Archive for November, 2015

UH, Herman Agree "In Principle" on New Deal

Posted by    |    November 30th, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Tom Herman says he is staying at Houston, and that will make several fan bases searching for a coach very sad.

Tom Herman, the hottest name in the sport of “College Coaching Musical Chairs,” has apparently decided to sit this dance out.

Herman, the first year coach at Houston, with a glittering 11-1 record and a spot in the American Athletic Conference’s Championship game, said Monday that he and his UH bosses have agreed, in principle, on a new contract. Herman has been the hot name bandied about as many as 15 D-1 programs are already looking for a new football coach.

As expected, Herman left a little wiggle room, stating,

“These things take twists and turns along the way as sometimes (things) do, but I don’t anticipate that happening,” Herman said.

It looks like the two elite programs currently open are on the fast track to wrap up their searches. USC took the interim tag off of Clay Helton earlier Monday.

Georgia said goodbye to Mark Richt over the weekend, and seemingly have their sights set on Alabama DC Kirby Smart.

Smart, a former player and assistant for the Bulldogs, was the running backs coach under Richt at Georgia in 2005 before joining Nick Saban at the Miami Dolphins. Smart moved to Alabama with Saban and has produced a top 5 defense every year except one (2014) since getting to Tuscaloosa.

Lounging From the Island: Texas Longhorns vs. Michigan Wolverines

Posted by    |    November 27th, 2015 at 9:40 pm

In a surprising twist from two coaches known for their defensive wizardry, the Texas Longhorns and the Michigan Wolverines battled in an epic shootout that ended in a 78-72 victory for the Wolverines. This was hardly the expected outcome when you picture a Charlie Strong/Jim Harbaugh match up, but that’s the way football goes sometimes.

*holds finger to ear*

I’m sorry, I’m being told this was basketball. That makes a lot more sense.

Texas never led in this game; a number of comeback bids all ultimately fell short due to untimely defensive lapses, poor free throw shooting, and a Michigan quartet of guards that hammered NBA Jam mode again and again. Texas threw everything at them; from a 2-3 zone to a diamond press to Jordan Barnett(5 minutes!), Shaka Smart tried just about everything. Some of it worked(the diamond press), some of it didn’t(the 2-3 zone). Texas is now 2-3 on the season and they need to take care of business against the next 3 relatively easy opponents because North Carolina looms large on the horizon.

The 2015 Barking Carnival Basketball Mantra

“The gamble with a press(particularly of the trapping variety) is that your team will create more good outcomes than bad and distort the game in your favor, but this means as a Texas fan you’re going to need to increase your tolerance for bad outcomes as well.”

This is the first time Texas has deployed a press in a high-leverage situation, and it mostly worked. The diamond press is a zone press that looks a bit like a 1-3-1 extended to 3/4 court, and it managed to put the brakes on a red-hot Michigan team long enough to cut a 13-point lead to 1. It’s the first time I’ve seen SHART begin to really bother an opponent, and it portends brighter days ahead if the team can build off this game going forward. I don’t know that we’ll see much of the man presses this season, but the zone press could be viable with the length & quickness Texas has at its disposal.

The Good

Cameron Ridley

We’re about 5 games from renaming this section ‘Other Guys Playing As Well As Cam’. 5-5 from the floor – which would’ve been more if Texas fed the big man more effectively – 8 rebounds, and a block is a good night from the big man. At the start of the 2nd half, they fed him the ball two straight possessions. Anyone want to guess how many points Texas got from those possessions? Yea, 4. Maybe do more of that next game. I’m actually hearing some rumbles that his NBA stock is rising to the point he might get a tryout from somebody after he graduates, that’s how well he’s playing. The one knock is the same as the past few games: his free throws aren’t going in to date. If he fixes that, we’re cooking with gas.

Javan Felix

4-7 from the floor, 2-5 from 3, and only one questionable shot I can recall; also, he had active hands on defense and was scrapping on the floor for loose balls. Javan earned his 26 minutes tonight.

Eric Davis, Jr.

Eric doesn’t so much have a green light as Shaka’s tossing him the Green Lantern ring. 12 points in 17 minutes on 4-6 shooting, he’s one of the reasons Texas was in this game at all at halftime. He didn’t play much in the 2nd half when Texas was pressing, I imagine that’s a signal that Shaka doesn’t think he’s quite there on the defensive end. Still, his offense is enough of a net-positive that I’m willing to roll with his defensive lapses while he learns.

