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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Young, overachieving UT awaits KU

Texas coach Rick Barnes argues a call against Baylor in the second half of UT’s game Saturday in Waco, Texas. Texas has won five straight Big 12 games heading into today’s meeting with Kansas University.

Texas coach Rick Barnes argues a call against Baylor in the second half of UT’s game Saturday in Waco, Texas. Texas has won five straight Big 12 games heading into today’s meeting with Kansas University.

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Associated Press

Texas coach Rick Barnes argues a call against Baylor in the second half of UT’s game Saturday in Waco, Texas. Texas has won five straight Big 12 games heading into today’s meeting with Kansas University.

— Texas, which had some stellar basketball teams during Rick Barnes’ first 15 years at the Lone Star State school, was expected to be in all-out rebuilding mode for the 2013-14 season.

Instead, the young Longhorns, who went 0-2 to open Big 12 play, have rattled off five straight victories and take a 16-4 record and No. 25 national ranking into today’s 3 p.m. battle against sixth-ranked Kansas University (16-4, 7-0) in Erwin Center.

“Rick has had them playing with a lot of confidence, and they are playing with nothing to lose,” KU coach Bill Self said of a team that starts three sophomores, one freshman and a junior, with three freshmen and two sophs coming off the bench.

“When you think about it, if they are able to knock us off, they are just one game out in the league race, so this will be a huge opportunity for us to put some distance between us and a couple of other teams. Hopefully we will go down there and give a great effort,” added Self, who is 12-5 versus Texas through his first 10 years at KU.

Barnes is 6-16 vs. the Jayhawks, with KU having defeated the Longhorns four times against no losses in Big 12 postseason tourney championship games. KU won, 80-68, in 2006 in Dallas; 88-84, in overtime in 2007 in Oklahoma City; 84-74, in 2008 in Kansas City, Mo.; and 85-73 in 2011 in Kansas City.

“He’s having a terrific year,” Self said of Barnes, who was rumored to be on the coaching hot seat following last year’s 16-18 season, which included a 7-11 mark in the Big 12. That followed a 20-14, 9-9 campaign in which the Longhorns lost in the first round of the NCAAs.

“Last year, anything that could go wrong seems it did go wrong with his team. He (Barnes) has a core group of guys he obviously likes working with. They like playing for him You can tell the energy is different,” Self said.

“Rick is a great coach. Last year was the exception and not the rule. Every coach, every program goes through one of those now and then. They are on an uptick.”

Texas has won three consecutive games against AP Top-25 teams, beating Iowa State and Kansas State at home and Baylor on the road. KU earlier this season won four straight against Top-25 teams (K-State, Oklahoma State and Baylor at home and at Iowa State). The Jayhawks became the first team since 1996-97 North Carolina to win four straight against AP Top-25 teams.

“That hadn’t happened since 1997. Now in our league we get a chance to have it happen twice in two weeks. I told our guys our goal is not to let that happen,” Self said. “We need to go down there with a great mind-set. They’ll play with a free mind and play hungry.”

“We set a record this year for beating ranked opponents,” noted KU forward Jamari Traylor. “If they beat us, they tie the record this year. We obviously don’t want to let that happen. They’ve beaten good teams.”

Jonathan Holmes, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, averages 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. Javan Felix, a 5-11 sophomore guard, averages 12.2 ppg, while 6-1 freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor contributes 11.7 ppg.

Cameron Ridley, a 6-9 sophomore center, averages 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds.

“This will be a great test for our front line,” Self said. “Holmes can step away from the basket. I’m excited to see how Joel (Embiid, 7-foot freshman center) reacts. I’m sure they’ll be excited to play against Joel, as well.”

Embiid has been hobbled by an sprained knee, while senior center Tarik Black has missed two games because of an ankle sprain.

“He should be full-go tomorrow,” Self said of Embiid. “I think (Black) will be valuable to us. We might have been able to play him a little bit (in Wednesday’s win over Iowa State). It would have been a bad matchup (against Georges Niang) with a bad wheel guarding on the perimeter against Iowa State. We do think he’ll be able to go.”

Freshman guard Conner Frankamp is likely out because of a bruised knee.

“Conner is doubtful,” Self said Friday. “He felt a little better today. He’s doubtful going into the game.”

Texas coach Barnes is looking forward to the matchup.

“Bill always does a terrific job with his group,” Barnes said. “He had a lot of young guys he was putting together (in nonconference season). I’m not surprised by anything. The league is a great league. Like everybody, they’ve gotten off to a great start because I think he’s continuing to put his guys together. I’m sure from his standpoint he’d like to see some more out of certain guys, too, like we all do. I’m impressed, but I’m not surprised. I said at the beginning of the year they could be one of best teams in the country. I’m not surprised really at anything that they are doing.”

