Archive for January, 2016

Shooting From The Corner: Texas makes quick work of Vanderbilt

Posted by    |    January 30th, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Things are definitely trending in the right direction.

There are a lot of similarities between Texas and Vanderbilt. They are both built around a ball-dominant NBA prospect at the PG position and they both start a similar pair of players upfront – a rim-running defensive-minded 5 and a stretch 4. All things being equal, I’d take the trio of Wade Baldwin IV, Luke Kornet and Damian Jones over their Texas counterparts. The good news is that all things aren’t and the Longhorns supporting cast is way faster and way more athletic than the guys at Vanderbilt. That was the difference in an impressive 72-58 win on Saturday.

1) Vanderbilt had no answer for the athleticism of the Texas guards

They got overwhelmed at the point of attack in this one. Isaiah Taylor, Kerwin Roach, Eric Davis Jr., Kendal Yancy, Tevin Mack and DeMarcus Holland – all those guys had a distinct athletic edge on Vandy and they kept the pressure on them all game. Javan Felix is the only guy in the perimeter rotation whose not a plus athlete and when his shot isn’t falling (which it wasn’t in this one) his minutes get scaled back and this team starts to become a real problem on defense. They are starting to look like a Shaka Smart team – they decisively won the TO battle (13-6) and their ability to score going defense to offense kept Vandy from ever getting too close.

2) This one was over once Wade Baldwin IV went down with a leg injury

Baldwin has been up-and-down this season but he’s a future NBA player and a lock to be a first-round pick whenever he declares for the draft. He’s their best perimeter athlete and the only guard who can consistently create shots for himself and his teammates on the perimeter. If Vandy was going to pull off the upset, it was because Baldwin dominated Taylor on both sides of the ball, controlled the tempo of the game and poured in 20+ points. Without him out there, Vandy just didn’t have enough.

3) Kerwin Roach

Roach is a crazy athlete – that’s obvious even after watching him for only a few seconds. What’s starting to happen now is that he’s learning how to change speeds and that sometimes it’s better to go 85 and know where you are going then jam the pedal, go to 100 and hope for the best. The game is slowing down for him and that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the Big 12. He had 15 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists on 5-10 shooting and he had some absolutely gorgeous passes in the 2nd half. It’s still unclear what his NBA position will be but he’s starting to look a guy whose going to play at the next level.

4) Lammert at the 5, Mack at the 4

Texas had to play most of the first half without Prince Ibeh, who was sitting with 2 early fouls. Shaka tried a bunch of different combinations and this is the one that blew open the game and intrigued me the most. This is your max floor spacing unit – you are playing 5-out basketball with a stretch 5 and a small-ball 4. Vanderbilt kept their C on Mack rather than having him chase Lammert around on the perimeter and the result was some open looks on the perimeter for Mack. This duo hasn’t played a ton of minutes together, but the numbers (courtesy of friend of BC Jeff Haley’s hooplens.com) are interesting. They played 70 possessions before this one and the offense was much better (1.29 PPP vs. 1.05) and the defense was only slightly worse (1.06 PPP vs. 0.97 PPP). I’ve been thinking Mack is the X factor for this team and this might be the best way to unlock his game.

5) Shaka let Damian Jones cook

We got a chance to see what an NBA C looks like up close and personal in this one. Texas made the decision to stay at home on the Vandy shooters and let Jones try to beat them 1-on-1 and Vandy’s star C almost did it. He had 26 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists on 10-20 shooting and he was the best player on the floor for most of this one. The good news is that there aren’t any C’s in the Big 12 anywhere close to as good as Jones and Texas was still able to survive going small against him and another 7’0 in Luke Kornet.

6) Prince Ibeh

There was only so much Prince could do against Jones but he at least held his own despite getting very little help on defense. Maybe the most important plays he made were a series of dunks on off-ball cuts when Vandy tried to go to a 2-3 zone in order to keep the Texas guards in front of them.

The dunks keep getting STRONGER for @TexasMBB!! This time it’s Prince Ibeh putting a poster on the wall! https://t.co/E32JBfIKlm

— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) January 30, 2016

7. Progress, progress, progress

The mark of a well-coached team is that they get better as the season goes on, something that wasn’t happening all that often in the final years of the Rick Barnes era. Because of how much basketball I have to watch for my day job, I don’t get to watch a ton of Texas and I’m only able to drop in on them from time to time. What’s nice about that is the absence means it’s easier to see the jumps they are making – the level that everyone is playing at and how connected they are on the court between their loss to TCU and this one is night and day. Shaka has all these freshman trending upwards and they are starting to figure out how he wants them to play for him.

This is going to be a dangerous team this season and they are going to be really dangerous next season. If Taylor comes back (which he should unless he suddenly starts knocking down 3’s) and they can find a competent two-way big men to complement all their wings, they could be right there with the best teams in the Big 12.

Surprise, Surprise, NFL Dominates the Houston TV market

Posted by    |    January 28th, 2016 at 4:31 pm

The NFL is the most popular TV sport in Houston — and there is no 2nd place.