The Mixed Bag

Isaiah Taylor

7-14 from the floor is good, 8 assists to 1 turnover is excellent. So why is he here? 1-5 from 3 & 3-5 from the line. I know Isaiah needs to shoot some 3s to keep the defense from sagging off him, but he needs to make those 3s for it to matter. He’s 2-10 on the season from deep, and that number doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. For all the good he does driving the lane – and his desire to play defense is underrated – he hasn’t really progressed much from what he was last year.

The Bad

Free Throw Shooting

8-19 from the line is awful, period. In a game where Texas couldn’t quite get over the hump, missed free throws are throwing concrete in the flatbed. This needs to improve as the season goes on or it’s going to cost Texas at least a couple of games.

The Defense

Aside from what I mentioned about the diamond press earlier, Texas was bad on defense. They were biting on shot fakes all over the court, sagging too far off their man on the weak side – credit to Michigan for seeing it and making the passes – and made too many defensive lapses at critical moments. Some of the issues were ones of being overly aggressive, which is inherent in a system where you’re gambling, but it still hurts to see the team roll snake eyes that often. Michigan shot 58% from the field for the game, which is a crazy number even if their shooters are feeling it. Shaka was visibly unhappy with the defensive effort in the post-game press conference, it was a point he harped on in nearly every answer.

Texas finishes the tournament in 6th place with a 1-2 record, and for the first time all season they get to spend more than a week in their own beds instead of running around on a NBA travel schedule(thanks, Steve), so hopefully they’ll settle into a routine that improves their overall play. Their next game is at home against UT-Arlington, tip is 7p CT on Tuesday on LHN.

Shooting From the Hip:Texas Tech 48, Texas 45

Posted by    |    November 27th, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Not unlike the original Thanksgiving, this one taught a tough lesson about finding yourself on the wrong side of a war of attrition.

“I know he’s a good general, but is he lucky?”

– N. Bonaparte

“What if I told you that instead of gettin’ older, I was gettin’ younger than everybody else?”

– B. Button

On a Thanksgiving night when the Longhorns desperately needed to turn over a new leaf if they were going to hang on to bowl eligibility, a couple of familiar refrains forced their way to the fore.

The first was this year’s strain of buzzard luck that blew past “somebody broke a mirror” and transcended “the staff angered an old Gypsy woman” to land firmly in the territory of “Charlie broke into one of those ancient, pointy Egyptian granaries and disturbed a Pharoah at rest.”

The second was continuation of a tragicomic trend which ensured that outside of a few exceptions like Alex de la Torre and a quarter of Peter Jinkens (see Luck, Buzzard):  the younger you were, the better you played.

Offense

In the Abortive Pregame Writeup Murdered By Travel And Turkey Prep, I posited an offensive gameplan that was heavy on Kirk Johnson (and a dash of Rod Bernard) attacking the C/D gaps with Swoopes and Heard hitting up inside if the D overplayed the edge.  The thought was that even though Tech’s run D was uniformly wretched, surely they could simply outnumber and out-blitz a between-the-tackles ground game that relied on Flowers, Doyle and Right Tackle du jour to all sustain competitive blocks for at least one second.

Early on, it seemed that Jay Norvell had a similar thought process.

Texas got tricky out of the gate to the point of dabbling with the Double Barrel Shotgun as Swoopes and Heard shared the field on an early drive.  The run game huffed and puffed early on, and some OL penalties and drops (one iffy by Burt, one outright brutal from Daje) snuffed the Longhorns’ early drives in their cribs.

Given the season-long prevalence of Refrain #2, you had good odds that Senior Night would be redolent with irony.  But you could have dropped every fedora, man bun and pair of Buddy Holly specs and skinny jeans in East Austin into the Star Wars trash compactor (not a bad idea on its own merits, btw) and not come up with as much concentrated irony as the first quarter play where Taylor Doyle got driven into the backfield by a 280-pound dude while Sed Flowers staggered to the second level and split a pair of Tech defenders while touching neither.

