Monday, March 19, 2007

Thanks....No Really, Thanks.

It's the morning after and still there isn't too much to say about a game that wasn't close, really at any point throughout. USC showed up ready to play and attacked, and had a successful game plan for combating Kevin Durant. Texas left their intensity, hustle, fire, and game somewhere in Spokane. Perhaps in the coming days we will hear more about the on-going investigation as to the circumstances involving the disappearance of Texas' game. If the Trojans sent their cheerleading squad to our hotel, I'm going to be pissed...that we didn't think of that.

After a game like that, you wonder whether you should even address it, but really, if we really were going to do that, why have a blog. It seems like Floyd knew how to attack the Texas defense, and had a successful game plan for pushing Durant away from the basket. Also, one of the first teams all year to double Kevin Durant outright, showed that it was a good decision. But, as we've known all year, this team lives and dies with DJ Augustin. And with DJ having one of his worst games of the season, we had no chance.

Many are going to point the finger at Barnes. He's been under a lot of scrutiny this season for the way he gets Durant involved, for the team's cohesion on the offensive end, and for at times the lack of defense. He will probably be questioned a lot after this one as it seemed that we had no answer for anything USC was prepared to do, and appeared to lack intensity and focus. While I agree with some of the criticism that Barnes has taken this year, I don't know how much of the blame he can take for this one. Barnes was working with Kevin Durant and AJ Abrams. DJ Augustin was having the worst game of his life, but even then you have to leave him in. In times like these, we have to rely on someone else on the roster to step up and fill the void. Justin Mason, Damion James, and Connor Atchely have come through at different points throughout the season. Yesterday, on the biggest stage, no one stepped up. Barnes tried different combinations of Mason, James, Atchely, Craig Winder, JD Lewis, and Matt Hill to try and find some combination that gave us 4 basketball players on the court. No matter what Barnes tried, he ended up with two, Durant and Abrams.

I could talk more about the game, but that would only result in me wanting to jab something sharp in my eye even more. This game wasn't close at any point. We didn't' come to play, perhaps we were looking ahead to North Carolina, but either way, the point is moot. It's pointless to break down a game when no small adjustments would've affected the game in any sort of way.

Instead, it's interesting to look ahead the future. The number one question on everyone's mind will be, is Kevin Durant done? The answer has to be yes. I hope you enjoyed it. There can't be any reason why he would come back. What does he have to work on? What does he have to prove? Why would he turn down that much money? It just doesn't make any sense for him to come back. Though if we were trying to get him to come back, losing so convincingly in the second round might leave enough of a bad taste in his mouth that he'd want another shot at it. Durant has been an unconventional guy all his career, from his loyalty, to his high school choice, to his college choice, to the way he handles himself on and off the court. But, still, why would he come back?

The more interesting question is with what other parts of the roster will be back? We thought early on that we were losing Durant and James after the season. Well I think the first 3/4 of the season for Damion James took care of that question and he will be back for another season. The other question that emerged was the status of DJ Augustin. While he is ranked high on some draft boards, I think the last few weeks of marginal to sub-marginal play pretty much showed many people, and hopefully DJ himself that there is still room for lessons to be learned and things to be improved on. I think the disaster that was this USC game was just the icing on the cake that will lead to a hungry Augustin coming back for his sophomore season.

Another interesting aspect will be the biggest change from this year to next (Given that Durant is gone) will be the style of play. With 3 power forwards coming in next season, and the expanded roles of Matt Hill and Dexter Pittman, Texas should and will return to it's more recognizable role as a physically dominating inside-out team. I think both Hill and Dexter will have impact seasons along with Connor, who has shown this season he is getting close to breaking through, and I think one of the freshman will be ready to contribute. That's just the law of averages, I think. But Justin Mason will have to make some strides in the off-season and come back playing well to justify his spot in the starting lineup, as the makeup of next season's team kind of makes you think that you will see Damion James playing some small forward to allow Connor and Matt Hill to play the power forward spot, with Dexter at the center spot. I think we will be very versatile next season, though we will be a little thin in the back court, with Augustin, Abrams, Mason, and JD Lewis, depending on the strides, if any, that Harrison Smith makes. Just shows how important DJ Augustin coming back is for this team next season.

The last interesting question in the off-season will be what will the coaching staff next season look like? Several of the assistants have been named in head coaching searches over the past few seasons, and each has been with the program for a few years. Potentially, we could see the departure of one or two assistant coaches, which should cause an interesting shift in the make up of the staff.

The ending to the season left something to be desired, as everyone in Longhorn nation and around the country were captivated to see what Kevin Durant could do. To go out the way we did is a disappointment and leaves a bitter taste in everyone's mouth. Some would say it's times like these that you must stick together, put in the work, and come back with a renewed fire next season. I don't totally agree with. I think you need to find one person that you can focus all that anger and pent up rage on, and just fully with all your heart, despise that person.

I think it's safe to say our 2007 " really, thanks, jackass" Award goes to Mike Williams. Thanks Mike. We didn't need a 6'10" 240 pound forward who is a defensive presence and had an offensive breakthrough last season in the tournament, and would've been a starter all season. Thanks, hope you enjoy Cincinnati. Oh, just in case you didn't realize actually have to make the Big East Tournament each season. Good luck with that. really, thanks.

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