“They’ve definitely got some big guys, athletic. We definitely have the same thing here,” Traylor said. “As long as we go out and play hard, sound, we definitely can make it happen.”

Recruiting: Myles Turner, a 6-11 senior from Trinity High in Euless, Texas, has a final list of KU, Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas. He was asked in a USA Today chat if he’d still consider KU if Embiid stays a second season.

“Coach Self told me himself that if Embiid stays it’s not worth my time,” said Turner, who is expected to be a one-and-done. He’s ranked No. 6 nationally by Rivals.com.

Comments

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 9 months ago

Geezzz Self has a way of being brutally honest. I feal really bad for Turner because we had been recruiting him so hard for so long, Plus he seems like such a great kid. It's a tough world. After watching Turner in person he looks like an Austin (BU) type player. It would be highly unlikely to impossible for him to get meaningful PT. Embiid, Alexander, Ellis, Traylor and Lucas....DAMM. If you put Lucas on a HS court to go up against Turner it probably would not be a pretty site due to Lucas' strenght, maturity and intelligence.

By the way, SLAM has replaced Okafor with Alexander at their 1 spot. (www.slamonline.com/online/college-hs/...). Oubre is 8 and Turner is 10.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 9 months ago

We have heard it before from recruits that Bill is always so upfront and honest with them, unlike other coaches who don't seem to level with them about the situation. They appreciate it. I know it seems like a given that Embiid leaves after this year, but I wonder if that is indeed a done deal. Don't forget about Hunter too, he could demand some minutes as well next year. Nice situation to deal with, so many options, so many weapons. Its almost unfair, I said almost...

Dirk Medema 5 years, 9 months ago

Should have read yours first and just agreed with it.

Sae Thirtysix 5 years, 9 months ago

HCBS = straight shooter. Can you imagine how deflated the Jonesboro Flash would be if it turns out to be a 5 spot rotation of Turner - Embiid @ 31 mins a game and Traylor 7, HMickelson 2.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 9 months ago

you know Rodney, I by far have no real concrete evidence I haven't talked to anyone, just you know from other individuals, things off other boards, and just what I,ve heard from jo jo on some post game or interviews like he was on ESPN the other day there is something not sure but something in my gut that says he is coming back next year I wouldn't definitely shock me IF he went but just get this feeling he has made comments more then once that he doesn't know if he is ready for the pro's not athletically but social wise has stated might just be overwhelming for him. I know coach self is just as honest with the kids not only like telling myles it wouldn't be worth his time if jo jo DID come back he is as honest tell a player if jo jo is the nu #1 pick then he needs to go if he think he is ready he doesn't try to hang on to them for selfish reasons, I just got this feeling he is coming back. GO HAWKS

Mike Crosbie 5 years, 9 months ago

ESPN reported Jo Jo is researching the NBA success of players who left school vs. Players who stayed in school longer. Smart kid. I think it maybe 5050 if he stays or goes. I sure do miss the good ole days when everyone stayed 4 years, and we could watch kids develops over time and become more familiar with them over 4years...all these 1 and dones do nothing for the growth and personality of a TEAM over time.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 9 months ago

You're forgetting Hunter (redshirt).

Turner sees what KU/Self does with bigs, and wants to come here. He is just about the only elite player (Vaughn 2) that hasn't committed/signed, and is only waiting on Embiid to declare. Hopefully, we get to see a matchup between the 2 on a few occasions next year. The pokes really needs bigs.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 9 months ago

I forgot about Hunter!

I suppose we should admire Self for loyalty to his current players, not running them off and looking out for their best interest. We could lose Turner and end up lossing Embiid. There remains an outside chance of lossing Ellis. But then again, like you said, we have alot coming back.

Still, I feel bad for Turner since like I said we have been after him for so long. We were the first to offer Turner and he could really used Kansas to develop his skills

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 9 months ago

I would say since Self is telling Alexander that JoJo is the obstacle to playing time at KU, that would be a strong indicator that Self also told Turner that he would be the #3 big next year coming off the bench behind Ellis and Alexander.

Bryce Landon 5 years, 9 months ago

I know many UT fans were not happy that DeLoss Dodds opted to keep Rick Barnes around after last year's debacle that included a beatdown from D-2 Chaminade. But so far it appears keeping him was the right choice.

