Archive for February, 2014

Texas Longhorns great Doug English inducted into the Texas Sports Hall Of Fame

Posted by    |    February 28th, 2014 at 10:24 pm

One of the all timers.

Texas Longhorns Football Spring Workouts Video Footage

Posted by    |    February 28th, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Bigger, stronger, faster, together-er!

Texas Longhorns @ Oklahoma Sooners: Red River Shootout, Swish the Nets Edition

Posted by    |    February 28th, 2014 at 10:47 am

If we can stop Hollis Price, we have a chance.

The Kansas Jayhawks have already locked up the Big 12 regular season title, but the race for the 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament rages on. Currently, the Texas Longhorns are tied with the Iowa St. Cyclones at 10-5 in conference play. The Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas St. Wildcats lurk at 9-6. If you’re curious how the script has flipped, check out the power rankings prior to conference play.

If Texas and Iowa State finish the regular season undefeated, Texas holds the tiebreaker thanks to its one win against Kansas. Of the teams in contention, the Cyclones have the hardest finish: @ K-State, @ Baylor, vs. OK State. Both the Bears and Cowboys are on bubble watch and will bring the wood. The Wildcats play @ OK State and finish the year vs. Baylor.

Meanwhile, the winner of the Texas-Oklahoma game this Saturday will have the best odds to finish second in the league. If Oklahoma wins, the Sooners will hold the tiebreaker over Texas thanks to a sweep of the Longhorns. If Texas wins, the Horns will be two games up on the Sooners. Oklahoma wraps up vs. WVU, @ TCU, while Texas gets vs. TCU, @ Tech.

Oklahoma has been moderately vulnerable at home, with an overtime loss to Louisiana Tech and loss to a 13-15 Tech team that punches above its record. The Sooners have also beaten the Cowboys, Cyclones, and Bears in Norman.

The Longhorns and Sooners opened conference play with a nailbiter of a game. A Demarcus Croaker 3 to tie didn’t fall, handing OU the win. The preview from that game still holds true. Je’Lon Hornbeak actually returned to play against Texas but has scored in double figures just once since then.

A few things I’ll be watching:

Isaiah Taylor vs. Jordan Woodard: the two freshmen promise to have a heated rivalry over the next few years. Woodard plays more like a facilitator and has a decent 3-point stroke, while Taylor prefers the lead guard role and does an amazing job getting to the rack. Taylor had a brutal game one, scoring 2 points and turning the ball over 3 times against 3 assists. I’m expecting a much better performance from him.

Perimeter scoring besides Felix: Javan Felix’s conference home-away splits have been well-documented in the open threads. So I guess expecting him to score 28 like he did in the first game is foolhardy. Demarcus Croaker played 26 minutes in that game, scoring 15, and followed that up with 26 minutes and 12 points at OK State. Since then, Croaker has been closer to Club Trillion status than anything else. Can he, Martez Walker, or Kendal Yancy provide some bench help?

Power up inside: Oklahoma went 13-28 from distance last game. The Sooners are a good 3-point shooting team, but not that good. If the Sooners regress to the mean from the perimeter, the difference in the game should be Texas’ inside presence. In Austin, Cameron Ridley had 14 and 8 and Jonathan Holmes 15 and 4. Nothing has changed: the Longhorns still have a significant height and bulk advantage inside, and need to leverage that differentiator.

The game tips at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. Unfortunately, it’s just available on the Big 12 Network or ESPN3.

Hook ’em.

Texas Longhorns 74, Baylor Bears 69: Post-Mortem

Posted by    |    February 26th, 2014 at 10:18 pm

A tale of two halves still resulted in a Texas W.

It was a tale of two halves for the Texas Longhorns.

In the first half, Texas could do no wrong. Rick Barnes deployed “Felix Island” to outstanding effect, taking Baylor sharpshooter Brady Heslip out of commission the entire first half. Javan Felix paid multiple visits to splashtown, knocking down five first-half 3’s. Isaiah Taylor got his mojo back, controlling the rhythm and flow of the offense. And Cameron Ridley dominated inside.

