Opponent's name: Texas Longhorns
Location: Gill Colosseum
Head Coach: Rick Barnes (14th year)
Last season record: 28-8 (13-3 in conference)
Went to NCAA Tournament, lost in the second round (or third round) against Arizona
Player to watch out for: J'Covan Brown (averaged over 30 points in 2 games). Nuff said.
Despite having recruit Myck Kabongo, Texas is kind of flying under the radar. The Jayhawks and the Aggies of Texas A&M are expected to share the Big 12 title, while Texas remains close to the top. But is the past is indicative, there's no doubt that Rick Barnes is going to field yet another good team that will exceed 20 wins and again make the NCAA tournament. Keep in mind that despite the meltdown 2 years ago (where they had Avery Bradley, Dex Pittman, Damion James and Jordan Hamilton, all of them in the NBA) they were still a more-than-respectable 24-9.
Texas has talented players, and the list starts with J'Covan Brown, the junior guard. After averaging around 10 points in his first two seasons playing behind talented players, he is now the leading scorer, averaging 30 a game. Of course, his output has more to do with the competition (Boston U and a fast URI team) but it indicates that he is their go-to-guy on offense. He shoots 48% from the field (a number that will likely drop a bit) and shooting 40% from downtown.
With him is freshman Julien Lewis, who's averaging 14.5 points so far but is doing most of his damage from the outside. He canned 3 treys against Boston and 4 more against URI (shooting at a 50% clip from distance). Beyond that he is only shooting 42% from the field.
And of course, there is Myck Kabongo, the heralded Canadian point guard. Having been described as a blur with the ball, scouts also lauded his decision making and ability to get the ball to the right person at the right time. Right now, he's averaging 12 points and 8 assists while having only 3 TOs per game (over 2-1 assist-TO ratio). However, he is under 40% from the floor and from 3 point range.
There is less to say up front. There's freshman forward Jonathan Holmes (9ppg on 71.4% shooting) and Clint Chapman, the 6-10 post who paces the 'Horns with 6 boards while averaging 6.5 points per game and 2 blocked shots a game.
Clearly, the Longhorns will mostly use a small lineup, with Chapman being the exception. Once again, OSU's frontcourt has a chance to dominate inside, but it will be a sterner test. There is little depth outside of Chapman up front (except for Alexis Wangmene, a post player who doesn't contribute much on the offensive end). If the Beavs big men, like Brandt, Collier and Burton and Moreland, can control the paint or get Chapman into foul trouble early and often they have a great chance to win.
Of course, what to do with the backcourt? It's not wholly complicated, from my take. The Beavs need Kabongo to take as many ill-advised shots as possible, because he has not proven that he can make them yet. By ill-advised, I mean pull-up jumpers and floaters. Scouts said that Myck can make the 3-ball in catch and shoot/set shot situations but is vulnerable when attacking off the dribble. The dribble is merely there to draw defenders in and kick out for wide up shots for others. Again, force Myck to take alot of bad shots.
Stopping Brown will be an interesting question. My assumption is that they Beavs will use Cunningham to guard him (yet another great matchup) because of his athleticism. But any player guarding must get out and deny him the ball. He can't make a play if the ball is not in his hands, and denying the ball will force other players to beat the OSU defense, which is something I'll take a chance with.
It's the same for Julien; Deny the ball for him as well. But if he does get the ball, overplay him and force him to put the ball on the floor because he doesn't show that he could score beyond stroking a 3.
But of course, I admit that planning to stop them and actually doing so are two different matters altogether.
I am convinced that Coach Rob will play his starters a ton of minutes, not allowing the bench more than 10 minutes I think. However I am still interested to see whether there will be any bench contributors. Clearly Moreland will be in the mix, but I hope Roberto, Barton and Murphy could get some playing time as well, as long as they can defend their assignments.
However, I think Rick Barnes will spread the minutes to his bench as well, because it has always been like that for him. Last season, 9 players played over 10 minutes, and a 10th player averaged 9.6 minutes, so expect a lot of subs playing for some stretches and a bunch of different looks. This season, once again, 9 players averaged double digit minutes.
The Longhorns are kind of young; only 2 seniors playing 20 minutes, and 3 juniors with only 1 making key contributions (Brown). Get this, everyone else is a FRESHMAN (there are 6 of them). However, we can't count Coach Barnes out either. He's a very proven coach (13 straight NCAA tournament appearances, 1 Final 4) and will help to somewhat offset the youth in the team.
Prediction: Wow, this is a toughy. I would like to think that Texas will steal this one at Gill, but I will be a bit more optimistic this time around and say that the Beavers win this close contest. Cunningham slows Brown a little, the frontcourt controls and paint and the boards and Myck along with other Texas freshmen struggle to play in a (hopefully) rowdy environment. Beavs go to the line often and shoots well enough.