Texas’ only offensive spark in the first quarter and a half of football was a 32-yard edge run by Johnson that was sprung thanks to some solid reach blocking work from Tristan Nickelson…and then Johnson got hurt running into an eight-man front with six blockers and no evident read from Heard.  Heard himself didn’t have much longer to go, banging his head on a rollout sack where Chris Warren was lost in Bolivian with Mike Tyson and gave up an absolutely free runner.  Swoopes took the helm and promptly missed a screaming open Lorenzo Joe before putting up a 50/50 ball down the left sideline that actually gets picked off about 5% of the time – unfortunately, Marcus Johnson’s reaffirmed that his Gaskamp campaign used every drop of gas it had on his tightroping score against OU.  With the quarterback looking lost and the Last Back Standing having shown next to nothing thusfar, it looked like the Longhorn O was about to turn in a dog-ugly evening.

Then, we got our first hint that The Last Back Standing might have other ideas.

In a play that will kick off Warren’s personal highlight reel for the next 50 years, he ducked a tackler two yards in the back field and made contact with seven Tech defenders – seven more than his left guard on the play, as it turned out – en route to a 91-yard score that knotted things at 10 apiece.  The O still wouldn’t get rolling in earnest for a while longer, though – there was still a Caleb Blueitt fumble to tee up Tech with its first non-comedy TD of the first half, and the Longhorns’ first drives of the third quarter got submarined by sacks and dodgy throws.

But for the next quarter and a half, the Warren & Swoopes Express would shovel coal into the boiler, blow the steam whistle and blaze a path down the highway.

The pair combined for roughly 775 rushing yards on Texas’ next four drives, with Warren breaking off double digits on seemingly every carry while Swoopes chipped in some tough runs and a pair of scores that included a 46-yard gallop that gave Texas its first lead since the first quarter.  Tackles were broken, shattered, splintered and outright erased from existence as the Raiders’ run D hit the bottom of the D1 charts and underwent a fourth-quarter relegation to NAIA.  The entire offensive front got itself in gear, but Alex de la Torre and Caleb Blueitt deserve special accolades for absolutely  erasing everything in their path.

Unfortunately the Longhorns’ own depleted D was suffering the depredations of Patrick Mahomes and DeAndre Washington, and the O wasn’t able to answer the bell in the final round.  Having spent most of the second half ahead of the chains, Texas landed behind them when the third illegal man downfield penalty in the history of the Big XII conference got called on Connor Williams.  Second and fourteen became fourth and seven, and a covered slant route led to an ill-advised Swoopes heave to an ill-equipped Daje to turn the ball over on downs.  The Longhorns managed one more quick TD following Tech’s score, but once a five-bounce onside kick ended up in Red Raider hands there were no more last chances.

Defense

The Red Raiders entered the game ranked second in the conference – and the nation – in Offensive S&P+, but early on it looked like Strong and Bedford’s bunch would be no more impressed than they were when The Unstoppable Bryce Petty rolled into town in 2014.

They started to roll out some vintage disguise and man/zone mix n’ match, forcing Mahomes to hold the ball longer than he wanted to and allowing an array of five- and six-man pressures to get home.  Texas forced an arm-punt pick on Tech’s first drive and ended the first quarter having forced a pair of turnovers and a brace of punts.  Malik turned in a vintage Derrick Johnson pursuit strip alongside another superhero play where he split a pair of pulling blockers to dump DeAndre Washington.  With the secondary balling out and everyone from Bryce Cottrell to Paul Boyette to Naashon Hughes getting into the pass rush mix, Texas turned in its best defensive quarter of the season.

Then, that pissed-off Pharoah stretched his withered, bandage-wrapped finger towards Austin and muttered,

“Tong’a benn carr sonn retardis Nubi tini round round.   Moseh Ya’weh rana locusta bulire sangus tymcoul.”

*Translated from ancient Egyptian:  Disturb my granary at your peril, diminutive bald Nubian.  I learned a few tricks when Moses’ guy negotiated with us.”

Pressure forced Mahomes to heave the ball into coverage, where Holton Hill rose up to nab an INT – and had it knocked out of his hands and directly to a streaking Jakeem Grant, who housed it for a mind-numbing 65-yard TD.  It’s the kind of play that has made this team drop its head in games past, but they still had a game effort in store through the rest of the first half.  Texas forced three more punts, a fumble and a 51-yard field goal through the rest of the first half despite a decided lack of offensive support, and surrendered one short-field TD following a short kickoff that was set up by Armanti Foreman’s celebration penalty on the Longhorns’ only TD of the half.

