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Originally published February 8, 2010 at 12:00a.m., updated February 8, 2010 at 01:45p.m.

Keegan

Texas flawed, scary

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Just three weeks ago, Texas boasted a 17-0 record and the nation’s No. 1 ranking, and senior Damion James had become a fashionable national player-of-the-year candidate.

Since then, the Longhorns have gone 2-4 and will slip out of the top 10 when today’s rankings are released. James? He made just four of 13 free throws in a loss to Oklahoma.

How did the Longhorns fall so far, so fast?

For one thing, they were overrated. Two nonconference victories thought to be impressive at the time they scored them, in retrospect, came against foes who were unworthy of their rankings.

Pittsburgh suffered a recent stretch of four losses in five games, including setbacks to unranked foes Seton Hall and South Florida. North Carolina has lost six of eight, a tailspin that started with a setback to College of Charleston.

Defeating Michigan State stands up as an impressive performance — even though the Spartans lost twice last week in the Big Ten — but the Longhorns have been exposed as flawed, weighed down by a center, Dexter Pittman, averaging less than 20 minutes a game, and a three-headed point-guard rotation.

James isn’t mentioned much anymore in Wooden Award talk, but he is averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds and is capable of taking over a game against a quality team. He dominated Michigan State’s front line with 23 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-68 victory Dec. 22.

A 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward from Nacogdoches, Texas, James is a .377 three-point shooter, but he has gone four games in a row without hitting a shot from long distance, attempting just one in each of those games.

A nonconference loss to UConn, mixed into the Longhorns’ schedule after four Big 12 games, couldn’t be traced to James. He had 23 points and seven rebounds.

James remains the biggest threat to KU’s unbeaten Big 12 record. Last season in Allen Fieldhouse, James scored 20 of his team-high 26 points in the first half of a game Kansas came from behind to win, 83-73.

Remarkably consistent, complete-player Marcus Morris draws the tough defensive assignment. Morris helped to limit Iowa State’s Craig Brackins — a longer, less physical player than James — to 13 points.

“He can shoot the ball, he can put it on the ground,” Morris said of James. “He’s a three playing the four. That’s going to be a tough assignment. I’m going to watch film on him. I’m going to see his tendencies, what he enjoys doing, what way he goes. That’s just going to be my assignment for the game. I’m not worried about scoring. I’m not worried about rebounding. I’m just worried about taking one of their best players out of the game.”

More than depth of talent makes Texas an extremely dangerous opponent for Kansas. The home team has the advantage in Saturday-Monday games. This will be KU’s third overall game and second road game in six days. Texas is desperate for a signature victory to restore its confidence. Winning this one will require a slicker effort from the Jayhawks than they put forth against either Colorado or Nebraska.

Texas won’t go 10-for-27 at the free-throw line as it did in the loss at Oklahoma, one that left the Longhorns wounded and dangerous.

• A previous version of this story contained an error.

Comments

Scott MacWilliams 4 years, 6 months ago

Hey Jayhawks, Time to pull out all the stops. Texas has proven themselves fallible to be sure, but you can bet they're going to be foamin' at the chops to try and shoot down the 'Hawks. Here's hoping that Withey and all the rest of the bench All-stars are ready to step in light it up on ESPN. I'm expecting a tough win, by about four points max, something like 81-77. ROCK CHALK, JAYHAWKS!!

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whitechocolate 4 years, 6 months ago

"Defeating Michigan State and coming within two points at Kentucky stand up as impressive performances..."

Texas hasn't played Kentucky

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Lindsey Buscher 4 years, 6 months ago

Overrated? You were one of the idiots who was ranking them no. 1 even before our first loss.

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Toto_the_great 4 years, 6 months ago

WC- I think it was at UConn (not at Kentucky)

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rockemchalkemrobots 4 years, 6 months ago

WC

It would seem he is referring to North Carolina, who beat Michigan State and lost by two at Kentucky. Poorly worded, to say the least.

