Every Monday during the basketball season we give you five things Texas men’s basketball fans need to know about the week to come.
Texas gets caught in a Bear trap, and now comes TCU (and Oklahoma State). Here are five things:
5. Texas’ great first half fails to carry them to a win
The first half of Texas’ game in Waco on Saturday was one of the best of the season, and is what the Longhorns are trying to look like.
The second half was, for the most part, what we’ve seen the most of this season.
In the first half, Texas shot 42.9 percent from the field, 80 percent from the line and a whopping 46.2 percent from 3-point range. Baylor was just 2-of-9 from 3-point range.
In the second half, Texas shot just 35.7 percent from the field, 15. 38 percent from 3-point range and didn’t make the one free throw attempt they had — yes, 0 percent from the line. Baylor, meanwhile adjusted and took just three 3-point shots in the second half and made one. They shot 12 free throws and made 10 of them and were 41.7 percent from the field.
It wasn’t just a team effort in the first half for the Longhorns. Jase Febres scored 18 points in the first half. He didn’t score at all in the second half, and had the ball ripped out of his arms by Terry Maston in the final minutes that led to free throws.
The loss wasn’t his fault. it was a group effort.
Texas has struggled to play a complete game — but that’s been the case for many teams in the Big 12 this year. For Texas, it’s been the worst. The Longhorns had a big lead against Duke, but couldn’t get the win. However, it was the opposite in other games. Texas trailed against Iowa State for much of that game until roaring back.
At some point Texas basketball will play a complete game. The question is how many will they play and will it be enough to score the major wins they’ll need to get in the tournament, because as good as Alabama and Butler are, those two wins won’t be enough to get them in if Texas finds itself on the bubble.
Positives: Whatever Febres did before the game needs to be done before every game.
Negatives: Whatever Dylan Osetkowski and Kerwin Roach did before the game never needs to be done again. The two combined for 5-of-24 shooting.
4. The bench
Because Andrew Jones is out, Texas isn’t as deep as many thought the Longhorns would be this season. Still, Texas has a lot of capable players to bring in, so nine bench points for Texas is a little rough.
Seven of the nine came from Eric Davis, who is clearly in the running for Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. He’s a key player for Texas whether he starts or not, but Davis was 1-for-8 from the field against Baylor, which just won’t cut it.
Texas played an eight-man rotation against Baylor. But Texas wants to press, the Longhorns could use more production from their bench.
3. Don’t freak out yet, anyone can win (and lose)
Anyone already writing off the Longhorns’ tournament chances because of a 1-2 conference start needs to pay better attention to college basketball.
Michigan State got demolished by Ohio State on Sunday. Duke lost to a North Carolina State team that lost by 30 points a days earlier. Xavier lost convincingly to Providence. People were saying Kansas was awful, the Jayhawks beat TCU in Fort Worth.
Clearly anyone can beat anyone this year, so sure West Virginia and Oklahoma look far superior. and Texas needed overtime to beat an 0-3 in the Big 12 Iowa State team, but Texas still has No.6-rated defense in America, which means anything can happen.
2. Texas plays at Oklahoma State on Saturday
One of Texas’ sneaky big games of the season is Saturday.
The Oklahoma State elevator pitch: The Cowboys warded off an 0-3 conference start with an overtime win over what looked like a less-than half empty Gallagher-Iba Arena (5,568 attendance).
First-year rookie Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton may have been the conference’s best coach in the non-conference. His team lost an assistant coach in the FBI scandal this fall, its best player was suspended for a few games and it’s not as though the recruiting class featured any one-and-dones.
Yet Oklahoma State was 10-2 entering conference play with one of best wins of any team, a road victory against Florida State.
Here’s why this game matters for Texas, win or lose against TCU: It’s clear Texas isn’t playing at the same level of Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas. TCU has lost to Kansas and Oklahoma by a combined five points and have played better than Texas as well. Baylor beat Texas on Saturday.
If you’re like me, all those teams seem like near locks for the NCAA Tournament. That’s six teams. The Big 12 has received seven bids to the tournament in the past and it’s been bandied about that eight teams could make the tournament, but that’s a longshot.
Right now, it’s hard to tell whether Texas would get an NCAA nod over OSU at this point. Butler and Alabama weren’t ranked when Texas beat them. Florida State was. Given how both teams have similar Big 12 records as of Monday, and Oklahoma State’s two losses are to West Virginia and Oklahoma, the resume is leaning toward the Cowboys.
So yeah, Texas’ Saturday matchup is big even if Texas holds steady against TCU on Wednesday and Oklahoma State loses to Kansas State the same night. Throw in that Texas probably still has legit Big 12 title hopes, however thin it may be, the Longhorns need to do what they did last week and beat the States (Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma) on the road.