That didn’t mean the ol’ Pharoah wasn’t doing work in the background, though, as through the course of the first half Texas lost Peter Jinkens to a knee injury and then saw Malik hobble off the field with a turned ankle.  And while the rains came early on Thursday, that pair of injuries conspired to open the second-half floodgates.

Texas was forced to spend the third and fourth quarters rolling with Anthony Wheeler at Mike and Tim Cole…on the field.  Wheeler is toolsy, but currently hasn’t the foggiest notion of how to use his hands to protect himself from getting cut out of plays by a climbing OL.  And then there was Tim.  As I’m still in the midst of a self-imposed five year penance for dropping an F-bomb on 2013 Steve Edmond in a postgame writeup, I’ll limit myself to a brief list of Coles who we could have swapped into the lineup and knocked 75+ yards and 10 points off of Tech’s ultimate totals:

– Cole Beasley

– The exhumed corpse of Nat King Cole

– The exhumed corpse of Cole Porter

– The ephemeral concept of Ol’ King Cole

– A g*****n Kingsford briquette

When you play non-P5 talent against elite P5 competition – and the Tech offense has been elite by any measure – there’s a price to be paid, and Texas paid it in full.  Washington was constantly able to find room and keep Tech ahead of the chains, and the middle of the field was open for business on seams and in routes.

While comedy linebacking keyed a good bit of Texas’ second-half shenanigans, there were breakdowns at all levels.  A DL already lacking Tank Jackson battled injuries to Hassan Ridgeway and Poona Ford and was eventually unable to keep the heat on Mahomes.  Bryce Cottrell and Shiro Davis each turned in a brutal contain failures on the edge, and Duke Thomas was late to his spot on a corner blitz rotation to free Devin Lauderdale for a 59-yard scamper.  The rest of the secondary scrapped hard, but fake screens were consistent killers and we again saw John Bonney and Jason Hall’s coverage limitations come to the fore (though Bonney did have a nice moment in forcing a third-quarter fumble).

While Jakeem Grant’s fumblerooski scamper provided Tech’s final score, the effective coup de grace came on the earlier drive after Texas had finally retaken the lead.  Cottrell took an inside pass rush while Cole drifted lazily into a mass of bodies at the line, freeing Mahomes to float left and drop an All-American dart to Grant despite strong coverage downfield.  A one yard TD plunge followed the next play, and a comically battered defense that never gave up had nevertheless given up too many points to overcome.

Special Teams

The first half was simply wretched.  We saw the least surprising holding call ever to scuttle a nice Daje punt return, a kickoff out of bounds and a pair of kickoff returns that failed to cross the sixteen yard line.  The return game finally came to life in the second half as Daje got some Senior Night shine with a pair of 40+ yard kick returns and a 22-yard punt return that all helped to set up Longhorn touchdowns – funny how that works.  A last-ditch onside kick attempt could have set the unit up for real glory, but four or five bounces weren’t enough to see it end up in Longhorn hands.

Rose’s kickoffs were good and he gave Texas its first lead with a first-quarter FG, and Dickson largely avoided his frequent Down Under downside with an effective night punting the ball.

And ultimately, the game’s winning margin was provided by Tech’s 51-yard first-half field goal in the rain following a dicey snap.  Because of course it was.

The Bottom Line

Following the West Virginia fumble-fest our own Dagga Roosta opined that while the season’s last two games would hold a degree of intrigue, there wasn’t a lot left to learn about this team that we didn’t already know.  They are a young, flawed, high-beta bunch with plenty of future promise and even more present-day potholes that can combine for a stirring win or mind-numbing defeat on any given Saturday (or Thursday).  If you were looking to make judgments on Strong’s fitness to lead this team into 2016 and beyond, there just wasn’t a lot of new data to be gleaned.

I’ll submit that despite the overall wisdom of that statement, we did learn something new about this bunch.  We learned that the tendency to drop their collective heads was finally relegated to the trash heap.  Despite an absurd flurry of game flow punches and game-changing injury punishment, they never quit on their coach or each other.  Now come next Saturday, they may be so out of bodies and bereft of 2015 goals that they suffer a Brazos beating that makes the previous sentiment look like a lie.

