Big 12 Team Preview: Texas Longhorns

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 4th, 2013

Over the next two weeks, the Big 12 microsite will preview each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Texas.

Where We Left Off: The 2012-13 edition of the Texas Longhorns featured the first losing season in the Rick Barnes era. Barnes’ squad struggled to a 16-18 overall record and a 7-11 conference mark, ending the streak of 14 consecutive years that Barnes had taken Texas to the NCAA Tournament. Texas was one of the youngest teams in college basketball a season ago, and was without point guard Myck Kabongo for all but eight games as Kabongo spent much of the season in limbo awaiting an NCAA eligibility ruling. Perhaps many saw the disappointing season coming after the Longhorns were ran out of the gym by lowly Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. Regardless, it would be fair to classify last year’s Texas season as a disappointment, to say the least.

A disappointing 2012-2013 season leaves Rick Barnes looking for answers (Credit: The Big Lead)

A disappointing 2012-2013 season leaves Rick Barnes looking for answers.

Positives: Unless you’re a Longhorn optimist, this becomes difficult heading into this season. With Kabongo out for much of last year, sophomore point guard Javan Felix earned valuable experience as the Texas floor general. Felix underwent hip surgery on October 1 with no timetable for his return, but showed an ability at times last season to break down defenses and get his teammates open shots. Joining Felix are newcomers Isaiah Taylor, Kendal Yancy, Demarcus Croaker and Martez Walker. Croaker figures to make perhaps the biggest impact this season as the 6’2″ guard is considered a quality shooter, something Texas severely lacked last season. Returning sophomore Cameron Ridley was a highly-recruited player out of high school, but struggled to 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. The 6’9″ center will need to provide a boost to the Texas frontcourt for Barnes’ team to take a step forward this year.

Negatives: You don’t have to look far to identify why many aren’t high on Texas heading into this season. Kabongo decided to enter last April’s NBA Draft but went undrafted and is now a member of the Austin Toros. In addition to Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and Jaylen Bond all opted to transfer. McClellan and Lewis contributed significant minutes a season ago, averaging 13.5 and 11.2 points per game, respectively. As if that wasn’t enough, former freshman guard Ioannis Papapetrou, who averaged 8.3 points per game in his first season in Austin, decided to leave Texas to play professionally overseas. The plethora of offseason transfers, coupled with an underwhelming recruiting class and the disappointing 2012-13 campaign, and it’s no wonder head coach Rick Barnes finds himself firmly on the hot seat heading into this season.

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Big 12 M5: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 30th, 2013

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  1. Kansas kicked off the exhibition portion of their schedule on Tuesday evening with a 97-57 win over MIAA opponent Pittsburg State in Allen Fieldhouse.  Most notably, this game featured the much anticipated debut of Andrew Wiggins, who along with Perry Ellis lead the Jayhawks in scoring with 16 points.  Wiggins appeared to be nervous and a little passive for a good chunk of the first half before settling into the flow of the game.  It wasn’t until late in the first half that Kansas fans got their first taste of the athleticism of Wiggins that has been so widely discussed leading up to this season as he threw down an impressive alley-oop at the expense of a Pittsburg State player.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see more highlights like this regularly throughout the course of the year.
  2. Despite the flashy play from Andrew Wiggins and other Jayhawks, perhaps the biggest take away from the game was the impact the new “hand checking” rules had on the contest itself.  As Rustin Dodd of the Wichita Eagle explains, during the first half Kansas and Pittsburg State combined for a total of 27 fouls and 39 free throw attempts.  The intention of the new rule in college basketball is to prevent defenders from impeding the offensive player’s movement with this ball in his hands, but it appears in the eyes of officials this rule translates to a significantly tighter called game all over the floor.  There will be many early season non-conference games that well exceed two hours in duration because of the number of stoppages in play.
  3. We mentioned yesterday that Texas head coach Rick Barnes was among those entering the 2013-2014 season on the proverbial “hot seat” in college basketball.  On Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported that according to multiple sources, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is the leading candidate to replace DeLoss Dodds as the Texas AD next season.  If true, it would appear that Luck would be the one to decide Barnes’ fate with the Longhorn basketball program.  If you feel like you’ve heard the name before, Oliver Luck is the father of Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck.  It’s unclear as to when the timetable for a new head coach will be set, but perhaps you could consider this season a year-long job interview for Rick Barnes.
  4. At the TCU media day, head coach Trent Johnson said the team has still yet to receive word from the NCAA if UTEP transfer Chris Washburn will be allowed to suit up for the Horned Frogs this season.  Washburn figures to be an important piece for Johnson’s squad after forward Devonta Abron tore his achilles earlier this year as Washburn would provide TCU with a nice 1-2 punch alongside 6’10″ big man Karviar Shepherd.  This is yet another example of the NCAA struggling to make an eligibility decision in a timely manner like we have come accustomed to the last several seasons.
  5. On Tuesday, Canadian sports network TSN announced that the station will cover every game Kansas plays this season in an effort to allow further access to Andrew Wiggins for folks across Canada.  As Brian Goodman noted in his article yesterday examining the impact of this announcement and how it affects the interpretation of the amateurism of college athletics.  For Kansas, this announcement in-turn allows further access to the program and will provide exposure to kids throughout the northern country to the Jayhawk program.  With recent emerging talents from Canada like Wiggins and Anthony Bennett last season, it would appear this deal could position Kansas with a leg up on future Canadian talent.
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Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by RTC on October 14th, 2013