The second half saw Baylor exploit Texas’ three guard lineup, as Royce O’Neale used his 5 to 7-inch height advantage by posting up Texas’ third guard on multiple possessions. An ill-advised zone at the 10-minute mark resulted in a couple of Baylor 3’s. Jonathan Holmes came alive with a pretty midrange game to keep Texas floating along, but Baylor chipped away and brought an 18 point deficit all the way down to 1.

In the first 20 minutes, Texas hit its shots and was the aggressor on offensive boards. The script flipped in the second half. Baylor’s Kenny Chery ended up with a whale of a game, scoring 27 and generally abusing Demarcus Holland. Conversely, Isaiah Austin went 1-10 and had just 7 points and 3 rebounds. It was yet another head-scratcher from the enigmatic big, particularly given his size and skill advantage over Holmes.

Texas may have let its big lead dwindle, but the Longhorns showed resilience in the final minutes. Taylor caught Chery flat-footed and reeling (a little push-off didn’t hurt) to float in a clutch layup, then Ridley rose up to block a Chery jumper. I loved Taylor running around the court pushing the ball; he wanted to ice the game at the foul line.

On the night, Texas did a great job attacking Baylor’s 2-3 zone. A handful of post entry passes against the zone looked absurdly easy, but crisp perimeter passing gave the Longhorns those bunny opportunities. Taylor again flashed an uncanny ability to probe a defense, and Holmes and Lammert displayed a nice sense of midrange and high post availability.

Big Cam Ridley doubled it up, with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Felix led the way with 21 points. Holmes had 14 points and 8 boards, while Taylor had 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. Most importantly, Texas came away with a much needed victory, keeping them in the hunt for the 2nd seed in the Big 12 Tournament.

Saturday’s game in Norman against Oklahoma is a biggie. Hook ’em.

A Grand Unified Theory of Baylor’s Scott Drew

Posted by    |    February 26th, 2014 at 11:06 am

Baylor’s up-and-down season is a microcosm of his tenure in Waco.

Baylor comes into Wednesday’s game in Austin on a minor upswing, having won four straight games and getting themselves back into the fringes of the bubble. They survived home OT wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State and then soundly beat West Virginia in Morgantown. The Bears have four games left – if they can win their 2 home games and split their road games against UT and Kansas State, they should be in decent shape to make the Tournament.

After getting out to a 2-8 start to Big 12 play, it’s a minor miracle they still have a chance at the Big Dance. At the same time, after a 12-1 non-conference record that had them ranked in the Top 10, it’s a minor miracle they are on the bubble in the first place. That, in a nutshell, is the Scott Drew experience in Waco. As a coach, he has a bizarre combination of strengths and weaknesses that makes his program absolutely maddening to follow.

This year’s Baylor team has all the hallmarks of a Scott Drew-coached team. Namely, they have an absurd amount of talent that isn’t utilized properly. They are an AK-47 that Drew uses like a machete. He has multiple future NBA players on his front-line, but he doesn’t run an inside-out offense to take advantage of them. They are as athletic as any team in the country, yet Drew sticks them in a gimmick 1-3-1 zone that minimizes their strengths.

In a December game at Cowboys Stadium, Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson outplayed Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein, two future lottery picks. Austin, at 7’1 225 with the ability to shoot 3’s, put the ball on the floor and block shots, has as much raw talent as anyone in the country. Jefferson, an athletic and skilled 6’9 220 power forward, will have a 10-year career in the NBA. He can block shots, clean the glass, finish on the pick-and-roll and shoot the 20-foot J.

When you add Rico Gathers, a “6’8” 270 bowling ball with a surprising amount of skill, you can make the case that Baylor has the best three big-man rotation in the country. If they switched places with the Kansas big men, Bill Self’s program wouldn’t miss a beat. Nor does it take a genius to utilize big men like Austin, Jefferson and Gathers – just a coach who runs a half-court offense that moves the ball around the perimeter and pounds the ball inside.