But it was true enough last night, and come what may that’s not a bad foundation for the future.

Hook ’em.

Lounging From the Island: Texas Longhorns vs. Washington Huskies

Posted by    |    November 26th, 2015 at 10:57 pm

On Thanksgiving, in front of a sparse but boisterous crowd, the Texas Longhorns avenged a loss against their most hated rival, a team so reviled Texas refuses to play them in the United States lest their evil empire gain a foothold on domestic soil. I’m speaking of course of the Washington Huskies, those communist dogs from Asia.

*listens to earpiece*

Right, sorry, those communist dogs from Seattle, a land of lattes and government control over…garage bands? I don’t really know, last time I was there all I remember is the ramen was fantastic and they obsessed over coffee like I do over Kayden Kross. Texas won this game with aggression; while the contest wasn’t quite the constant trip from one free throw line to the other we saw against Texas A&M, the second half of this game featured a number of two-shot charity stripe appearances by Texas players. For the most part, the fouls seemed pretty reasonable, or at least the no-calls & questionable calls seemed fairly balanced by NCAA standards. I imagine the Washington faithful will disagree with this assertion, but I would suggest that if their guards drove the lane with the same purpose that Texas did, the fouls would’ve evened out. A 42-17 free throw advantage for Texas can be explained more by Isaiah Taylor, Tevin Mack, and Eric Davis, Jr. driving into traffic repeatedly than a significant ref bias.

Texas’ 1st half defense was solid, possibly the best 20 minutes we’ve seen from the team in games that count. Washington shot 33% from the floor and was getting beat on the boards handily(despite Texas starting the game being out-rebounded 6-1), so there were a number of 1 shot possessions for the Huskies in the first half. What ended as a 41-31 lead should’ve probably been even higher as Texas beat Washington in nearly every facet of the game. The second half was more even; partly because Washington began hitting shots and partly because Texas started missing theirs. Texas won this game at the line, which is an odd thing to say about a team that shot 20/30 from the line in the 2nd half(and it was worse early in the half), but it’s true. They hit the free throws at the end to salt away a game that could’ve gotten away from them. Oh, and Jordan Barnett played approximately 11 seconds of regulation basketball, so we can scratch out the ‘redshirt’ option on his bingo card.

The 2015 Barking Carnival Basketball Mantra

“The gamble with a press(particularly of the trapping variety) is that your team will create more good outcomes than bad and distort the game in your favor, but this means as a Texas fan you’re going to need to increase your tolerance for bad outcomes as well.”

Let’s just mark this as a TBD, because they only broke out the press sparingly. I asked Shaka if this was about what we should expect going forward, and he essentially said – I’m paraphrasing – that we shouldn’t expect a ton of press for awhile, that it will be more situational than an all-out press this season.

The Good

Cameron Ridley

Cam is averaging a double/double(11.7/10) this season on nearly 70% shooting from the floor, in case you hadn’t noticed. He’s looked good in the post, showcasing a number of moves that will bother opponents and making good decisions with the ball more often than not. About the only thing that could stand to improve is his free throw shooting, which currently sits at 11/24 or…yikes, OK, that’s not good. If Cam can get that back up into the high 60s/low 70s while maintaining everything else, he’s in all-conference discussions at the end of the season. Cam is eating, y’all.

Side note: after last night’s loss, Shaka brought Cam to the post-game presser and nobody asked Cam a question. Including me, because, well, it was the 1st post-game presser I’ve ever done and I was trying not to get thrown out of the room. I heard the SID tell Cam afterwards that it was a waste of his time & he could’ve spent the time getting showered/changed. I felt terrible for not asking Cam a question because he’s like a gigantic friendly teddy bear in person, so I swore I’d ask him a question at the next presser. Did I ask him a question tonight? No, because I came up with one question, the AP guy asked him basically the same thing, and I’m terrible at coming up with intelligent questions on the fly when people are recording my words. I’m terrible at this job.

Eric Davis Jr.

Oh, you know, just another team-leading 15 points on 5-8 shooting from Eric, no big deal. I think he’s settling in, do you think he’s settling in? Because I think he’s settling in. I don’t know that I’ve seen a purer stroke from a guard on the 40 Acres since A.J. Abrams – no, not the guy directing Star Wars – left the team. Every shot he shoots from the perimeter looks good when it leaves his hand, it’s really impressive to watch. If he can play defense worth a damn the next couple of years, the sky’s the limit.

