As we all know, tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the Byers plane crash. I am by no means someone that should write a meaningful tribute or anything like that, but I did want to link to the special ticket offer for tonight's game, as well as make everyone aware of the tribute that is planned for halftime. Tickets are marked down to as low as $20 for tonight's game, and there are ticket offers for future games at that link as well.
On to the matchup....
First, Texas is a nightmare matchup for us. On paper they seem like a nice matchup (they aren't as long as A&M and Baylor, and they don't have a dominant big man inside), but what the roster doesn't show is that beyond the undersized lineup, Texas has a ton of guys that can drive and cut and an offense that is set up perfectly for them to do all that driving and cutting. And if you aren't aware, OSU can't stop anyone (who really wants to) from getting to the basket.
Let's start with the Longhorns leading scorers, Jordan Hamilton (who I think we all remember from last year) and Freshman Tristan Thompson (aka: who Matt Pilgrim could be) who both can get to the paint and to the basket. Hamilton is the slasher/outside threat while Thompson is a monster in the post, however, a lot of Thompson's scoring opportunities are created by cuts and motion as opposed to just receiving an entry pass in a posted up position. Rounding out the starters are Cory Joseph (Freshman Guard averaging 11 ppg), Gary Johnson (6'6 Senior Forward, 12ppg), and that freaking Dogus Balbay dude who has been their PG for 9 years now.
While Texas has a lot of nice individual talents (J'Covan Brown off the bench is a stud as well), and pretty much their entire team were McDonalds All Americans, what really makes them scary is their offensive style. They run an offense that is modeled after the Utah Jazz offense which is built around the idea of treating every possession like a fast break. While this doesn't mean they necessarily run a lot, they do treat half-court sets as opportunities to get 3-on-2 matchups, isolation drives, tons of backdoor cuts, and just generally a lot of movement towards the basket. Think of how the offensive players fill the lane on a 3-on-1 fast break, this is essentially what Texas tries to do from within a half-court set.
This is bad for the Cowboys as I don't think we have a single defensive player that can stay in front of any guard Texas has.... in fact, I know we don't. Which means that there will once again be a lot of instances of Texas guards getting into the lane, forcing the bigs to help or stay with their man (or option 3, which is our favorite, foul). And just when you think that maybe a zone will work, realize that Texas main outside threats, Hamilton, Johnson, and Brown, shoot 42%, 43%, and 36% from three, respectively.
As far as the Cowboys scoring, well, Texas is the #3 rated defense in the NCAA allowing 55 ppg in conference play. They play very disciplined man defense, they don't foul much (11th in the conference in fpg), they are excellent at properly switching on ball screens, and Thompson is an above-average rim protector down low. Texas biggest strength on the defensive side is at the guards though. Texas allows a league best 22% from three, and Balbay can mark anyone in the NCAA... I would expect him to be glued to Keiton Page to prevent him from heating up outside. I would expect a defensive effort similar to what we saw from A&M.
In order for the Cowboys to put points up, multiple guys are going to have to do it. This Texas defense is too good to allow one guy to handle them (see: Kemba Walker). In order to pull off what would be a monumental upset, the Cowboys are going to need Brown, JPO, Moses, Williams, Pilgrim, and maybe Page to all carry the team for stretches. If we allow the Texas defense to only have to worry about one thing like we did in the A&M game (Moses), the Pokes will be held to under 50.
In a way this game is an opportunity. Travis Ford knows that Moses or Page can't beat this team on their own. It is time to put some faith in everyone and see what they can do. Let the scorers play through mistakes, give the young guys a little more freedom, allow the bigs to handle the ball outside to try to get Thompson to move, and for Sutton's sake get everyone to stop fouling.
Everyone keep in mind the first paragraph of this preview and what is really important about tonight, but also get up to Stillwater and expect a great game. And make sure to check out Burnt Orange Nation for the other side of things.