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  1. The month of Midnight Madness celebrations continued over the weekend, with a number of schools choosing to reveal their 2013-14 teams to the public on Friday night. The most prominent basketball school of this weekend’s group was Marquette, entertaining some 4,000 fans at the Al McGuire Center for Marquette Madness. The event trotted out the tried-and-true Madness standards: a three-point shooting contest (won by Jake Thomas), a dunk contest (won by Deonte Burton), etc., but one unique aspect of this version was that the school also handed out a “Lifetime Achievement Award” as part of the proceedings. Chris Otule, a Golden Eagles center who has played a full season in only two of his five years in Milwaukee and was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, was the recipient (see the tribute video here). Otule earned substantial national recognition in 2010 when it was learned that he was playing major college basketball with only one working eye (he’s been blind in his left eye since birth), but he also has become something of a hard-luck case due to the three significant injuries (two broken feet and a torn ACL) that he has suffered during his career at Marquette. By all accounts a genuinely nice guy, let’s hope that his final year in Marquette is productive and injury-free.
  2. News came out last week that longtime Texas athletic director, DeLoss Dodds, will retire from his post overseeing the wealthiest athletic department in all of college sports. The 76-year old’s decision to retire, though, comes at a time when the school’s revenue-producing programs — football, basketball and baseball — are all suffering through relatively tough times. Notwithstanding the football Longhorns’ upset of unbeaten Oklahoma on Saturday, the team had lost badly to BYU and Ole Miss earlier this season, and rumors are swirling about the security of Mack Brown’s head coaching job there. Similarly for basketball, Rick Barnes’ Longhorns were just picked to finish as the eighth-place team in a 10-team league (only ahead of the hoops disasters known as Texas Tech and TCU), raising significant questions as to how a program and coach who makes so much money and has access to so much local talent could have gotten itself in such a mess. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News examines the political and operational realities of Dodds’ retirement, ultimately concluding that the new AD will certainly have some hurdles to overcome upon arrival at his new job. And apparently, Louisville’s Tom Jurich is not interested.
  3. While on the subject of athletic directors, the AP reported on Friday that a group of 65 ADs attached their names in support of a nine-page memorandum sent to a legal team convening in Chicago later this month to discuss updating the Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA). Tired of dealing with agents, runners and other interested hangers-on associating with student-athletes in their revenue programs, the group requests that the penalties attached to violations of the UAAA contain higher fines and additional prison time. Specifically, they ask that changes to the law must “increase the incentives for and ease of prosecuting violators,” offering a number of recommendations to make it easier to catch the wrongdoers. Perhaps the strongest part of this proposed legislation is the idea of classifying someone as an agent for purposes of the law regardless of whether they are registered as one — although difficult to implement, this could help with the runner/go-between problem that has become all too familiar in recent years.
  4. Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie may have jumped the gun in revealing his school’s latest APR score on Friday, but who can blame him given that his team was forced to miss the NCAA Tournament last season because of prior years’ academic troubles. The second-year coach proudly told the media: ”We got a thousand. If you want to wait until May, you can find out in May. But it’s a thousand.” The “thousand” he mentions equates to a perfect score on the APR metric, which basically means that all of UConn’s student-athletes in the basketball program are in good academic standing and on track to graduate. According to Ollie, the program has emphasized the importance of education through accountability (i.e., players run if they miss class, etc.), which of course is all fine and well. But perhaps more than anything else, this improvement to a perfect score shows that the APR can be gamed like any other arbitrary metric if a school simply takes it seriously and correspondingly incents the players to do the bare minimum in the classroom.
  5. One of the interesting aspects to the NCAA’s new rule allowing practice to start in September is that coaches are limited to only 30 practice sessions in those 42 days between September 27 and November 8. Not only does the extra time between sessions let coaches ease into their practice plans and teaching points a little more thoughtfully, but it also allows teams to do some other character-building exercises that they simply wouldn’t have had time for under the old model. Case in point: Duke‘s four-day trip to New York over the weekend. On Saturday, Coach K transported his charges to West Point, his alma mater and site of his first head coaching job, allowing the Blue Devils to take in the pride and spectacle of the school responsible for educating the nation’s future military leaders. By all indications the players loved the experience, and one might suspect that if the Blue Devils go on to enjoy a great upcoming season, they’ll reflect often on this preseason trip to New York as the bonding experience where things started to come together. Have a great holiday, everyone.
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Is Rick Barnes a Dead Man Walking at Texas?

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 10th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

By the start of next college football season, two of the sport’s most high-profile jobs will have new coaches. One of them (USC) already fired its former coach, Lane Kiffin, and has presumably begun searching for a replacement. The other (Texas) has yet to dump longtime coach Mack Brown, but unless the Longhorns can engineer a miraculous midseason turnaround and win the Big 12 – and even that may not be enough to save Brown’s job – it’s all but guaranteed he too will be gone by the end of the season. That seems even more likely after former Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, a longtime supporter of Brown, resigned last week. Both of these job searches will be fascinating to observe; it’s been a long time since two true titans of the sport have undergone head coaching changes. We’re more concerned about the college hoops side of things here, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop talking about coaching turnover. USC hired a new head coach, Dunk City orchestrator Andy Enfield, in April, and Texas enters the season with Rick Barnes’ coaching hot seat simmering. That was the general consensus following Texas’ 16-18 finish (and NCAA Tournament miss) last season, but the possibility seems even greater after comments published in Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel’s recent article on the Texas athletic department shined a critical light on Barnes and Longhorns basketball. One damning assessment came from an unnamed high-ranking Texas official: “I can’t imagine [Barnes] turning it around.”

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

Will Rick Barnes last beyond this season? (Getty Images)

There were other harsh statements regarding Barnes included in Thamel’s piece (along with a number of unquoted characterizations from Thamel himself), and taken together, they seemed to paint a picture of a program in desperate need of a coaching change. Over 15 seasons at the school, Barnes has led the Longhorns to three Big 12 regular season championships, made four Sweet Sixteens, two Elite Eights and one Final Four. He has brought in elite high school players like Kevin Durant, Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Damion James. His teams almost always – even last season, when it ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage defense – play some of the toughest defense in the country. As C.J. Moore of Basketball Prospectus points out, Texas has finished in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency rankings in 10 of the last 11 seasons. If that’s all true, why have the Longhorns struggled so much lately?

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Texas Not Fooling Anyone With Its Platitudes

Posted by rtmsf on July 21st, 2011

Imagine if high school basketball games involving elite hoops recruits around the country were put on the Duke Basketball Network, coming to you nightly from December to March on your local cable package (and no, this post isn’t a not-so-subtle shot at ESPN).  After the initial uproars from Lexington, Chapel Hill, Lawrence and other basketball hotbeds subsided, imagine then that Mike Krzyzewski, as spokesperson and progenitor of the DBN, gave an interview where he said:

We do not want to use it as a recruiting advantage. We don’t want it tied to [Duke.  The DBN carrier] knows we don’t want to violate any NCAA rules and they don’t want to. [...] We want to play by the rules.  We want everything to be in the open with integrity.

To back up his claims, imaginary Coach K added that the DBN would not be involved in selecting the games and that the word “Duke” would not be attached to the broadcast in any way (you know, except for the fact that you have to tune into the Duke Basketball Network to see the game in the first place).  Would you believe it?   Isn’t he asking you to undergo a considerable afternoon of mental calisthenics in order to believe there’s absolutely no association between those two things — the players shown and the school’s network?

It’s patently absurd.  People make such associations without even thinking, and a removal of some of the associated branding does next to nothing to remove that perception.  Will a kid playing on the DBN tomorrow night tell all his friends that he’s playing on Dish Network channel 146 instead?  Will fans around the country not automatically assume that a player on their screen has already committed to play for Duke (after all, why would the DBN be showing it?).  Of course not.  It’s a huge marketing (and, by proxy, recruiting) advantage.

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