Thing is, last year's KU team almost got its ass kicked by last year's bad UT team before surging from behind to pull off the win. This is a different, younger KU team going up against a UT team that is way better than last year. It'll be interesting to see how the Jayhawks deal with the challenge posed by the Longhorns.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 9 months ago

Smoke and mirrors of scheduling.

UT is really no different than any of the other challengers in the Big 12. They've beaten the non-challengers and the challengers at home, but have lost to the challengers on the road. They're Big12 record is built on home wins and 2 road W's against non-challengers (WVU & BU). Even if BU is still considered a challenger, that only offsets the home loss to OU. The only difference between UT & ISU is that ISU already has their 2 KU-L's.

Yes, even TCU can pull out a W once in a while, and it is good that Coach Self has material for motivation, but UT really hasn't achieved anything yet. Maybe "overachieving" is that they haven't been as bad as some expected.

Don Johnson 5 years, 9 months ago

This is the first time this year we have played another team as young as we are. All the teams we have lost to were veteran teams with lots of experience together. For this one, the experience factor is out of the equation. It will be talent, energy, and motivation. We have the first one down. It only remains to see what we do on the last two. Having lived in Texas for eight years during the 90's, I hate everything abut Texas. I would hate to have Texas saying they had the better freshman class.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 9 months ago

I think it should be VERY INTERESTING, it will be interesting how involved the texas crowd gets, or will it even be sold out. I don't know how many others see and realize no matter what kind of a year their team is having, or what their attendance has been like when the team that has KANSAS written on their uniforms it always lights out for the other team. for a lot of the teams we play NOT ALL but a lot of them this IS their game of the year for them, and their fans. for the little less schools, this IS their NCAA tourney game a lot of these schools, fans train of thought is we beat KANSAS then our season has been a success, or that's a lot of the schools fans train of thought is maybe for sure not for the coaches and probably not for players, but yet even the players to an extent, you know these guys think man this is KANSAS and as KANSAS fans we ought to take a lot of pride in that. KANSAS teams always play before packed arena's sold out every time what does that say for us? people want to see talented teams we are the envy of a lot of schools, fans, we as fans have an arrogance about us, maybe a good thing maybe not, its cool to have arrogance but it needs to be a CLASSY arrogance not like the Kentucky type, or duke type where they just come right out and pretty well let you know if your not us then your NOBODY but you know what that the difference between those schools and us I can take pride that I'm a KANSAS fan through and through as long as I can remember good times and bad times I'm 59 yrs old so been a while and like I said we always get a teams best shot always have always will that's what happens when your as successful as us. you know what they say SUCCESS BRINGS ENVY GO HAWKS one proud fan here.

Aaron Millsap 5 years, 9 months ago

We all know how hard it is to win on the road in the Big XII. It basically amounts to a 5 on 8 game, and has for years. That said, there would be a couple noteworthy silver linings if we were to lose today. 1) It would prevent our guys from coasting into the postseason with an insurmountable lead in conference. It's hard to turn it back on after a month of less meaningful and pressure-packed games. 2) The more significant result of a loss would be that it would greatly improve Rick Barnes' job security. That can only be a good thing for KU, in my opinion. Texas is a sleeping giant with the ability to bring in a very talented up-and-coming young coach or a proven veteran from just about anywhere in the country outside of 8-10 programs. We all know about the geographical and historical recruiting advantages for UT in both football and basketball. Imagine somebody like Jay Wright or Fred Hoiberg with more elite talent, to name just a couple hypothetical options. Barnes has done nothing in the last 5 years to indicate to me that he's maximizing UT's ability to compete nationally. Maybe a more legitimate rival to the south is what we need but I think I'd just rather dominate Texas under Barnes for a couple more years. But I digress, I'd love for Self and the 'Hawks to pick up the win today, but if they don't, it wouldn't be the worst loss based on the fallout.

Jack Wilson 5 years, 9 months ago

There are some things to like about Texas ...

Titus Canby 5 years, 9 months ago

On an unrelated topic, who do you guys want to win the MU/UK game today? Is there any way they can both lose? This may be the first time I've ever cheered for Kentucky.

Robert Brown 5 years, 9 months ago

Not to sound flippant, but I really don't care.

Robert Brown 5 years, 9 months ago

Should be an interesting game. Nothing is a given on the road. Remember UT blew a late lead last year in Austin against KU. UT is always very physical so I expect an ugly game and a battle.

Yonatan Negash 5 years, 9 months ago

I've been thinking about this game the past couple of days. I really can't see how we could lose. Well, I'll take that back, we'd have to play real bad to lose this game.

KU wins easier than expected.

Simply too much talent for Texas to withstand

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