The way the Tarheels are currently playing, we may beat them to 2,000.

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Steve Brown 4 years, 6 months ago

The race to 2,000 is interesting in that it really isn't worth much. Just a mile marker the way to continued basketball tradition.

Not often is Kansas an underdog in bastketball game of horse, so to come from behind in this mission, with a long shot or long odds, to finish ahead of UNC offers some temporary pleasure.

Tonight's game will be tough test, James will play great for the big stage, question is will our bigs or theirs have more fouls - is Pittman out of shape?

Will we feed our bigs. X marks the square- and finds his shot.

brand dem horns.

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Michael Leiker 4 years, 6 months ago

If there is any justice UT should be ranked between 18-20 today if not lower. Yeah, from a strictly win-loss standpoint they could be ranked as high as 11-13 but with all the recent losses they should be around that 20 mark.

You know, if KU loses tonight, at least it would make the rest of February interesting.

If they win, this whole Big XII basketball deal is just a joke.

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Mike Kendall 4 years, 6 months ago

Pull out all the stops, Jayhawks!! Good luck, tonight!!!!!!!!

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FairgroveJayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

lighthawk - I like your thinking and hope you're right on X. His early shots against NU looked pure and I can see he's dying to break out. I would have thought he'd have come to life against NU but, there's no time like the present.

Come on X- Bring the mustard!

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Michael Leiker 4 years, 6 months ago

X is not capable of bringing the mustard people. He has fundamental flaws in his game that are holding him back and will take thousands of reps in the off season to fix.

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Jaminrawk 4 years, 6 months ago

I love that all of those teams the knocked off UNC early like UK and Texas can't really use it as a "quality win" anymore. How did Michigan State lose to UNC?

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JayhawkRock 4 years, 6 months ago

I like my chances with Marcus Morris being challenged to guard Damion James in this game. If we shut down James then we have a great shot at winning the game.

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1977kufan 4 years, 6 months ago

Whitechocolate, I certainly agree with you. Where did that 2 point close game of the shorthorns vs. Kentucky come from??? Otherwise, this game will be interesting from many perspectives. As I mentioned in a prior blog and for me, one important perspective will be the "zebra effect". We had a nice example of the "no call" resulting in X being pushed to floor followed by a small injury to the forehead (small amount of blood - gee I thought those might be criteria for a foul, but obviously, I am wrong) and a resultant technical foul (for emphasizing this interesting "no call") by Coach Self. Yes, yes I know we are not suppose to mention anything about the officiating, but gee, where is our paternalistic oversight (at this point please read NCAA). I hope that crew or any member is not in Austin this evening. Jayhawks, its time for everyone's A game and Rock Chalk in Texas.

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Michael Leiker 4 years, 6 months ago

The cut to X's forehead was from an inadvertent elbow. Head in the wrong place at the wrong time...it wasn't intentional and definitely did not warrant a T. He was pushed to the floor, but it was just people going after the ball, he really didn't get pushed that hard.

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NebraskaJayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

Do the rankings really matter? Seriously, this is going to be a dog fight.

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FairgroveJayhawk 4 years, 6 months ago

leikness - X may prefer mustard on his long horn filet :)

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jaybate 4 years, 6 months ago

"Monday AM Analyzing Tayhose:"

Intro:

KU is going to be playing a typically physical Texas team that plays 9 deep, is anchored by a dominant 5 (Dexter), scores through an athletic 4 (James), plays a trinitizing PG and two combos on the perimeter (all 6'2" players outside), wins with rebounding, especially offensive rebounding, and with strips, but loses with weak FT shooting, weak trey shooting, a lot of TOs, and on any night Dexter and Damion can only gain a split on the boards. TX has to dominate on the boards to win.

Butcher has decided if you can't beat Self going big at the 4 and 3, then join him going small but strong and athletic at the 4 (6'7" James is maybe an inch shy of Marcus' height) and small, but athletic at 1, 2, and 3 (Bradley, Balbay, Mason fit the combo moniker), then play 9 deep to stay fresh; then defend the trey stripe, control the paint, and rebound (especially offensive rebound). Any one who resists gets muscled.

