Know Your First-Rematch Rival: Texas Longhorns

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Texas is a better team than they were the first time I previewed them just over two weeks ago. That's an odd thing to say about a team that has lost four of five games, but it's true. They have faced by far the most brutal part of their schedule -- at Missouri, at Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State, at Baylor -- and if they maintain their chemistry and effort levels, they could very well be able to rip off a decent-sized winning streak now. (In fact, Ken Pomeroy has them favored in the next nine games.) Hopefully it starts on Saturday versus Texas Tech, however, instead of tonight.

Since Last Time...

Texas Longhorns (1-4)


UT
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
65.1
Points Per Minute
1.76
1.84
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.08
1.13
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.20
1.33
2-PT FG% 44.7%
48.7%
3-PT FG% 35.8%
36.8%
FT% 75.0%
66.2%
True Shooting % 52.3%
55.0%




UT Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.8
13.8
Steals/Gm 5.8
5.2
Turnovers/Gm 12.6
11.2
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.56
1.70




UT Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 12.8
12.4
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 13.6
12.2
Difference +0.8
-0.2

Texas plays five freshmen and three non-freshmen. As you know from the first meeting, junior J'Covan Brown is the scorer, senior Clint Chapman is the most consistent big, and every other major role is filled by a first-year guy. They are streaky, both because of Brown and youth, and they are full of both hustle and defensive glitches. But they handled themselves mostly well at Mizzou Arena -- Mizzou outscored Texas, 23-2, over two runs, but Texas won the rest of the game, 71-61 -- and one of their biggest strengths (offensive rebounding) matches with a potential Mizzou question mark, especially on the road.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

UT Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UT Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 22
67
UT
Effective FG% 145
172
UT
Turnover % 84
34
MU
Off. Reb. % 16
95
UT
FTA/FGA 52
10
MU
MU Offense vs UT Defense Ranks

MU Offense UT Defense Advantage
Efficiency 2
29
MU
Effective FG% 4
41
MU
Turnover % 3
172
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 140
276
MU Big
FTA/FGA 82
292
MU Big

Where the Horns are weakest

Believe it or not, they don't tend to shoot 3's very well -- they rank 207th in the country in the category. That, of course, didn't stop them from making nine of 16 bombs the first time Mizzou and Texas met (Brown went 6-for-7); opponents really have killed Mizzou from long-range recently, and um, it would be great to begin to put a stop to that.

While Texas has improved, they are still incredibly young, and it shows sometimes. They rank 324th in Experience, they give up a ton of second-chance opportunities (especially for how good they are on the offensive glass), they foul far too much (especially inside), and they don't force many turnovers. Their defense still grades out well because they force pretty bad shots, but the glitches have hurt, especially considering the fact that each of their last three losses have come by five points or less.

Where they are best

They crash the offensive glass like crazy. In terms of expected rebounds, they were plus-6 versus Missouri in Columbia, and as we know, Mizzou hasn't been nearly as poor on the glass as we expected. They also prevent too many easy looks from inside the 3-point line -- they rank 12th in Def. 2PT%, though Mizzou did manage to shoot 19-for-33 (58%) on such shots in Columbia. And while they do commit a ton of fouls, they tend to foul bigs, which is certainly better than, say, sending Marcus Denmon to the line 15 times.

UT's Season Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    vs No. 34 Iowa State, 62-55
  • Losses
    No. 4 Kansas, 66-69
    at No. 9 Baylor, 71-76
    at No. 24 Kansas State, 80-84

Right now, the top five teams in the Big 12 are Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State. Those are also Texas' last five opponents. The 'Horns are 3-5 in conference after this stretch, but after tonight, they face only two Top 50 opponents in their next eight games. Even if they lose tonight (and let's hope they do), they should end up with a winning record in conference, at least as long as the losing doesn't take an overall negative toll (and I doubt it does). This is a good team, and it should start to show.

