Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Longhorn Basketball 2008 vs. 2003: Who Would You Take?

The 2008 Longhorns have a very short bench, and they are young and inexperienced at that. However, they were called on early in the season to fill the glaring hole in this Longhorns' starting lineup, and that was the front court.

After being exposed in the front court by Michigan State and Wisconsin, Texas needed production from their three bench bigs, Dexter Pittman (So.), Alexis Wangmene (Fr.), and Clint Chapman (Fr.). Needless to say, things didn't look too bright for the Horns. What has been impressive though, is how these three have continued to improve and have taken turns showing flashes of brilliance and come through in big spots for the Longhorns.

Dexter Pittman has continued to improve as the 300 lb, mass in the middle. He has shown the most comfort of any of the three offensively, and has played exceptionally well against Texas A&M, 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 20 minutes over two games against the Aggies. He also provides Texas its largest body inside, taking up space and clogging the lane.

Alexis Wangmene has probably made the largest strides of anyone on the Texas bench. The Cameroonian averages 2.4 ppg and 2.6 rpg in 10.4 mpg. He has played well of late scoring 5 pts, 7 reb, 2 blks in 16 minutes against Oklahoma and 5 pts, 5 reb, 2 blks in 21 minutes against Kansas State. He provides toughness and defensive awareness in the middle and continues to improve every time he's on the floor.

Clint Chapman, while not the heart throb Matt Hill is, probably due to the high socks, he is another solid big man off the Texas bench. He is solid defensively and attacks the boards hard. He hasn't quite made his mark like Pittman or Wangmene, but that's because he looks too much like Connor for his own good. Maybe he wears his socks high, so Barnes can remember who it is.

The last man off the bench that Barnes uses is JD Lewis. The junior college transfer is one of two seniors on the club and has provided the Longhorns with a decent ball handling option that hustles and is solid on the defensive end. He has been used to spell AJ and Mace, but mostly he is a nice three point option off the bench. He's shooting 50% from three this season and helps to open up driving lanes when he's out there.

Because of the heavy minutes logged by the Texas starters, the opportunities for the Longhorn bench have been limited this season. But in the opportunities that have been afforded them, they have stepped up and showed great promise. They have been sent in with the mission of not screwing things up, and they've managed to do that successfully. While they're not as diversified as the 2003 bench, they fill a major need of this team and have continued to improve all season long.

You know watching the first half of the season, watching us go 13-0, you knew there were holes inside. Those holes got exposed by Michigan State and Wisconsin, and it looked like it would limit our season. But you watch this team now, and you don't hide your head when you see Rick Barnes turning to his bench, and it's the depth they have provided that improves our chances come March.

No comments: