I love early season basketball tournaments when teams around the country face quality opponents. You get a true evaluation of where your program is, baby!
Rick Barnes has to be very happy with his young Longhorn team, even with a loss to Pittsburgh in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. You can see this Texas team is going to have a very good season because they have that special chemistry. Seeing them at Madison Square Garden, you could tell that they enjoy playing together as a team.
This group may not be as talented as last season, when the team had Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Avery Bradley, but the overall results should be better. Remember, Texas jumped out to a 17-0 start last season and then fell apart. It was a group that went from great expectations to falling short in the Big Dance.
I said before the season that Jordan Hamilton would have a breakthrough campaign. So far, he is proving me right. The sophomore forward dropped a career-high 28 points in the tournament championship game. He also helped lead the Longhorns to a quality win over Illinois in the semis. But what really impressed me is the way Texas fought back against a veteran Pittsburgh team. They simply would not go away and that resiliency had to make Barnes a proud coach.
Texas is very comfortable in the transition game, getting baskets off of the fast break. The Longhorns used their athletic ability to execute and take the ball to the basket. This team is not always as effective in a five-on-five scenario.
I was also impressed by the freshmen tandem of Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph. Thompson has terrific instincts and timing as a shot-blocker deluxe and I liked the way Joseph played under control when handling the basketball. A lot of young kids don't play with patience. Joseph did make a rookie mistake on his final offensive attempt against Pittsburgh, but I think he was just trying to draw a foul.
For now, Longhorn fans have to be happy with their prospects. Texas is very athletic and it will pay dividends. It has been a long season for the football program, so the fans in Austin have a lot to look forward to on the hardwood.