Javan Felix

I swear I’m not putting him on here just because he stared me down at the post-game press conference like he was Van Gogh and I look like a smiling ear in person. Javan’s offensive contributions were timely – 4-7 from the floor and 3-4 from 3 are excellent in 18 minutes – but his active hands on the defensive end led to a number of turnovers that helped limit or negate Washington’s attempts at clawing back into the game. Texas had 8 steals and the Amish Fire Hydrant was responsible for 3 of them. Credit where it’s due, Javan played a good game and deserved to sit in the post-game presser.

Kerwin Roach, Jr.

(I always forget to put the Jr. on his name)

Kerwin finally broke out of his slump for a night, going 5-8 from the field and being a general pest offensively. His most impressive play – I swear I’m not making this up – was a defensive rebound. I know, I know, stick with me on this; it’s not so much that he got a defensive rebound, but that he nearly touched the sky getting that board. He could’ve leap-frogged Cam he got so high. OK, no, that’s not the best play(yes it is), the best play was the play where he was blocked on a dunk and still damn near put the ball in. I don’t know, I can’t pick. Neither of them was game-changing or really that important compared to some of his made baskets, but they were just so delightful to watch. At some point, he’s going to jump over the whole backboard in an incredibly illegal display of athleticism and I’m going to post that on Vine for the aliens to review when they ask us why we should be spared as a species.

The Mixed Bag

Tevin Mack

Hey, being bumped up to ‘mixed bag’ is an improvement for Tevin. I mean, yea, Tevin was 1-8 from the floor, but he was 4-4 from the line, grabbed a handful of rebounds, dished a couple of assists, and all around looked the most comfortable I’ve seen him look on the court this season. His defense seemed decent as well, considering. I’m not going to nominate him for all-conference 1st team defense or anything, but he looks less lost than he did even just a game ago. Here’s hoping he’s trending in the right direction rather than this being a one-game aberration.

The Bad

Honestly, I don’t have a lot for this category tonight. I could mention the free throws, but that was largely due to Cam(he accounted for half of the 12 missed FTs). I could mention Isaiah Taylor only going 3-11 from the floor, but in context it wasn’t so bad because he was drawing fouls(and went 8-8 from the line). The 10 assist/10 turnover ratio is not good, but makes sense when you consider the (totally reasonable) priority the guards placed on driving to the basket rather than funneling the ball to other players. These are relative quibbles in a game where the team took care of business when it had to.

Texas finishes the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament tomorrow night at 6pm CT on AXS TV against a Michigan squad that just laid 102 on Charlotte. It’s a chance at vengeance against a coach responsible for knocking Texas out of the NCAA tournament a couple seasons ago. Also, nobody will run a fake kneel play for a touchdown, so there’s that.

Lounging From the Island: Texas Longhorns vs. Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by    |    November 25th, 2015 at 10:29 pm

The Texas Longhorns lost to the rival little brother rival the Texas A&M Aggies 84-73 in the first Battle 4 Atlantis game. The game was rife with fouls (61 in total) of all varieties both legitimate and not, and one can only imagine the alternate reality where two teams combine to shoot 47% from the floor and the result is aesthetically pleasing rather than an extended scene of Carl from The Walking Dead wandering away from the farm while everyone wonders where Carl is and why he didn’t STAY IN THE HOUSE, CARL. Put another way, ESPN is probably glad the game was on AXS. It’s frustrating to see a team keep coming back over & over but never get over the hump; sometimes it was A&M making a quality shot, sometimes it was Texas committing a bad foul or turning the ball over, there were half a dozen chances to seize the lead and it never happened. Texas led for less than a minute in the entire game, and it was the first minute of the game. A&M tied it at 2-2 and never trailed again. Credit where it’s due, A&M is the real deal; House looks every bit of the 5-star recruit – except at the free throw line – and Tyler Davis is going to be a pain in the ass of the SEC for years to come. The better team won tonight.

The 2015 Barking Carnival Basketball Mantra

“The gamble with a press(particularly of the trapping variety) is that your team will create more good outcomes than bad and distort the game in your favor, but this means as a Texas fan you’re going to need to increase your tolerance for bad outcomes as well.”

