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Q&A With Burnt Orange Nation - OSU @ Texas Basketball

Jeff Haley, basketball editor of Burnt Orange Nation, was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us before Wednesday night's showdown.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday is more than just National Signing Day in the world of sports. It's a huge day for college basketball and especially huge for the Pokes who will travel down to Austin for a crucial showdown with the Longhorns. If you haven't gotten a chance then make sure you head back to the CRFF main page and read the preview for the game.

Once again, BIG thanks for Jeff over at BON for taking the time out of his day to answer these questions for us! Make sure you head over to their site and read some of their great stuff.

Let's get started!

CRFF: What has Myles Turner meant to the team this year? Who has been better, Turner or Ridley?

BON: Myles Turner gives Texas a lot. He is both one of the Longhorns' best offensive options, and is the best rim protector on the team. He is an outstanding free throw shooter, and plays well within the context of what Texas is trying to do.

And yet he is almost an odd sort of luxury for this team. Turner made one of Texas' strengths (having a lot of big men to defend the rim) even stronger. The team is better with him then without him, but he doesn't fill the team's most glaring need.

What Texas could really use is one or two more guards who can both shoot from the perimeter and defend their position at a high level. Texas has the shooter (Javan Felix, who will reportedly miss this game with a concussion), the defenders (Demarcus Holland and Kendall Yancy), and an exceptional point guard with a questionable shot (Isaiah Taylor). While Felix's defense is better than widely acknowledged, and Yancy, Holland, and Taylor probably are capable of shooting better than they are given credit for, there isn't a guard on the roster who really threatens an opponent from three point range while being a top level defender.

As for your second question: Turner is better than Ridley. But Ridley is more physically mature -- Turner will get moved around at times by stronger opponents.

CRFF: Are UT fans or boosters starting to lose faith in Rick Barnes?
BON: Starting? Barnes support among the fan base has been questionable for a number of years, and right now it is hard for me to determine what the view will be at the end of the year. It will of course depend on how Texas does down the stretch -- a strong February and March will make everyone temporarily set aside a bad January.

The thing is, Rick Barnes has been Texas' coach for a long time, and we are sort of at a point where the fan base knows what his teams do well, and what they do poorly. When you get to this point, it becomes pretty easy to take for granted the strengths and fixate on the weaknesses.

Preseason expectations play an important role in all of this. Last year Texas fans had low expectations, and were happy when the team was better than anticipated. This season, we have the opposite situation; expectations were sky high, and the team has struggled.

I feel like this is an interesting discussion, as I am aware that your fan base is also fed up with Travis Ford. He hasn't been your coach for as long, but has created some similar feelings. I personally think Ford gets a bad rap at times -- but note it is not my place to say how your fan base should feel about him, or if Oklahoma State should keep him as its coach. Ford can't be all bad. He has won a lot of games at four different schools.

CRFF: Has this team underachieved in your eyes? If so, can they turn it around?
BON: Yes, and yes. While offensive troubles seem to draw more attention, the truth is Texas hasn't played well defensively since the start of conference play. Getting back to being one of the better defensive teams in the country can do a lot to turn around the season.

Every year, there are teams that underachieve through stretches of the regular season, and then eventually put things together in March. So maybe Texas can be one of those teams this year.
CRFF: Has anything changed with UT basketball since the last time these teams met?
BON: Probably the most significant change over this time is that Texas has spent a lot of time playing zone defense, even in match-ups against Iowa State and Baylor, where it seemed almost suicidal to do so. During the first match-up between Texas and Oklahoma State teams, the Longhorns mostly played man-to-man, but switched into zone on baseline out of bounds plays (this is an approach Barnes has deployed frequently in recent years). But since that game Texas has played more than half of its possessions in a zone.

After falling behind quickly using zone defense against Iowa State and Baylor, Rick Barnes eventually switched back into man-to-man in both games. I am hoping Texas doesn't give this a chance to happen on Wednesday, and plays man-to-man from the opening tip.
CRFF: Predictions for the game?
BON: Wednesday is a big day for Texas fans, as it is National Signing day -- a day that combines all the excitement of teenagers making life choices with the satisfaction one derives from the successful operation of a fax machine.

After calming down from that, Longhorns everywhere will be able to tune in to Texas basketball. So what sort of game will they see?

My hope is that they will see a game with a renewed focus on the defensive end of the floor, which is a place where this team both has the most potential and has lately had the most trouble. If that happens, and if Texas is able to score a little bit, the result will likely be a win at home.

I think that can happen.
That's all we have for this edition of Q&A! Remember that CRFF will have all the coverage you could possibly want for every OSU game! Thanks again to Burnt Orange Nation for sitting down with us!