The Bears (finally) seem to have figured this out in their recent four-game win streak. Austin and Jefferson have averaged 25 FGA’s in their last two games. It’s not rocket science – no one in the Big 12 can guard those two when they get the ball wthin 15 feet of the basket. Either they are scoring, grabbing offensive boards off the miss, getting fouled or getting double-teamed. When you play inside-out with skilled big men, it opens up the game for everyone else.

In contrast, the two only had 16 FGA’s in Baylor’s loss to Texas in late January. When Brady Heislip, Kenny Chery and Gary Franklin are hoisting off-the-dribble 3’s and not running any offense, the Bears are pretty easy to beat. As Shaq famously said, if you don’t give the big dog a bone, he’s not guarding the house. As a post player in high school, I can attest that there’s nothing more dispiriting than watching asshole guards jack up shots in the first 10 seconds of a possession.

Long misses lead to fast run-outs, making it hard for Baylor to set up their 1-3-1 hybrid zone. Drew’s obsession with the zone is one of the more bizarre things I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to emphasize what a poor strategic decision it is. The only other team in the country I can remember using the 1-3-1 in recent years is Northwestern. Coincidentally enough, their new coach junked the zone and has a team of underwhelming athletes playing excellent defense in the Big 10.

To see the problems with the 1-3-1, all you have to do is compare it with its far more popular cousin, the 2-3:

2-3_zone-top_medium

1-3-1_zone1_medium

The 2-3 concedes the top of the key, which very few college big men have the game to exploit, in order to press out on the three-point line, closing off the corner 3, the second most efficient shot in basketball. The 1-3-1, in contrast, creates openings all across the 3-point line in order to defend the the top of the key. And while 2-3 can trap you at any point in the floor, defenses have all day to exploit the 1-3-1, which can’t trap guards without creating massive holes on the back-line.

In non-conference play, where coaches have a limited amount of time to install a 1-3-1 game-plan and players have no familiarity with the length and athleticism of the Baylor defenders, the zone can be effective. However, in Big 12 play, when teams know the weaknesses of every opposing player and have seen the same defense for multiple seasons, it’s laughably easy for opposing coaches to slice up the 1-3-1.

That’s what happened in 2012, when Baylor started the season 17-0 and was ranked in the Top 5, before going 10-7 in the last two months of the season. However, the good news for Bears fans is that team managed to right itself enough to get a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make it all the way to the Elite Eight. In tournament play, the bizarre things Scott Drew does and the incredible athletic ability of Baylor’s players can make for a difficult match-up.

After taking Baylor to two Elite Eights in three seasons, Drew probably has a lifetime sinecure in Waco. At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that his victories were over a 14, 11 and 10 in 2010 and a 14, 11 and 10 in 2012. Perhaps a more telling indication of his coaching ability is Baylor’s two trips to the NIT Finals in 2009 and 2013. He’s been recruiting at the level of a Top 10 program for half-a-decade and he’s missed the Big Dance in 4 out of the last 6 seasons.

Part of what makes evaluating a college head coach so difficult is it’s really 2-3 different jobs poured into one. At its core, a college head coach is a GM and a coach – he’s Sam Presti and Scott Brooks. Scott Drew is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – watching him undermine his own recruits has become an annual tradition in the Big 12. Going forward, as long as he can keep recruiting DFW, Baylor should be OK, but they are never going to challenge Bill Self.

The reality is that if a coach isn’t a good GM and a good strategist, he’s replaceable. The Baylor job isn’t what it was a decade ago – it plays in one of the premier basketball conferences and it’s an hour drive from one of the biggest hotbeds of basketball talent in the country. For as much work as Drew has done to build their program up from the ashes, the Bears no longer need him. Let’s hope they don’t realize that anytime soon.

As far as tonight’s game goes, you can look at our preview from earlier in the season for a scouting report. If Baylor is committed to playing inside-out, doesn’t let our guards speed them up and has junked the 1-3-1 to play a solid man defense, it should be an excellent game that goes down to the wire. If they revert back to their old habits, though, it should be an easy win. Given that Scott Drew is their coach, I know which way I’m betting.