Last year the NFL gave out over $226 million to each of the 32 teams before they sold a single ticket — thanks mainly to the $7 billion a year the league collects from its TV partners.

A quick look at the most popular sports programs in the 10th largest TV market shows how those numbers got that big, and there is little inclination to think it will stop growing.

David Barron covers sports media for the Houston Chronicle and Thursday he came out with the list of the 100 most-watched sports programs in 2015.

An astounding 73 of the top 100 sports programs were from the NFL. Obviously the Houston Texans are a major draw (12 of the Top 20) but the games popularity runs deep. NFL contests hold 39 of the top 40 programs – with only a Houston Rocket playoff game breaking the streak.

As expected, the local pro teams dominated the list, but the top 3 spots were all Super Bowl related. The Kick Off and Post Game shows averaged 1.5 million viewers, while 2.4 million were tuned into the game, making it the #1 rated sports program in Houston.

Only 5 college football games broke into the 100. This season’s New Year’s Eve semi-finals games (OU-Clemson, Michigan State-Alabama) were at #94 and #91 respectively.

The 2014 semi-finals were played on January 1st. The Alabama-Ohio State game was 73rd, while Oregon-Florida State was the 65th most-watched sports program in Houston in 2015.

The Championship game between Ohio State and Oregon finished #45 with 579,000 viewers.

Not a single regular-season college football game cracked the Top 100 in Houston.

Now explain to me again why the Houston Cougars are a viable candidate for expansion into the Big 12?

TCU at Texas Hoops Highlights

Posted by    |    January 28th, 2016 at 11:07 am

Prince among men.

Running From the Whistle: Texas Longhorns vs. TCU Horned Frogs

Posted by    |    January 27th, 2016 at 1:11 am

The Texas Longhorns managed to *breeeeep* TWO SHOTS

The TCU Horned Frogs found themselves dealing wi-*breeeep* TWO SHOTS

Dammit, who let the refs in he- *breeep* TRAVELING, TEXAS BALL

*shuts door*

*bars door*

*insulates door with sound-dampening foam*

*muffled whistles fade into the distance*

Better. Texas and TCU played a game marred by overactive referees, racking up 56 fouls en route to a less than fluid 71-54 Longhorns victory. Texas rode the hot hand of Kerwin Roach and silky-smooth free throw shooting by notoriously reliable Prince Ibeh to a win that wasn’t really in doubt for most of the 2nd half. I’m going to keep this relatively brief as I’ve spent the better part of 3 hours talking to DJ Mel about how to strangle the life out of encourage the sedentary Texas crowd to get rowdy and it’s pretty late.

The Good

Prince Ibeh, Free Throw Savant

Prince going 5-6 from the line any night is like hitting the lottery, but to really drive home what he managed from the line consider that he made more free throws tonight that he has made in the previous 19 games. He’s now 8-27 on the year for 29.6%, which means he doubled his free throw percentage in one game. The thing about watching Ibeh shoot free throws is you can tell from the second it leaves his hands if it’s going to be good. Either it has a wonderful backspin or it’s like a knuckleball with zero spin. Tonight he had the backspin and I was calling out the makes before it even hit the apex of its trajectory. Good on Prince for making them; I’ve never seen a crowd so energized by a pair of free throws in the middle of a game. Lest we forget, he ended up with 17 points(career high), 7 rebounds, 5 blocks, and two fouls in a game where every breath of contact was being whistled. He deserves every bit of praise he got tonight.

Kerwin Roach, Jr.

6-7 from the floor(great), 10-15 from the line(above his average), and 29 minutes of mostly solid action from the freshman. He was able to give Isaiah Taylor some rest, which will help as the season progresses, and he didn’t dribble the ball off his foot once while trying a Hot Sizzle crossover. He ended up dunking on a breakaway, and we’re at a point where a 2-handed flush seems like a letdown because we’re all expecting him to murder the world every time he gets a lane. You could feel the whole crowd get excited as he got the pass, watch him elevate, then half-heartedly throw up a 7 from the judges’ table. We don’t have any right to expect him to put up a highlight in a game, but we still hope.

Isaiah Taylor

24 minutes of action and he still manages a 7:1 ATO. Floor general, thy name is Zay.

Defensive Rebounding

They snagged 74% of their possible rebounds, limiting TCU to one shot on most of their possessions. You want to overcome poor shooting? Limiting your opponent’s chances to take multiple shots is a good way to negate issues.

The Mixed Bag

Turnovers

Forcing 19 turnovers through a variety of means(the press, ball-hawking on passing lanes, etc.) is good, especially when it means you force an opponent to hand the ball over 1 out of every 4 possessions. However, turning it over 15 times yourself negates a lot of the good that comes from the aforementioned 19. One down side to giving Zay a breather is it means somebody else is holding onto the ball. It was a problem all over the roster, there are plenty of 2s & 3s in that column.

The Bad

3-point Shooting

3-15 on the night is awful, and the non-Felix crowd was 1-9 from 3. It didn’t kill Texas against the Frogs, but it will doom them against better teams in the conference.

