tournament. But that's because I thought CU was past blowing road games it should win. The Buffaloes lost at Nebraska and at Oklahoma last week. Colorado now has to make up for it somewhere else, like at Baylor, and can't afford to lose at Texas Tech and Iowa State if the Buffs are going to make the NCAAs. Road games at Kansas and Missouri are highly unlikely. That also means that home games against Kansas on Tuesday, Kansas State on Feb. 12 and Texas on Feb. 26 have grown in importance. Colorado started off with three quality wins over Missouri, at Kansas State and over Oklahoma State, but that clearly wasn't enough. Losing to USF in overtime in San Francisco doesn't look as bad after the Dons beat Gonzaga and at least the Harvard loss was on the road and the Crimson did beat BC. Now the Buffs are in the middle again, unsure of which way they will go if they're not careful.
The ghosts of disappointments past continue to haunt the Texas Longhorns in the present. We all know the story by now: Last year's Longhorns started 17-0, rose all the way to No. 1 in the nation, and appeared to be one of the three or four teams capable of winning the 2010 national title.

Then the wheels came off: The Longhorns lost 10 of their final 17 games, finished sixth in the Big 12 with a 9-7 record, and bowed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a loss to Wake Forest. It was a huge collapse -- from title contender to tourney also-ran -- and it forced the consistently successful Rick Barnes to answer questions about his ability to do more than merely assemble talent.

This year's Texas team has shown no signs of such collapse, but January is when Texas lost its mojo last year. In other words, those who follow Texas closely -- like Austin Statesman columnist Cedric Golden -- are still a little worried about this team's ability to follow through on its impressive start to the season. From Golden:
Are we witnessing the 2010 season all over again? Are the 15-3 Longhorns playing the role of title contender in this season's first half only to disappoint their fan base with another NCAA flameout at season's end?

If true, Texas is following the playbook nearly to a T, entering Saturday's showdown at No. 2-ranked Kansas. The Horns are playing with tremendous confidence and energy with an offense that's much friendlier on the eyes.

It's been a nice ride. So far. Forgive the journalistic skepticism, but last season provided proof that good starts are no guarantee to great finishes.

There's no telling what the future holds. The current batch of Longhorns looks great. They've offered no hints that anything resembling a collapse is imminent. But that was the thing that made last season's collapse so truly confusing: The Longhorns didn't offer any hints with their early play -- whether statistically or from the good old-fashioned eye test -- that they'd take so significant a dip by the time the season was out. You can see why this would cause some psychological damage. Like an abused dog, it's going to take time for Longhorns fans to trust the new entity to which they are so devoted.

There's no remedy for it. It just takes time. But Barnes' latest team is a group that features a thoroughly improved and thoroughly efficient Jordan Hamilton, a productive freshman big man in Tristan Thompson, and a host of guys (Cory Joseph, Dogus Balbay, and Gary Johnson) who appear to have excellent chemistry. This team plays truly excellent defense, and if it's clicking on offense -- as was the case in their blowout win over A&M Wednesday -- it's very, very tough to beat. Keep it up, and Longhorns types will have no choice but to buy in.
A few scattered thoughts on Texas' dominant 81-60 win over Texas A&M on Wednesday:

  • If you're Texas, you can't ask for a much better first-half performance. Dogus Balbay and company did what they've been doing to most opponents this season, forcing Texas A&M to a 44 percent effective field goal percentage in the first 20 minutes. According to Ken Pomeroy, Texas is the best team in the nation at defending opposing scorers as measured by effective field goal percentage. No surprise, then, that this is one of the five best defenses in the nation. Unable to handle UT's man-to-man pressure, A&M scored .95 points per possession in the first half, well below its season mark.
  • But the Longhorns weren't just defensively stifling in the early goings. They were offensively brilliant, too. Texas scored 1.36 points per possession in the first half, which is kind of insane for any team, let alone one averaging 1.12 points per possession (adjusted) for the season.
  • [+] EnlargeTexas' Jordan Hamilton
    AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas' Jordan Hamilton scored 27 points and had eight rebounds against Texas A&M.
    The first half set up Texas quite nicely for its second half, which was every bit as impressive as the first, if not more so. Jordan Hamilton (whom we'll get to in a second) hit a 3 with his little, effortless, barely-needs-to-jump stroke right out of the gate, which extended the Horns' lead to 15 at 42-27, a deficit from which Texas A&M never recovered. It's hard to say a game like this is over in the first few minutes of the second half, but in retrospect, that certainly felt like the end, didn't it? The Longhorns never let the Aggies in the game again.
  • Offensive outbursts aside, this Texas team will win with defense. The Horns are very, very good at that high-pressure man-to-man, which they extend all the way to the half-court line. Texas doesn't force many turnovers, but it doesn't need to. As Bob Knight said on the broadcast, this group is excellent at simultaneously pressuring the ball while containing its assignments and committing minimal fouls. It's an excellent style in theory, but it requires supreme athleticism to execute. Fortunately for Texas, athleticism is not a problem.
  • Now, for Hamilton: It's time to put the sophomore swingman's name firmly in the Big 12 player of the year discussion. Hamilton scored 27 points on 10-of-14 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc, which, yes, means that Hamilton didn't miss a single two-point shot Wednesday night. He also added eight rebounds. Last season, Hamilton was an obviously talented, oftentimes erratic scorer; his flashes of offensive brilliance were marred by the sorts of dumb shots and silly mistakes that will get even the most promising freshmen into their head coach's doghouse. This year? Hamilton might be the breakout player of college basketball. He's gotten better in just about every regard. His offensive rating is 12 points higher than last season's mark. His shooting is vastly improved. His turnovers are way down, and he's a major help on the defensive glass. Perhaps most importantly, Hamilton has put all of that offensive ability together with a solid approach on the defensive end.
  • Hamilton, in tandem with freshman Cory Joseph, has made Rick Barnes' life immensely easier. Why? Because Barnes doesn't have to juggle his lineups to find combinations that produce on the offensive end without suffering letdowns on defense. Hamilton's improvement is a major boon in this regard. So is the slightly better offensive play of defensive specialist Dogus Balbay. Add Joseph -- one of the most solid, all-around-excellent freshmen in the country -- and Barnes has a crew of guards that don't require the sort of one-in-one-out juggling act he performed for much of last season.
  • Texas A&M, as you might imagine, did not shoot the ball well; the Aggies were 16-of-39 from inside the arc. And no, the 3-point shooting wasn't much better (6-of-14, 42.9 percent). But A&M isn't a great shooting team generally. Instead, the Aggies win with rebounding, particularly on the offensive end, where they rebounded the fifth-highest percentage of their misses prior to Wednesday night's game, according to Pomeroy. The Ags typically rebounds about 41.1 percent of its misses. Tonight, they rebounded a mere 33.3 percent. As you can see here, A&M was thoroughly trounced in nearly every statistical category, tempo-free or otherwise. But no statistic is more important to this team than offensive-rebounding percentage, and on this night in Austin, Texas shut that down, too.
  • All in all, it was a thoroughly impressive performance from a team that appears to be the clear No. 2 behind Kansas in the Big 12, at least to this point in the season. The best part? In three days, we get to find out if that's the case. That's when UT travels to the Phog for a huge matchup with Kansas. If Texas plays nearly as well as it did at home Wednesday night, well, look out, Jayhawks. This team is good.

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