Forward Toward February: A look at Texas

Forward Toward February: A look at Texas
February 2, 2013, 5:00 pm
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It’s that time of the year again for men’s college hoops fanatics.  The calendar rolls over from January to February, and with that roll over comes the heart of the conference schedules.  The top teams aim to touch up their résumés, while bubble teams look for a key victory to put them over the top.  Let’s take a look at how the season has unfolded thus far and what is next for some of the teams that are dear to the hearts of Houston residents…

Texas Longhorns:

Record as of Jan. 29: 9-10, 1-5 in Conference Play (ninth in Big 12)

Key Wins: Dec. 23 vs. then-No. 23 UNC

Bad Losses: Nov. 19 vs. Chaminade

Season To Date: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It feels like just recently that Rick Barnes had the No. 1 squad in the country with Dexter Pittman manning the paint for the Longhorns.  

Since then, it has been a free fall for Barnes and the boys from Austin. Losing players like Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph, and Tristan Thompson early to the NBA has severely hurt the Longhorns. A lack of depth and overall talent has forced players into roles that they are not suited for.  

The biggest storyline of the season for Texas has been the absence of suspended point guard, Myck Kabongo. Kabongo was expected to carry a large load offensively this season, and his prowess on defense and controlling the tempo is clearly missed.

Javan Felix has filled in admirably for Kabongo at the point, but freshman mistakes have been a staple of his performance all year. Sheldon McClellan has taken off the burden of scoring in bunches, and does so in coming off the bench. He leads the way for the Longhorns at 14.8 points per game.

Looking ahead: Feb. 16 at No. 2 Kansas

Analysis: This season appears to be past the point of salvation for Texas.  It is beginning to appear as though they will miss not only the NCAA tournament, but also the NIT tournament unless they can right the ship quickly. If anything, a win over a ranked opponent would be a nice way to build towards next season. Texas pushed Kansas to the brink of upset in their first meeting, but this next matchup is at Allen Fieldhouse… perhaps the best home-court advantage in college hoops.

A tough loss: The matchup with Kansas State ended up favoring Kansas State in every facet of the game. The Wildcats stomped the Longhorns, winning 83-57 in a laugher.

Rodney McGruder, Kansas State’s best player and an All-Big 12 performer, was almost a non-factor. He had only seven points, and it still did not matter. Thomas Gipson had the best game of his career with 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Wildcats.

McClellan and Jaylen Bond were the only two players to register double figure scoring for the Longhorns. Texas had 17 turnovers, compared to six for K-State. The Longhorns desperately need Kabongo to come back from his suspension. This team looks lost at times on the court.

Team MVP so far: McClellan…McClellan came to Texas as a highly touted recruit with tons of hype. Unfortunately, he was thrown into the starring role quicker than anyone expected due to Kabongo’s suspension. McClellan has responded well to coming off the bench. His shot selection could use some refining, but beggars can’t be choosers and Texas needs his point production.

Player to watch: Kabongo/Cameron Ridley … Kabongo and Ridley both get the nod here because there are still so many questions surrounding both of them. Kabongo is set to return from suspension in mid-February. His talent is unquestioned, but his decision-making is often criticized.  

With so much time missed, how will he handle working himself into the framework of this team and will this be his last season in Austin?

Ridley is someone to keep an eye on because of his accolades he brought with him from high school. A McDonald’s All-American who was viewed as an equal to Baylor’s Isaiah Austin at the center position, Ridley has underwhelmed in his first season at Texas.  He needs to get in better shape in order to stay on the floor longer… he is only seeing 19 minutes of action a night so far this season.