Texas is now up to 5 wins in conference, which means they need to snag at least 3 out of their last 10 to have a solid chance at the NCAA Tournament. With 2 games against Oklahoma & Baylor, plus road games against Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and home visits from West Virginia & Kansas still on the ledger, this is far from a done deal. A win like tonight is important because it keeps Texas from having to flip yet another game where they are the decided underdog. Lock down the W and move onto Vanderbilt, Saturday at 11am CT on ESPN2.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by a noisy Hyatt Place fridge.

Shooting From the Corner: Texas Longhorns vs. Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by    |    January 23rd, 2016 at 4:55 pm

The 3-game winning streak has come to an end for the Texas Longhorns, losing 76-69 to the Kansas Jayhawks despite leading the reigning Big 12 champs for the majority of the contest. Shaka Smart’s squad played at a high level for most of the game, but Kansas is a top-10 team and their recent struggles aren’t indicative of the quality of their squad. At the risk of breaking out the Moral Victory championship banner, on paper these teams aren’t on the same level in terms of talent and there was a solid chance Texas would get throttled by a Kansas team that has eyes on another Final Four berth. Texas came out playing excellent basketball, running crisp sets and solid defense all over the floor. They were the better team for the first 10 minutes of this game; Texas racked up a 12-point lead with 11:45 left in the first half and executed their plan well enough that Bill Self’s hairpiece threatened to quit and return to the Amazon rainforest where it was hatched. Self was able to avert a follicle mutiny, and from the 11:45 mark on Kansas outscored Texas 69-48 to take the W.

The Good

Prince Ibeh

Prince Ibeh played 35 minutes today. I’m going to repeat that, add some caps lock, and maybe learn how to use the fire emoji: PRINCE IBEH PLAYED 35 MINUTES TODAY. (I don’t know how to use emojis and my nieces aren’t around to help me, so….*fire emoji here*.) Prince was a delight to watch; he notched what I like to call Grandma’s Vegas Retirement Plan: 7 points, 7 rebounds, & 7 blocks. He displayed incredible body control on defense, avoiding fouls while contesting shots. Perry Ellis scored 26, but Prince is the reason he didn’t score 40. There were a number of times Perry looked to drive, saw Prince, and turned right the hell around to pass it back to a guard. I can’t say enough about the job Prince did today.

Connor Lammert

Connor went 5-7 from 3 and his stroke looked so good Kansas had to tighten up all their perimeter rotations just to keep him from getting more open looks on the pick & pop. His defense was fairly good as well, though foul trouble kept him from being fully effective in the paint. It’s a good sign he was able to log 30 minutes despite being said foul trouble, or maybe a bad sign of how far Tevin Mack has to go to fill Lammert’s shoes. Glass half-full/half-empty, I guess.

Javan Felix & Isaiah Taylor Handling the Ball

These two combined for 11 assists & 2 turnovers, as Zay had 5:1 and Javan had 6:1. That’s phenomenal for any guard, and more proof this ATO ratio in conference play is no fluke. Texas is valuing the ball on the offensive end at a rate I can’t recall seeing since T.J. Ford roamed the 40 Acres. It’s almost as if having a cerebral former point guard as a head coach is helping.

Eric Davis Jr.

Does he still look like a freshman to any of you? Because he sure doesn’t look like one to me. He takes quality shots, plays solid defense, and seems destined to go off for 30 points at least three times next season. I fear he may be playing in the NBA in 3 years rather than 4, but that’s a concern for another day.

The Mixed Bag

Kerwin Roach

I swear, it’s almost like he’s trying not to dunk. He had a chance to send an entire section of KU fans into therapy and got cute with a reverse layup (which he missed). Even Fran Fraschilla yelled “watch out!” expecting Kerwin to deflower a backboard. Seriously, look at this runway:

You have a chance to end a rim’s life in a 1-point game in The Phog; take that ball and hammer it into the upper mantle of the Earth.

The Bad

Non-Lammert 3-Point Shooting

1-9 from 3 is a good way to lose your chance at an upset. Some of the shot selection was fine, others felt rushed, and almost none of them fell. Lammert covered up a lot of perimeter shooting issues today.

Free Throws

Prince is what he is from the line, I won’t re-hash it. But Kerwin Roach is now the 2nd-leading free throw shooter (in terms of attempts) and he’s hitting a shade under 55% for the year(3-6 today). Guards who can’t shoot free throws are guards who won’t see much crunch time action. He needs to continue to improve here if he ever wants to reach Zay’s level of play.

Texas played an ugly game in Morgantown & won, they played a better game in Lawrence and lose. Such is life in basketball; the important point is that Texas got a 1-1 split in two games they were expected to lose. If they can continue to steal an unexpected win here and there, they will solidify their case for a NCAA Tournament berth. This requires Texas continues to win the expected games as well, meaning they can’t afford to slip up against TCU again. The Longhorns host TCU on Tuesday night, tip is 7pm CT on LHN.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Gemma Furbank (SFW) & Steel Grooves.