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Texas Eye Test | Peace up, Longhorns Down

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NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

As the UT cult leader, Mcckawnohay says, “Alright, alright, alright.” We finally get to discuss the most sensitive fan base in sports. There is nothing more enjoyable on the TL than a UT fan arguing to re-establish the facade of sports dominance around their program. My wife and I live in Austin, so these are conversations I willingly frequent.

What a world we live in, Kansas beats Texas in football, Texas beats Kansas in basketball. Wild times.

The reality is we got ourselves a big one Saturday in Coach Drew’s Palace. Baylor needs this win, and hasn’t looked great against the top half of the Big 12, so this is a show me something game. There’s no team (or coach) I would rather tee off on in this scenario than the Longhorns and Captain BurntBeard.

This eye test may be a bit less thorough and contain some rambled thoughts so bear with me; the in-laws were in town for a week and I wasn’t able to enter the lab with as much regularity as I would have liked. Between you and me, I may have preferred to spend some of these moments of the past week in the depths of CBB highlights, but I digress.

On a lighter note, I can’t wait to herd these cows and see the down bad Longhorn fans, half of which probably didn’t attend UT (ACC, Texas State, etc).

Setting the Scene

The Who: #20 Texas MBB x #10 Baylor MBB

The What: Top 20 Big 12 Matchup

The Where: God’s Country

The When: Saturday 2/12 11:00 AM CT on ESPN2

The Why: Just good clean fun for the Bears and staying in the thick of the Big 12 race

How We Got Here

It’s no secret that Baylor has had a tough stretch of games lately. I will sound like a broken record, but injuries and lack of consistency suck heavy. The Bears are 5-4 in their last 9 games, and this level of play can’t continue.

I was hammering the panic button during and after the KU game, and was self proclaimed down at an insurmountable level. But just when I think there’s no way forward, Baylor has a dominant win in the Little Apple dismantling a solid Kansas State team. The replica Natty ring with my name on it probably helped lift the spirits as well.

Turning our eyes to the Longhorns. Texas has been relatively consistent all season. The Longhorns don’t really have any glaringly bad losses. They sit at 18-6 (7-4), with losses to Gonzaga, Seton Hall, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. All of these teams rank in the top 64 of KenPom. So all their losses are against “tournament” teams.

Texas’ most impressive win on the resume, is their recent defeat of Kansas in Austin. The Longhorns were in control and led the game until the 12 minute mark of the second half, when Kansas took the lead. The Longhorns showed fight and toughness, hanging in the game with Kansas before finally retaking the lead with 24 seconds left in the game.

I have no issues with celebrating a big win, but rushing the court at home when knocking off the 8th ranked team in the country when you’re ranked 20th is a whole new level of poverty. But good for UT.

To prime the pump for this beautiful piece of literature, I watched the film from the following UT games: Gonzaga (L), Iowa State (L), Tennessee (W), Texas Tech (L), and Kansas (W).

This is what to expect from the sneak trick Beard led Longhorns.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Eye Test

The Longhorns are an ultra gritty, experienced, and hard nosed team. Texas has a set of seasoned players and are led by seniors and juniors. The Longhorns limit mistakes and capitalize when opponents make them.

Texas isn’t anywhere close to the most talented team in the Big 12, but they certainly are one of the toughest. Let’s not forget that they were projected to finish second or third in the Big 12, depending on what rankings you reference.

By and large this team has somewhat under-achieved this season, and I think that lands squarely on Chris Beard’s shoulders. Or just because the media always will rank Texas highly, because ‘it just means more’.

Texas Offense

I mean this as cautiously disrespectful as possible, Texas isn’t a good offensive ball club. I will leave advanced stats to our boy Cody Orr, but let me throw some numbers at you. Out of 350 teams, the Longhorns are 241st in the country in PPG (68.7), 131st in APG (13.8), 174th in ORPG (10.2), and 232nd in 3FG% (32.64%). Not great offensive output here.