Offensively, Texas, like KU, is a down the middle team with three anchors. Compare Texas and KU:

Team: Anchor/Position/PPG/3pt%

TX:Bradley/G/12.5/41% TX:James/4/17.8/37% TX:Dexter/5/11.4/NA KU:Collins/G/15.6/39% KU:Morris/4/13/36% KU:Aldrich/5/11.6/NA

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jaybate 4 years, 6 months ago

KU Advantages:

~Texas team can't FT shoot (.61), KU can (688). ~Dexter can't FT shoot (.52), Cole can (.709). ~Texas team can't trinitize (.34), KU can (.41). ~Texas is small (6'2") at the 3, where KU is tall (X at 6'6") or small (Brady at 6'3").

TX Advantages:

~Texas regularly splits time at the post and plays without Dexter without much fall off, whereas KU falls way off without Cole, who usually plays 30 minutes. ~James maybe able to defend Marcus and still score. Marcus is more likely defend James, but have a scoring fall off. ~Texas depth does not trigger much fall off, so they can stay fresher and foul more than KU, which, in tight games, often only plays 7 players big minutes.

Forecast:

KU has many ways to beat Texas and should win, even handily on a good shooting night. The trick will be to focus on the best way and avoid getting caught up in Butcher Barnes fouling ten deep game.

What KU Must Do Position by Position:

5: This will be Cole's biggest test, because Texas is two deep at the 5 and KU needs Cole to score more than usual, so that Marcus can focus on containing James. Dexter is good and a load, which will tire Cole; then Texas will keep fresh with Dexter's back up. Self has a tough call. KU falls off when Cole leaves. But Self almost has to play TRob and Withey a minimum total of ten, maybe fifteen minutes tonight (probably partly why Withey got the 9 minutes vs. NU--rest Cole and use Withey for backup vs. Texas). Why? Because Cole is going to get ridden and fouled hard and because Marcus is going to need Kieff subbing for him at least 15 minutes, because of fouling related to containing James. If I'm Self, I am thinking split Cole and Withey during Dexter's minutes, then bring Cole fresh against Dexter's backup, then maybe, if there's a lead, TRob for 3 minutes against Dexter's backup; then as much Cole as is needed the second half, with Withey giving two three minute blows for fouls, or fatigue. KU needs to put Dexter on the line with three point opps. (Advantage: even)

4: Tough match up between Marcus and Damion. Any teams that stop Marcus can play us close. But stop Marcus and KU has quite a few options around the floor. Stop Damion, and Texas is dead really can't expect to compensate given KU's match-ups elsewhere. Expect Self to press for a maximum effort at containing James, but Marcus still has to get some buckets. It is always a mistake not to let a good player like Damion not have to play a lot of defense. Big test for Marcus. I'm betting he's ready for it. (Advantage: Even)

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jaybate 4 years, 6 months ago

3: X ought to have a huge edge offensively, but he could be in real trouble trying to keep up with a combo on defense. If X can handle the combo defensively, X could be how we break Texas' back. If he can't, then Brady to the rescue. (Advantage: KU)

2: This would be a great night for Tyshawn to break out for 20, but I think their combos are too good defensively for him to get untracked. Tyrel and Brady are apt to get a lot of minutes threatening threes to keep Texas guarding the trey stripe so as to give Cole and Marcus and Sherron room to work inside. (Advantage: even)

1: This is Sherron's night to shine. Its going to be a violent confrontation much of the time. He's apt to do a lot of penetrating and popping the triceratop. (Advantage: KU)

How KU Wins:

KU needs to sag on defense to help Marcus and Cole and to sharply cut TX' offensive rebounding. TX without offensive rebounding is dead meat.

KU's reserves need to foul TX early and hard on shots to deny baskets. TX, especially Dexter, can't win games at the FT stripe.

