This week, FanHouse is taking a look at the top teams heading into 2008 with a preseason BlogPoll decided on by our college hoops bloggers. To help with the team capsules, we've brought in some of the top fan bloggers around the internets to give us insights on their teams.
For the Texas Longhorns, Trips Right from Barking Carnival takes a break from football to give a detailed overview of the Longhorn basketball team that has been one of the most successful teams in the last few years.
After a pleasantly surprising 2007 season that ended with an Elite 8 loss to an NBA developmental team, this version of Texas roundball will have to figure out how to answer the bell after losing a superstar to the NBA. While the situation may be similar, the void that Kevin Durant created is entirely different than the void DJ Augustin leaves. I would even argue that DJ Augustin's void will be more difficult to fill, but I'd also say the 2008 Texas team has more material and options to fill it with than last year's group. The problem with the material is that it's raw, inexperienced, and in some instances playing out of position.
Why they should be ranked here:
This will be a fun team to watch as long as Longhorn fans can be patient for the development of the guard situation. But as Denny Green would say they are who we think they are. A talented, deep collection of athletes 2-5, but lacking a play making point guard with any kind of experience.
Much like last year this team can be a flexible one, with disparate lineups based on matchups. We could see athletes galore with a Mason, Ward, James, Johnson, Wangmene/Chapman lineup, that can get out and pressure teams defensively in an effort to outrun zones ala Vegas in the early 90's. Or we might see a methodical half court hammer personnel group of Mason, Abrams, James, Atchley, and Pittman with a 4 out 1 in look, to spread out defenses and pound down low. The key is finding someone, if even a committee, to run the show. Like last year...it'll be fun.
Why Texas should be ranked higher:
* If and when Balbay can become the bonafide point guard he was touted to be. Keeping Mason off the ball where he's able to stuff stat sheets and terrorize defensively is ideal for this team. Dogus taking the reins also means Texas would have another good passer on the floor to exploit mismatches the Horns should enjoy on the low block. It would also help if Ward was a capable backup to spell the Turk.
* If and when Abrams is more of a play making point guard than glorified gunslinger. Just like last year. He'll need to be more dynamic offensively with penetration and passing. Otherwise, give me Mason at the two, and bring in AJ for deep heat off the bench.
* If and when James moves one more rung up the ladder and becomes a super star in the mold of Kevin Durant or DJ Augustin.
* If Connor Atchley continues to be a consistent threat from beyond the arc. If Pittman turns his 2007 flashes of dominance into night in and night out consistency. And if Chapman and Wangmene continue to improve.
* Look for Barnes to mix and match Pittman, Chapman, and Wangmene's 5 to Atchley's and Johnson's 4. Pittman is the hammer. Chapman/Wangmene the quickness mismatches.
Why they should be ranked lower:
* If Barnes can't find a legitimate option to run the show. If it's point guard by committee and Texas has to resort to mixing and matching a point guard by a committee of Mason, Balbay, and Ward, not only will the perimeter game suffer, but the bludgeoning affect that Texas' bigs can have on opposing squads will suffer as well. A lack of reliable point guard play will also undermine Texas' ability on the defensive end by giving up easy baskets off turnovers. Texas should be able to really guard people with this bunch, and unsteady guard play leading to runouts mitigates that advantage.
* An intriguing option Barnes has if he can't find his PG in a timely fashion will be deploying Mason and Abrams in the backcourt and having Damion James be his point forward. It would be a win/win for the program and the player. James should draw weaker perimeter defenders and also showcase his ball handling skills for the League.
* If the two position stays specialized in just shooting the rock. Without a bonafide point guard, the two will have to penetrate, pass, and help out getting the Horns into their stuff offensively.
* If James hasn't found a legit handle and stays a hybrid 3/4. He needs to pick up DJ's slack.
* If Texas' inability to handle pressure causes Barnes to use more 3 guard personnel to compensate, which means sliding James to the 4 and Atchley to the 5. The 3 headed monster of Chapman, Pittman, and Wangmene needs minutes to do what they do in order for this team to be its most effective.
Fine work from the folks at Barking Carnival. Definitely a destination for all things related to the Texas Longhorns.
FanHouse NCAA Hoops BlogPoll: No. 11, Texas Longhorns originally appeared on NCAA Basketball FanHouse on Wed, 19 Nov 2008 08:01:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.