Big 12 Conference (24-9, 9-7)
Big Wins: 11/24 vs Pittsburgh (78-62), 12/22 Michigan State (79-68), 1/16 Texas A&M (72-67)
Bad Losses: 1/23 at Connecticut (74-88), 2/6 at Oklahoma (71-80), 2/17 at Missouri (77-82)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2009, Second Round loss to Duke
Coach: Rick Barnes (19-17 in 17 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
Texas ranks in the top 15 in the nation in both scoring and rebounding, and the main reason for that is wing Damion James. A lack of depth in the frontcourt forces James to play at the four spot, but that is not a problem at all for the 6-7 senior. James is leading the Longhorns with 18.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and it is more likely than not that James will come away from a game with a double-double.
James cannot do all the scoring and rebounding by himself and that is where 6-10, 290 pound senior Dexter Pittman steps into the mix. Pittman barely plays 19 minutes per game, but he is averaging an impressive 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds. Pittman is also an intimidating presence in the paint and he will block quite a few shots against those who dare to challenge him under the basket.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Traditionally Texas thrives in the backcourt, but that has not been the case this year. The team as a whole is awful at shooting the long ball and turnovers can be a problem. Freshman Avery Bradley is the team’s best perimeter scorer and most consistent outside shooter. J’Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton can hit the long ball as well, but they too are inconsistent freshmen. Brown takes too many three-pointers, especially for a guy who is money from the charity stripe. On the year Hamilton has provided a quick spark off the bench with his outside shooting, but he is certainly not reliable day in and day out at this point in his career.
Who To Watch:
It is understandable that a team that runs so much commits so many turnovers, but the issue became much, much larger when starting point guard Dogus Balbay went out for the season with a torn ACL suffered on February 20th against Texas Tech. Balbay was never much of a scorer, but his 3.9 assists and just 1.6 turnovers per game will be greatly missed. In his absence Mason will have to take over a majority of the ballhandling duties and that is not going to help the turnover problem. The injury to Varez Ward four games into the season is looking even more important now. Brown was back in the starting lineup after starting a half dozen games earlier in the year, but has since moved back to the bench, and that makes this a really young group in the backcourt and Mason is going to have be a great senior leader if the Longhorns hope for a tournament run.
Justin Mason, Senior, Guard, 3.7 ppg, 1.8 apg
Avery Bradley, Freshman, Guard, 11.7 ppg, 2.1 apg
Damion James, Senior, Forward, 18.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.6 spg
Gary Johnson, Junior, Forward, 9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg
Dexter Pittman, Senior, Center, 10.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.9 rpg
J’Covan Brown, Freshman, Guard, 9.3 ppg, 2.4 apg
Jordan Hamilton, Freshman, Forward, 9.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 81.7 (5th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.0 (191, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.2 (34, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.8 (33, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.8 (209, 11)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.0 (124, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 63.3 (313, 12)
Rebound Margin: 6.6 (13, 3)
Assists Per Game: 14.7 (58, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.1 (194, 11)
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