For the Cowboys, their best hope at a winning conference record is to not only go 2-0 at Iowa State and Kansas State, but also have a stellar home record. They already lost to West Virginia at home, and it took everything and five minutes to beat Iowa State at home.
Interesting note: Kevin Durant donated $3 million to Texas last week, so it’s only logical to bring up one of my favorite Durant-Texas games: his mega matchup at Stillwater. Yeah, Oklahoma State won 105-103, but it was a triple-overtime classic and one of the best Big 12 games ever.
Mario Boggan scored 37 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the game for the Pokes, while Durant also scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds. Boggan hit a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left in the third OT to seal the win.
Fans rushed the court after that game. It’s rare that it happens in any game that doesn’t feature a mythical bird named after Kansas Civil War soldiers.
Bottom line: OSU is better than I thought it would be. After the FBI scandal, I assumed they’d be the worst team in the league. Instead they play tough, just watch Mitchell Solomon. That said, Texas should win this game as I don’t know how OSU handles Bamba and the Texas defense.
1. Texas hosts TCU on Wednesday
The Horned Frogs are 1-2 in conference, but watchout
The TCU elevator pitch: TCU entered the Big 12 with a 17-game winning streak. They barely staved off a 0-3 conference start with their two losses coming in Fort Worth to Oklahoma and Kansas and needing overtime against Baylor in Waco for its lone win.
Texas lost to TCU at home last season. They went 0-2 overall against the Horned Frogs. With Jamie Dixon turning things around and making a joke of a basketball program before him relevant for the first time ever, Texas needs to snap this losing streak for many reasons.
Yeah, Smart has a year on Dixon, but the former Pitt master has been better than the Longhorns’ coach the past season-and-a-half. TCU won the NIT last season. Texas went 11-22.
This matters because hypothetically TCU and Texas are going to recruit the same in-state prospects, and yet where would people honestly rank Smart among the four Big 12 Texas coaches right now based on the last year-and-a-half?
So yeah, Texas needs this game and they should treat this game like it is and like it became the day TCU hired one of the top 20 basketball coaches in the nation: a rivalry game.
On paper, this looks like one of the toughest games Texas will play all year in the Big 12. TCU can play old-school bully ball with Texas and have multiple big guys. TCU showed this in a loss to Kansas on Saturday when they got Jayhawk big man Udoka Azubuike to foul out with about five minutes to play.
Yet, TCU can also play up-and-down and speed it up with Jaylen Fisher, Alex Robinson and Desmond Bane in the backcourt. All that, and Texas doesn’t really have a great option to defending TCU’s leading scorer, Kenrich Williams.
Williams didn’t have his best game against Kansas, who defended him with freshman combo guard Marcus Garrett, so maybe this is a Kerwin Roach assignment, despite the height advantage Williams would have.
TCU rebounds really well. They out-rebounded the Jayhawks on Saturday and entered that game ranked 22nd in rebounding. They hit free throws and they don’t send teams to the line all that much.
However, Bamba should wreak havoc inside. Even if TCU has the bodies to throw at Texas, TCU entered the Kansas game ranked 232nd in two-point defense, and they’re lucky Azubuike got in foul trouble, otherwise he’d still be scoring on them. As good as Vladimir Brodziansky is, and he is one of the top post players in the league, he is not a great defender.
TCU has an elite offense, but a mediocre defense, especially when teams play fast, so Texas will want to get in transitional basketball. TCU isn’t great guarding the perimeter, but Texas is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation, so that’s a wash.
Interesting note: TCU has a great international flair about them. Brodziansky is from Slovakia. Kouat Noi is from Australia (one of two Australians, although Lat Mayen, who hasn’t played this season, is originally from the Sudan) while Ahmed Hamdy is from Egypt. Another freshman who has yet to play for TCU, Kevin Samuel, is originally from the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean, though he played high school ball in Houston at Redemption Christian in Texas.
Bottom line: This would be Texas’ biggest win of the year, while a loss would drop many people’s darling pick to win the conference to 1-3. With a rematch against Oklahoma coming the following Saturday in Norman, TCU would be in danger of falling to 1-4 if they lost this game.
But Texas needs to start building its resume and losing another home game is not a good look.
In its two loses on the year, TCU could have easily won both its games, and while the Horned Frogs didn’t look great in their only road game of the year last week against in an 81-78 overtime win in Waco, that same Baylor team just beat Texas. All signs point to Texas falling at home, which would make Saturday’s game at Stillwater one of most important games of the year.