Texas Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
J'Covan Brown (6'1, 197, Jr.)
20.7
0.54
38.2 MPG, 24.8 PPG (32% 2PT, 41% 3PT, 90% FT), 4.0 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.4 TOPG
Clint Chapman (6'10, 245, Sr.)
11.9
0.49
24.4 MPG, 9.6 PPG (60% 2PT, 90% FT), 4.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 4.2 PFPG
Myck Kabongo (6'1, 169, Fr.)
11.4
0.36
31.8 MPG, 10.8 PPG (48% 2PT, 58% 3PT, 58% FT), 6.2 APG, 1.6 RPG, 3.4 TOPG
Sheldon McClellan (6'4, 200, Fr.)
9.0
0.33
26.8 MPG, 8.6 PPG (50% 2PT, 31% 3PT, 83% FT), 2.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 TOPG
Jaylen Bond (6'7, 224, Fr.)
4.7
0.31
15.4 MPG, 3.2 PPG (53% 2PT), 4.2 RPG
Jonathan Holmes (6'7, 239, Fr.)
4.4
0.29
15.0 MPG, 5.2 PPG (61% 2PT, 20% 3PT, 25% FT), 4.4 RPG, 3.4 PFPG
Julien Lewis (6'3, 190, Fr.)
4.0
0.16
25.4 MPG, 5.6 PPG (43% 2PT, 13% 3PT, 67% FT), 5.0 RPG, 1.6 TOPG
Alexis Wangmene (6'7, 241, Sr.)
2.2
0.10
21.4 MPG, 2.2 PPG (25% 2PT, 56% FT), 5.6 RPG, 1.4 TOPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Brown isn't shooting incredibly well overall, but he's shooting a ton -- his average shooting line from the past five games: 8-for-22 from the field (4-for-9 on 3-pointers), 5-for-6 from the line. He is averaging just 1.15 points per shot. In other words, he hasn't necessarily been as hot as he was at Mizzou Arena. As with Marcus Denmon, the heat level of his jumper makes Texas a completely different team, one way or another.
  • The two seniors -- Chapman and Wangmene -- have come on nicely, not necessarily from an offensive perspective (Chapman is solid on offense, and Wangmene is somewhat dreadful), but from a "setting an example and hustling like crazy" perspective. Wangmene had four offensive rebounds against Missouri, and he's averaged 2.8 per game over the last five games.
  • While I'm not necessarily a fan of high-volume scorers like Brown -- they often get more credit than they deserve considering how many possessions they tend to waste with bad shots -- he is somewhat perfect for this young team. He is taking the pressure off quite a few of the younger players; right now, a typical Texas possession is "Brown shoots, everybody else crashes the boards." It means the freshmen need to worry about hustle as much or more than proficiency. Not necessarily a bad thing. That's how you end up with four different players (Bond, Holmes, Lewis, Wangmene) averaging almost as many (or more) rebounds as points. Bond, Holmes and Wangmene all over Off. Rebound percentages above 10% right now, which is very good. Things are simplified with Brown shouldering as much of the scoring load as possible.
  • Kabongo is beginning to figure out his role. He was a five-star recruit and shows nice quickness, and his role is to basically penetrate and occasionally knock down open 3's. He takes just eight shots per game, but he makes half of them, and he's 7-for-12 from long-range in the last five games. In that span, he and Brown have made 45% of their 3-pointers while the rest of the team has made just 22%. Of course, against Missouri, you can make running 3's, 60-foot 3's, and 3-point bank shots, so ... just hoist 'em up!

Keys to the Game

  1. Brown Vs. Denmon. If Marcus Denmon is making his open 3's, Missouri is six to nine points better than they have been over the past few games. And depending on whether J'Covan Brown's are falling, Texas could be up to about 10-12 points better or worse. It stands to reason, then, that the spread of possible outcomes in this game is enormous. Whoever is more dialed in gives their team an enormous advantage.

  2. Road Things. We know this one by now: offensive rebounds, fouls and Phil Pressey tend to make all the difference on the road. These things didn't cost Mizzou against Oklahoma State, but they did against Kansas State and nearly did against Old Dominion. If Good Phlip makes it to the Erwin Center, and if Mizzou hits the glass hard (think: Baylor game), they will have a good chance of moving to 20-2. But those are big ifs.

  3. React. Ricardo Ratliffe's success has given Mizzou opponents a choice: do you go out of your way to prevent him from getting the ball, or do you continue to attempt to stick like glue to Denmon and Kim English, as has been the defensive strategy of choice for most of the year? Texas Tech chose to prevent Ratliffe, and English went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers early in the game. (Denmon, meanwhile, continuously failed to make his open jumpers.) 'Cardo had a lovely game versus Texas the first time around -- 21 points on 10-for-12 shooting -- so the 'Horns might adjust their defensive strategy. But for every action, there is a reaction. If that's what Texas chooses to do, Mizzou can kill them with jumpers. If they go in.

Prediction

Missouri has slid just enough in the last week, and Texas has played just well enough, that Ken Pomeroy's projection now says Texas 73, Missouri 72. Honestly, I don't see it being that close. Either Denmon gets hot, and Mizzou wins by 6-10, or Brown gets hot, and Texas wins by 8-12. Because of the way Mizzou opponents have been shooting lately -- both earned and unearned -- I lean toward Texas. We'll say Texas 75, Mizzou 66, but that is not a very confident pick.

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