The press didn’t really show up until the 2nd half, presumably because Shaka & crew were hoping to save the team’s legs a bit for the 3 games in 3 days tournament setup, but also because A&M shot a cool 50% from the floor in the first half and they needed to do something to cool the Aggies down(spoiler alert: it didn’t work).

The Good

Eric Davis, Jr.

Eric Davis has improved offensively every game this year, the latest being a 28 point outburst that’s tied for 4th-best in Atlantis tournament history. He was 6-10 from the floor, 4-7 from 3, and every shot looks good leaving his hand. While his defense is still sketchy – particularly in a system that requires the effort Shaka demands – he’s becoming an indispensable piece of this team’s offensive attack and will continue to see minutes. Only Cameron Ridley & Demarcus Holland were on the floor longer.

Connor Lammert

Connor showcased his ability to stretch the floor again, hitting 2-3 from 3. He’s now hit 6 3s in 3 games compared to hitting 26 all of last year. While his percentage will surely decline over the season (Steph Curry doesn’t hit 2/3 of his shots behind the arc, much less Connor) he’s showing confidence and quality selection with his 3s. He was dealing with foul trouble all night – as did every Texas player over 6’3″ – but I’m not going to hold that against him much.

The Offense

Texas has shot better in each passing game this season (26% – 40.4% – 45.8%). There will be a natural ebb & flow to offensive production over the course of the season, but the Washington game is starting to look more like an outlier as the season goes on. If Tevin Mack & Kerwin Roach can ever get on track, this team will score enough to win most nights….if the defense improves.

The Mixed Bag

Isaiah Taylor

Zay drove the ball effectively most of the night, either scoring or drawing fouls. Unfortunately, he only shot 6-10 from the line and his outside stroke is still problematic at best. I have no problem with Zay driving into the lane whatsoever, more good things than bad result when he sees an opening; having said that, he’s going to see less and less daylight as more and more defenders run under screens because nobody is afraid of him on the perimeter. His best asset – speed – gets blunted by defensive adjustments. You can see the staff trying to mix things up by getting him off the ball and running through screens to get a little space, but it’s hit & miss to this point. 5 assists to 3 turnovers is passable and he’s obviously got good communication with Ridley in the pick & roll, so hopefully they can build off that.

The Bad

The Defense

There’s no situation where the defense is going to get a pass on letting an opponent shoot 49% from the floor, regardless of what the refs are doing. Too many guys were left open both in zone & man defenses, too many traps in the press were easily spotted and countered. Texas wasn’t able to get even a handful of stops that would’ve helped turn the tide, and it was all over the court. This was a team failure defensively.


Demarcus Holland

If I see Demarcus take 2 dribbles into the baseline only to immediately turn around and head back to the perimeter without even looking at the rim one more time, I’m going to throw myself into the Atlantis aquarium with the nurse sharks. Demarcus, you’re athletic enough to make that baseline run viable and if you’d look up from the floor you’d stand a decent chance of seeing an open teammate. But if you keep doing this…I don’t know what to call it, fake attack, you’re just burning clock and mucking up the offense. 30 minutes on the floor and 4 points of offense isn’t going to cut it, no matter how much I love your defensive effort.

The Refs

I think my stance is fairly well-known at this point: if you’re going to call the new rules consistently and enforce them for the long-term, I can accept the short-term pain of foul festivals in the hopes of freeing up the offenses down the road. This isn’t the part I’m unhappy with, it’s the other fouls the refs were calling. I saw more than a couple instances where the refs called where they think the foul should’ve been regardless of whether or not it actually happened. Just because a guard is running through the bigs and shooting doesn’t mean he was automatically fouled, and just because two bigs jostle for position it doesn’t always mean a whistle needs to be blown. What really bothered me though were the instances when a ref would wait to see the result of the play before blowing the whistle. Either something is a foul or it isn’t, it shouldn’t matter who ends up with the ball for you to decide to stop play. Before you start delving into context & situational awareness, nail down consistency first. I don’t want NCAA refs to arrive at the top of Maslow’s pyramid by helicoptering to the peak, they need to hike up the first levels of the ancient grain silos before sitting on the top with the good doctor and deconstructing their place in the universe.

Texas’ next game is tomorrow at 6PM CT & features some team who I’ve never heard of, the Washington Huskies. I don’t think that’s even a real NCAA team, I hear their campus is in China.