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Rose Bowl Replay?

The NCAA Tournament Round #2 - Spokane

Being here in NYC I have seen a fair amount of Texas Hoops. USC games are either on too late or on regional coverage for me to see here so you watch what's on.

This is a good Texas team for a number of reasons, outside of freshman phenom and likely Player of the Year Kevin Durant. Coach Rick Barnes has built a solid team of mostly freshman in prominent roles, which have played pretty well together, after losing a number of top players to the NBA last season.

From ESPN (Middle of the page):

The way this season evolved for Texas isn't surprising considering the number of youngsters Longhorns coach Rick Barnes plays on a nightly basis. Early in the season, Texas very much acted its age.

...But as the Big 12 season progressed, Texas got better and better.


Gibson
Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier - LAT
Now, where have we seen that before?

This team has matured quite nicely indeed but they are not unbeatable. It's easy to focus on Durant but attention needs to be given also to D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams who are pretty good players in their own right. Abrams can shoot from just about anywhere on the court as he has some insane range and Augustin is a control player who seldom makes a mistake. Not going to be easy, but not impossible either.  Texas was tested by New Mexico St. but the Longhorns did what the needed to do.

But...They have struggled in the past, they are by no means the next "Fab Five", but they are solid but just getting the ball to Durant is not the answer. Durant can also have an off night and maybe take too many shots. If Durant has to work a little too hard it could mean that other areas of the Longhorns game plan could be out of sync. The big question of course is who on USC will guard Durant? I won't even speculate but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a number of different looks thrown at Durant tonight.

Balance...That is the key.

It's not enough to say `crash the boards' or `play better in transition'. You can't just focus on Durant because Augustin can burn you or Abrams can burn you so SC needs to keep its defense balanced and not go into panic mode if thing fall apart a little. Durant is going to get his but if you key on him too much it will hurt you elsewhere. Durant is lights out at the line so while guarding him aggressively is important SC can't get too crazy as it will only get him to the line. But something tells me that Coach Floyd will bang Durant all evening and try to knock him off his rhythm but who really knows? Texas also sometimes does not use their heads with sloppy turnovers and ill-timed timeouts.

When SC has the ball they need to balance their game as well, if they are effective on the inside they could open up the outside and that could spell trouble for Texas, I don't think they are as effective at guarding the 3 as other teams we have seen. On defense they need to slow down the tempo so Texas can't use the fast break which I know they will be dying to do.

So how will it go? Hard to say, I don't think this will be a blowout but it will be closer than some might think. SC has some athletic players so that could be a bit of a problem for Texas.

This will be fun to watch...I hope ole' what's-his-name isn't on the court. ;-)

I will have a game thread up a little later.