Hook ‘Em

Couldn’t go to bed without issuing a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns basketball team for a monster win at Oklahoma State.

The win gives the Longhorns a sweep of the Top 5 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and gave Rick Barnes his 6th consecutive 20-win season at Texas.

Before Texas’ win tonight, Oklahoma State was projected as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and also held the longest home court winning streak in the country; the Cowboys had won 29 consecutive games at home.

I don’t know how much you have followed the Longhorns this year, but Texas was 14-3 when they lost their best player, PJ Tucker, to academics in early January. This followed a string of injuries that included a season-ending injury to LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the top three freshmen the country.

As this story on ESPN.com stated, “Texas had to deal with losing its top inside threat, the season ending hip injury to freshman LaMarcus Aldridge, and various injuries to guards Kenton Paulino, Sydmill Harris, and center Jason Klontz.”

The Horns entered Stillwater with only 8 scholarship players available to play on Saturday night. Then disaster struck when Texas lost one of their starters at the very beginning of the second half!!!!

Barnes: No Whine Zone
Since I have been following the Horns this year, I have been keeping some material on them…including some quotes that I have enjoyed.

“You talk to Rick Barnes and it is like a no whine zone. No complaining. No excuses.”
February 12, 2005 ESPNPlus color commentator in broadcast of Texas’ win over Kansas State

“Rick Barnes can flat coach this game.”
– February 12, 2005 ESPNPlus play by play commentator in broadcast of Texas’ win over Kansas State

“You know what I love about the Texas kids? It starts with their coach. They never made an alibi and excuse when they lost PJ Tucker academically and Aldridge with an injury. He said, ‘We’ve got enough players. I give these guys scholarships. It is is their time to respond.”
– March 4, 2005, Dick Vitale in Texas’ win at Oklahoma State

Two and Counting
Texas’ appearance on ESPN’s featured game of the week marked the the Longhorns second appearance with the College Gameday crew. The Longhorns have now appeared on Gameday’s short-lived existence more than any team in the country. Texas 2, NC State 0.

Is this basketball or football season?

Rumor Update
Last week, Jerry Ratcliffe of Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress shared publicly some rumors that Rick Barnes may have an interest in the Virginia head coaching position when Pete Gillen gets fired.

On Saturday, Ratcliffe followed-up on Barnes, who is apparently fine in Austin despite the fact that the Horns average around 11,000 fans in the (old) Frank Erwin Center and its 18,600-seat capacity.

“Our Austin source said Thursday that Barnes is not unhappy at Texas or looking to leave, but would like to see more passion from Longhorn fans.”

Is any coach ever really looking to leave in the middle of their current season as their team is in a crucial stretch run towards a conference and NCAA Tournament appearance?

General NCS Basketball

6 Responses to Hook ‘Em

  1. Archive 03/06/2005 at 12:04 AM #

    Houston Chronicle Article
    Feb. 12, 2005, 12:25AM

    Absence of key players puts undermanned Horns on thin ice in NCAA quest
    Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

    One simple sentence. Six words that cut right to the heart of the matter.

    Texas coach Rick Barnes summed up the plight of his team this week by saying, “A lot of things have changed.”

    Three weeks ago, the Longhorns were 14-3 and seemingly headed toward another first-division finish in the Big 12 Conference and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

    The Longhorns were coming off an impressive 75-61 victory over Oklahoma State on Jan. 17.

    But since that game, virtually nothing has gone right for UT. A series of injuries and other issues have decimated what once was a deep and balanced roster.

    Texas has lost three consecutive games for the first time since starting the 1998 season 0-4. This year, the Longhorns are 1-4 after Jan. 17 and have dropped to 15-7 and 4-5 in the Big 12.

    Two losses were on the road at Kansas and Oklahoma, no cause for alarm. The other two were to Iowa State at home and at Colorado within the last seven days. Even with a win today, No. 23 Texas seems certain to drop out of the Top 25 after a school-record run of 52 straight weeks.

    The swift fall coincided with the loss of key players.

    Up front, the Horns lost leading scorer P.J. Tucker because of academic ineligibility Jan. 20. Center LaMarcus Aldridge suffered a season-ending hip injury Jan. 15 that will require surgery. In the backcourt, veterans Kenton Paulino (toe) and Sydmill Harris (groin) have been sidelined or slowed by their injuries for the past couple of weeks.

    Because the Longhorns are down to seven healthy players on scholarship, they have been playing a zone defense the last five games in order to slow the pace and minimize fouls.

    The biggest game this season for Texas? It might well be today against Kansas State at the Erwin Center. If the Longhorns can stop their losing streak, they’ll get back to .500 in the Big 12 and move closer to a 20-win season.

    There has been speculation this week among basketball pundits that the Longhorns’ bid for a spot in the NCAA Tournament might be in trouble if they don’t reach 20 wins and play break-even in conference.

    With seven regular-season games and at least one game in the Big 12 Tournament remaining, the Longhorns would have to go 5-3 to reach those numbers. A month ago, five wins would have been easy to find on the UT schedule.

    Now, it appears the Longhorns have little margin for error. They have games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on the road and host Oklahoma. A victory in any of those games would be an upset. They also play Kansas State, Texas A&M and Missouri at home and travel to Baylor.

    On the positive side …
    Earlier in the week, Barnes was asked what he thought the Longhorns’ chances were to make the NCAA Tournament. Wrong question to the wrong guy at the wrong time.

    “We’re not thinking about the NCAA Tournament or the Big 12 Tournament,” Barnes said. “If you take care of what’s in front of you, all that plays out for itself. We never thought that. We didn’t think about that two years ago (when Texas went to the Final Four), and we didn’t think about it last year.”

    Other factors could be in the Longhorns’ favor even if they fall short of 20 wins and .500 in the conference. Their RPI index remains favorable at 35 in one simulation of the index that is used by the NCAA to help determine the Tournament field. They have wins over No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Texas Tech and a one-point road loss to No. 6 Wake Forest.

    Also, Barnes and the Texas program have an excellent reputation, which doesn’t hurt teams on the bubble. Lastly, it would be hard to envision the Big 12 with only four teams in the NCAA field. Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech seem sure things.

    Though it’s not as strong or deep as in past seasons, the Big 12 remains one of the best in the nation, so the NCAA selection committee might consider taking a team that falls short of 20 wins and .500 in the conference, especially if it has a strong RPI.

    Barnes insists on focusing on what the Longhorns have instead of worrying about what they’re missing.

    For instance, power forward Brad Buckman has been sensational of late. He had 27 points and 21 rebounds in an 88-79 loss at Colorado on Tuesday on the heels of a 20-point, 15-rebound effort against Iowa State on Feb. 5.

    Gibson a shining star
    In addition, guard Daniel Gibson is learning about leadership in a hurry. The freshman has led the team in scoring in six of the last seven games. Gibson tops Texas in scoring (14.1 points per game), assists (4.3 per game), steals (44) and minutes played (31.2 per game). He is the lone Longhorn to start every game.

    “When he plays 40 minutes, it’s almost like playing 80 the way teams come at him,” Barnes said. “He’s got a huge target on his back. But he’s gained so much this season.”

    It is, to be sure, one of the few bright spots for the Horns, who are trying to hold on for dear life over the final three weeks of the regular season.

    [email protected]

  2. BJD95 03/06/2005 at 9:30 AM #

    I love this line:

    “We’ve got enough players. I give these guys scholarships. It is is their time to respond.”

    It’s amazing that in his worst season at Texas, marked by massive and season-ending personnel losses, Rick Barnes will match Herb Sendek’s “top performer” status. But is he really any better than Sendek? LOL.

  3. Archive 03/06/2005 at 3:00 PM #

    Just a few quotes on NC State’s problems:

    Sendek in Charlotte Observer on February 22, 2005
    “Sendek readily admits disappointment in N.C. State’s season.

    Illnesses and injuries played a role. Point guard Tony Bethel (four games), senior forward Levi Watkins (seven and counting), second-leading scorer Cameron Bennerman (five) and Hodge (one) have been sidelined.

    The problem was at its worst in early January, when N.C. State lost to West Virginia and Miami.

    “Going into both of those games … we didn’t have enough guys to practice,” Sendek said. “Guys literally didn’t practice and then tried to play in games.”

    N.C. State’s effectiveness in its complex offense suffered. Freshmen Andrew Brackman, Gavin Grant and Cedric Simmons played more than expected.”

    Fowler in Charlotte Observer: “Herb has had a tough year,” Fowler said, “and there have been some reasons for it, and I can’t tell you how proud I am that he’s not a guy that gives up and he comes back and works harder the next day.”

    Fowler on Pack Pride: “It’s gotten better every year; he had one downtick four years ago, this year he’s still got a chance to finish strong, he’s had a lot of sickness and illness…..Going into this season, Herb felt like that he would definitely have a chance at the Sweet 16, Final Eight, get a couple of lucky breaks … It’s worked out differently because of sickness and illness and those sorts of things.”