Now, I said cautiously disrespectful, because the last time I slandered a team’s terrible offense was Oklahoma State, and I won’t take us on a walk down that memory lane. That being said, here is what to expect from this Longhorn offense.

Texas primarily runs an offense with two big men, and plays through those forwards. The Longhorns will set flash screens at the elbow or high on the three point arc to start the offense and get movement off the ball. Texas will set a ton of double screens, which makes it difficult to switch.

Quick memory check, do the Longhorns shoot well from deep as a team? No they certainly do not. Texas does most of their scoring inside the arc. Because they will often play a larger lineup, most of their offensive production comes at the rim or in the midrange.

The Longhorns get to the bucket well off ball screens. The ball handler will drive level with the screener and look for an easy dump off pass to the screener or find a cutting teammate. Texas guards will often drive to test the defense and then bring the ball back out to set up additional offensive movement or rescreen to initiate the offense.

When Texas needs a quick bucket, they often try to knock down mid range jumpers. All of Texas’ guards and forwards are capable shooters in the mid range, but the most efficient is Timmy Allen. When the Longhorns need a bucket, they will run the offense through Allen to get him a look around the elbow.

Texas Defense

There’s no way around this, Texas has an incredible defense. Let me throw a basic number at you again. Texas is 1st in the country in scoring defense, holding their opponents to 55.8 PPG. I’m a moron low key, but in my mind it doesn’t get much better than 1st in the country.

The Longhorns do a ton of great things defensively to support them being literally the best team in the country in scoring defense. It really all starts with the pressure they put on their opponents primary ball handler.

Texas makes it really difficult to get downhill and penetrate the paint. They collapse on the ball handler, and then hustle to relocate on kick out passes.

Typically, if a team collapses on ball handlers they are easy to exploit outside and when kicking the ball out. This isn’t the case with Texas. The Longhorns will rotate quick, and never stop moving on defense. Texas closes out strong and face guards shooters, and holds their opponents to 30.8% from three (63rd in the country).

There are a few ways to take advantage of the Longhorns defensively. They are ultra aggressive, so with solid screens and ball movement a team could blow by their defender. Also the Longhorns are not a strong rebounding team, they rank 262nd in the country with 33.71 RPG. So Texas can be taken advantage of on the glass.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Players to Watch

#0 Timmy Allen – Forward

Timmy Allen is a 6’ 6” Senior forward in his first season with Texas. Allen spent his first three years of college hoops at Utah. This season Allen leads Texas in scoring at 11.8 PPG and rebounding with 6.6 RPG. Allen adds 2.1 APG and 1.2 SPG as well.

Allen is an efficient scorer inside the arc. He is physical, smooth, and gets to his spot at will. As we just discussed he is a menace from the midrange. Allen is effective at drawing fouls, and keeps his defenders off balance.

On defense, Allen can switch onto all five positions and really gives Chris Beard flexibility in defensive schemes. He has active hands and can contest the ball at the rim.

There are only three knocks on Timmy Allen. First, he builds houses from deep. This fella is brick city, shooting 26.7% from three. Second, he turns the ball over frequently when he over dribbles. Last but certainly not least, he is 22 years old and still goes by Timmy.

#2 Marcus Carr – Guard

Marcus Carr is a 6’ 2” Senior guard, and Texas is the third stop in his college hoops journey. Carr spent his freshman year at Pittsburgh, his sophomore and junior years at Minnesota, and has landed at UT for his final year of eligibility.

Carr is the primary true point guard for Texas. He averages 11 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.2 RPG, and 1 SPG. Carr gets to the basket well, but isn’t a very efficient scorer outside the paint. Carr shoots just 38.6% from the field.

Carr has a bit of a smaller frame and can be isolated on defense. He struggles when switched off of the opponent’s point guard and has to defend outside his position.

#1 Andrew Jones – Guard

Andrew Jones is a 6’ 4” Senior guard, and has been a member of the Longhorns for 6 seasons. We should all know and love Jones after his well documented battle and victory over leukemia. There isn’t much better of a story in sports than Andrew Jones. The best part is that he came back and has been a great player for the Longhorns.

Jones is averaging 10 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, and leads the Longhorns in steals with 1.3 SPG. Jones follows the trend with the Longhorn offense, he is most efficient when getting downhill and to the basket.

Defensively, Jones has active hands and can cause issues with his length. He moves his feet well and seems to always be in the right position. Jones jumps passing lanes well, and is a strong help defender, collapsing on driving players or big men on the block.

#3 Courtney Ramey – Guard

Courtney Ramey is a 6’ 3” Senior guard and has spent his entire college career at Texas. Ramey is a reliable offensive option for the Longhorns averaging 9.7 PPG to go with 3.1 RPG and 1.5 APG.

Ramey is the best shooter that plays meaningful minutes for the Longhorns. He shoots 37.1% from deep, but is shooting over 40% on catch and shoot threes. If Ramey’s primary defender leaves him open he can do a ton of damage from deep.

#33 Tre Mitchell – Forward

Tre Mitchell is a 6’ 9” Junior forward in his first season at Texas. Mitchell spent his first two seasons at UMass. Mitchell averages 9 PPG, 4 RPG, 1 APG, and leads Texas at 0.7 BPG.

Mitchell is a key piece to this Texas team. He is an efficient screener, really athletic, and helps keep the Texas offense moving. Mitchell’s combination of size and quickness make him a great defender as well, and a solid modern day big man.

The only knock with Mitchell, is he loves to shoot the three ball, but doesn’t do it that well. On the tape I watched him bank in two of those bad boys. Mitchell is that guy in your pickup league who when he gets the ball outside everyone should yell “let him shoot.”

#32 Christian Bishop – Forward

Christian Bishop is a 6’ 7” Senior forward and like pretty much everyone on the roster, this is his first year at Texas. Bishop spent his first three seasons at Creighton. Bishop averages 6.3 PPG and 5.1 RPG in his first season at Texas.

Bishop is a strong player in the paint, and finishes well in traffic at the rim. Bishop doesn’t do any one thing great, but is just solid at both ends of the floor. He was a big transfer pickup for Texas and gives the Longhorns another long versatile player.

Bottom Line

Bottom line, Texas is a bad offensive team and an elite defensive team. The Longhorns do a great job getting their opponents off schedule offensively and capitalize on turnovers. Chris Beard has been a disappointment so far this year from a fan base that thought they’d be atop the Big 12 at this point in the year.

When Texas wins, they are winning the turnover battle and converting easy looks on offense. When Texas loses, they allow their opponent to get to the paint and the Longhorns get disjointed offensively.

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Why Baylor Wins

We are back to assuming a dub here. Truth be told I am expecting victories the rest of the way through.

This is what we will need from our boys.

#0 Flo Thamba – @Flo_T3

With UT being a subpar rebounding team we will need Flo to clean up the glass whenever he is on the floor. If Flo can consistently secure rebounds over Allen, Mitchell, and Bishop the Bears should be in good shape.

Flo needs to be efficient finishing when he gets looks around the rim. With as stingy as the Longhorns are defensively Baylor cannot afford to miss bunnies.

If Flo can set solid screens and create space for the Baylor guards, he will have done his job offensively. Texas is great at sticking with their man, so Flo will need to come set and not pick up cheap offensive fouls.

#1 Jeremy Sochan – @SochanJeremy

I guess his bald head is good luck?

Sochan has to be efficient on offense and help Baylor spread the floor to create good looks. I am not saying that Sochan needs to have an out of body experience from three. What he must do is keep the defense moving by cutting with purpose and relocating to create space.

On defense we need to see Sochan be a stable defender when switched onto any position. He will probably be put in situations where he has to guard Timmy Allen and Tre Mitchell in a single possession, he needs to and will answer the call.

#2 Kendall Brown – @TheeKbrown

Over the last few games, Brown has shown his ability to be a dynamic player on offense. We will need him to play with a purpose and move constantly against Texas. Brown has the unique ability to get anywhere he wants on the floor, and if Baylor is in a scoring drought, the Bears may need Kendall to get his.

Defensively Brown needs to do much of the same. He has been incredibly active on defense this season, and a difference maker. If Brown can stay out of foul trouble and avoid reaching in, I think he has a chance to be a big difference maker defensively against the Longhorns.

#3 Dale Bonner – @dalebonne

Bonner continues to do Bonner things. It has been impressive to see Dale grow over the last month of the season. Bonner has been the definition of consistency. Against Texas, Bonner will need to continue to play within his game. By that I mean Bonner must take what the defense gives him on offense, and play with a high motor on defense.

A successful game Saturday for Bonner is a handful of points, a couple of assists, a couple of rebounds, and staying out of foul trouble. Bonner has been a stabilizer this team didn’t realize they desperately needed. Thank you for your service Dale.

#4 LJ Cryer – @LjCryer

I just don’t expect LJ to play. I am really concerned that his surgically repaired foot is still giving him issues. I am frankly worried we won’t see him again this season. I hope I’m wrong.

#10 Adam Flagler – @adamflagler

It is clear that although Flagler is back in the lineup, he isn’t completely healthy. This is a freaking shame because it seemed like he was getting in a groove off of the wrist injury before this knee issue arose.

Against Texas we need Flagler to focus on moving on offense. Clearly Flagler’s shot has been a cause of concern, both from three and surprisingly the free throw line. Where he has been efficient though is at the rim and in mid range. With Texas’ defense so focused on closing out on shooters, look for Flagler to catch the ball beyond the arc and try to penetrate and create for others.

#11 James Akinjo – @akinjojames3 (Insta no Twitter for our boy)

Is Akinjo still the most puzzling human being in college basketball? I have to assume that Akinjo still isn’t at 100%. Yes, he is back “healthy” but a goose egg on 0-11 shooting against Kansas, and then a 5-14 performance against Kansas State; that just doesn’t look like the Akinjo we saw in the first half of the year.

Against Texas, Akinjo needs to play in control and limit turnovers. This Texas team isn’t going to outscore anyone they play, so Akinjo doesn’t need to go nuclear. If Akinjo drives to the bucket and doesn’t settle for jumpers, I think the offense will run extremely well.

This is a big if however, because of how great Texas is at taking away driving lanes. Akinjo will need to stay on his feet, and not attempt jumping skip passes. I expect Akinjo’s leadership and experience to shine against the Longhorns.

#23 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (Everyday Jon aka EJ) – @JonathanTchamwa

Everyday Jon really had himself a day huh? I think it is unlikely to see the Kansas State level production out of EJ each game, but it is pretty crazy to think that the capability is there. I am also so down for EJ to shoot a couple of threes a game from the top of the key.

EJ will need to be a difference maker on the glass as well. If Baylor can take advantage of Texas’ weak rebounding it will do two things: extend offensive possessions, and get out in transition. EJ is a great outlet passer, and a great way to beat this Longhorn defense is to not let them get set by taking advantage of transition opportunities.

#24 Matthew Mayer – @MatthewMayer24

I’ll make this very concise. We need Mayer to not put a bagel on the scorecard.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction

Baylor will come out hot. I expect the Bears to force a ton of Longhorn turnovers and get out running in transition. Look for Coach Drew to try and force the Longhorns to go small by having Baylor play with pace.

Baylor will knock down a few open threes and extend the lead to double digits. The Longhorn defense will get some stops down the stretch in the first half and make a couple buckets, cutting the lead to about 6 at halftime.

Coach Drew will make some adjustments and put the Longhorn offense in some clamps to start the second half. I think Baylor opens the second half on a run, and forces Beard to take an early timeout.

The Longhorns will adjust defensively, but it won’t last. Baylor will pull away and never lose the lead in the second half. The Bears win the top 20 matchup by double digits and make a statement at home.

Baylor 72 – Texas 58

Horns Down and Sic ‘Em

As always I will be posting the lines and giving expert advice on what to take.