KU needs to protect the ball. TX likes to strip, but turns it over quite a bit. Ball protection will buy big advantages in this game, where both teams pressure hard on defense.

KU needs to dare TX (except Bradley) to pop the trey. They can't trinitize.

TX will foul early and often. KU needs to make its free throws early and get rough quick to make sure TX holds no psychological, or referee, advantage there. The team that fouls in retaliation is the team that is branded in referees minds as the rougher team. Foul first and hard.

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jaybate 4 years, 6 months ago

KU has to feed Cole and Cole has to make moves to make Dexter expend energy on defense.

KU needs to quicken the pace whenever Dexter's on the floor. He still has limited cardi-vascular. The faster the pace, the less Dexter. The less Dexter, the less wear and tear on Cole.

Wear Damion down by making him play a lot of defense on Marcus. It will actually help Marcus defend Damion, if Marcus is fed and forces Damion to play defense. Whether Marcus actually tries to score, or not, it is very important to get the ball in Marcus' hands almost every time down the floor. Damion is their man. Damion has to score down the stretch on jump shots and getting to the rim down for TX to have a good chance of winning. The more trips Damion has to really work at defending Marcus, whether Marcus actually tries to score or not, the more tired Damion's legs are going to be down the stretch and the less accurate he will be. KU can go elsewhere than Marcus down the stretch for buckets. TX has to go to Damion. Tire Damion and you win.

KU needs to play through X a lot at some point. He is a glaring match-up advantage, if he is hitting his shots. If Self is really feeling crafty, he will post X up and let him just kill the combo guard time after time until Barnes adjusts.

If KU's reserves can't hold leads against TX reserves, then KU needs to play box and 1 (one on Bradley) and 2-3 zone to exploit TX' lousy trey shooting outside Bradley.

TX vs. KU Disruption Statistics:

Teams: Steals/TOs: TX: 194/321 = .604
KU: 199/302 = .659

We strip a little better and protect the ball a little better. It is imperative that we maintain this edge in the game.

Team/OffRbs/TotRbs:

TX: 349/1007 KU: 309/955

It is imperative that we keep them off the offensive boards.

Rock chalk!

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BrinkDaddy 4 years, 6 months ago

"...coming within two points at Kentucky stand up as impressive performances,"

Seriously....can the reader trust ANY data from this columnist and/or paper???

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mandomax 4 years, 6 months ago

It's clear Keegan doesn't read any comments posted by us readers. On Jesse Newell's articles for sure, and sometimes even Gary Bedore's, if a reader points out a mistake in the article in a comment, the author goes back and changes the online version of the article to correct it. As many posters have noted, Keegan erred in reporting that TX played UK and lost by only two.

Unlike mistakes in printed papers, these online articles can be changed on the fly without the need to print a revisions/corrections section the next day. However, this only works if authors read the comments posted about their articles. It is sad that Keegan is not one of those authors.

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oldalum 4 years, 6 months ago

Either he did read it and make the correction or someone else did. I don't see any mention of Kentucky now.

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Jonathan Allison 4 years, 6 months ago

They removed comment about the 2 pt loss to Kentucky because it was confusing. It was actually referring to UNC's 2 pt loss to Kentucky.

The point was that UNC's victory over Michigan State and 2 point loss to Kentucky had UNC looking like a solid noncon win for UT. But since then UNC has imploded.

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Mike Kendall 4 years, 6 months ago

PlasticJHawk---

"But since then UNC has imploded."

As Bruce Willis would say in "The Last Boy Scout," "and then some!"

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rockchalk80 4 years, 6 months ago

Keegan said, "How did the Longhorns fall so far, so fast? For one thing, they were overrated".

As a previous poster has already said---Mr. Keegan, you were one of UT's biggest fans, voting them #1... now are voting a UK team (from a weak conference and lesser RPI, KenPom ratings) over a battle tested Syracuse team...

just stop...please, just stop.

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