Nothing feels better when it comes to sticking it to a rival than having their prize recruit suit up against them. Maybe this is why we're making a habit of welcoming opposing Big XII players into the program. Damion James follows in the footsteps of Kenny Taylor and returns to what was supposed to be his home for his OU career. After Kelvin Sampson left, Damion must have realized he was about to go to Oklahoma, and would have to look at this kid for four years.
The fact that Damion James is visiting the school he spurned, it is a UT/OU rivalry game, and that Texas needs a win, give this match up the makings of being a close one. However, given that Texas is riding a four game winning streak and appears to be playing its finest basketball of the season, and the fact that OU is coming off three straight losses give reason to believe it might not be that close.
But despite those losses, OU has played everyone close and is a tough out on their home court. Also, unlike in Austin, Oklahoma will have leading scorer and rebounder Longar Longar (it's easier for the athlete to remember if the first name and the last name are the same). While Longar Longar is not of the same caliber as a Mario Boggan, Texas has proved at times this year that you don't necessarily have to be a skilled post player to dominate inside. The other main threats for Oklahoma are Nate Carter and Michael Neal, while both are solid and can get hot, neither pose a consistent threat to beat you. Texas might have to watch out for freshman point guard Bobby Maze, a teammate of Kevin Durant's for five years, who started last Tuesday against Missouri and played well. Though, he probably is realizing it's harder when Kevin Durant isn't on your team. The rest of Oklahoma's rotation is filled out by David Godbold, Tony "Betty" Crocker, and Austin Johnson, all of whom can knock down the shot if given the chance.
Texas comes into this game playing well and riding a four game winning streak. Depending on how you look at it, Texas has been getting great team efforts as Abrams looks to have shot his way through his slump, Mason has gotten over his freshman lull, and Damion James has found his role within the offense. Even Connor Atchley has been providing solid minutes, which I don't think we've ever seen those words used together in the same sentence before. Though if you want to be pessimistic, you could say that Kevin Durant hasn't been as dominant in the last few games, and might be getting fatigued due to the 38 plus minutes he averages on any given night. Personally, I think defenses are gearing even more to stop Durant and he's deferring to his teammates more often and they're stepping up.
While this game will be closer than it needs to be due to our inconsistent play on the road, we should be able to handle NIT bound Oklahoma (That has a surprisingly nice ring to it). Texas is more talented and more athletic and Oklahoma shouldn't be able to score with the Horns. Oh, and Texas has Kevin Durant, he's kinda good. Texas needs a win, as 21 wins would pretty much seal a tournament appearance and get them to 11 wins in conference, which may be all we get with A&M and Kansas on tap to close out the regular season.
Prediction: 77-71 Texas.