  4. John 03/07/2005 at 9:33 AM #

    Why is Fowler allowed to continually spout this “we’ve gotten better every year” crap? He excludes a downtick four years ago. I’ll assume for arguments sake that he’s also going to exclude this year. It’s still not true! If he can exclude years then so can I. Excluding last year, we are at best, a mediocre basketball team. We haven’t done one thing to justify keeping a coach outside of one stinking season and according to Fowler, we continually get better. What a joke.

  5. blpack 03/07/2005 at 10:44 PM #

    Tremendous job by TX at OSU. Tough environment to go into and win. No more bubble talk for TX. Six straight 20 win seasons iirc.

  6. Archive 03/08/2005 at 8:34 AM #


    March 8, 2005, 1:08AM

    UT shows ability to bounce back
    Horns primed to extend NCAA streak to seven
    Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

    The first sign of trouble came Jan. 15 with the loss of freshman center LaMarcus Aldridge to a season-ending injury.

    Five days later, leading scorer P.J. Tucker was declared academically ineligible.

    What transpired next for the Texas Longhorns, was a stretch of four losses in five games during Big 12 play that threatened to unravel their entire season.

    They dropped out of the national polls Feb. 14, ending a string of 52 consecutive weeks, and haven’t returned. They’ve battled through an assortment of other injuries and at times barely managed to keep their head above water with a thin lineup.

    Then came three words not usually heard this time of year on the Forty Acres: On the bubble.

    After six straight NCAA Tournament appearances under coach Rick Barnes and 14 in 16 years, the Longhorns suddenly were no longer sure things.

    “It’s been a different year, but our guys have never wavered,” Barnes said. “They’ve found a way to win games.”

    Rising to occasion
    None was bigger than Saturday’s 74-73 thriller on the road at Oklahoma State, snapping the nation’s longest home winning streak and all but cementing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

    “This is the first time I’ve been able to experience this, but you’re used to hearing Texas’ name mentioned in the NCAA Tournament,” said guard Daniel Gibson, a candidate for national freshman of the year. “We’re used to hearing who and where we’re going to play. Not about being on the bubble. That kind of lit a fire and gave us some added motivation.”

    The sixth-seeded Longhorns (20-9, 9-7 Big 12) will play No. 11 Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. If the Longhorns win, they will face Oklahoma State on Friday. Texas won both games against Oklahoma State during the regular season.

    Interestingly, it was after the first meeting with the Cowboys in the Erwin Center on Jan. 17 that the Longhorns’ season began to come apart. After beating OSU 75-61, Texas was 14-3 and ranked 10th nationally, its highest of the season.

    Texas is nowhere close to being the same team. They had to deal with losing top inside threat, Aldridge, to a hip injury and Tucker’s departure for academic problems. Tucker’s absence left the Longhorns with only eight scholarship players, including guards Sydmill Harris and Kenton Paulino nursing lingering injuries. Texas did get a bit of good news Monday as the right-knee injury forward Dion Dowell suffered Saturday is not considered serious.

    Tough to find groove
    The Longhorns went 1-4 in their first five games without Tucker. They went 5-2 in the ensuing seven games, which included a dominating 35-point win over Texas A&M in Austin, an 18 percent shooting first half in a win over Missouri and a 16-point loss at home to Oklahoma.

    “It’s been an up-and-down season,” senior center Jason Klotz said. “It’s definitely been a learning experience.”

    The Longhorns have learned to cope with their thin lineup. Junior forward Brad Buckman has emerged as the team’s most consistent threat, averaging 17.9 points and 11.1 rebounds. He tied a career-high with 27 points on Saturday.

    “We’ve had so many guys play so many more minutes, and that’s a hard thing to adjust in January and February,” Barnes said earlier this season. “The roles have changed, but our guys have adjusted.”

    The additional playing time down the stretch has been a concern for the Longhorns. Before Tucker’s departure, Gibson was averaging nearly 30 minutes a game. In the 12 games without Tucker, Gibson has averaged more than 35 while constantly being the focal point of defenders. After UT lost to Oklahoma 74-58 last week, Barnes gave the team two days off instead of the customary one.

    “That was a great move by Coach,” Klotz said. “A lot of guys had been playing a ton of minutes and getting beat up.”

    The Longhorns are hoping to be the ones delivering the knockout punches. They have been listed anywhere from a No. 9 to No. 12 seed in brackets projections. Either way, Klotz knows they have an uphill challenge awaiting.

    “We’re going to have to play a high seed, so it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “(But if we put everything together), we can play with anybody.”

    [email protected]

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