Chatting up Burnt Orange Nation to get the 411 on the Texas Longhorns

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I’m going to be straight up with you. I haven’t watched a single minute of Texas Longhorns basketball. Heck, the only Big-12 basketball game I watched this year was the Mizzou-Kansas thriller near the end of the season. That’s.. about it. As a result, I’ve been forced to ask one of the many Longhorn bloggers out there (and there are a LOT of them) for their assistance. Luckily I was able to garner some time from Peter who runs the Texas Longhorns blog Burnt Orange Nation. BON is one of the premier UT blogs on the net so obviously I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. Yesterday I provided a statistical look at the Longhorns but Peter will be able to give a more in-depth preview of Texas where the numbers fall short. He was thrilled to answer my patented long-winded questions. Well ‘thrilled’ might be a stretch. Begrudgingly, maybe? Yea, let’s go with that.

Anyways, he did it and provided tons of insight on his Longhorns. Check it out:

Bearcats Nation: The Texas Longhorns have a rich basketball history but are experiencing a bit of a down year relatively speaking despite winning 20 games and finishing at .500 in the very tough Big 12 Conference. To be blunt, what’s going on?

Burnt Orange Nation: Texas has lost three starters to the first round of the NBA Draft in back-to-back years, lost every starter from a year ago, and is playing six freshman in its eight-man rotation.  It’s a hell of an accomplishment that this team even did as much as they did.

BN: J’Covan Brown has been just insane this year doubling his ppg average in the most minutes he’s ever tallied at Texas. Has this been a surprise to Longhorn fans or was it only a matter of time before he broke out?

BON: I don’t know if folks were expecting him to lead the Big 12 in scoring, but anyone who read my season preview shouldn’t have been surprised by Brown’s breakout season.  I’ve been pointing out since the middle of last season that he’s one of the best pure basketball players that’s ever played at Texas, and I can’t say that I’m shocked that he’s put together the kind of season that he has.  In terms of pure hoops instincts, there are few more natural basketball players around.  He’s a joy to watch… and a pain in the ass to defend.

BN: From an X’s and O’s standpoint, what type of offense has Rick Barnes established at Texas?

BON: Texas runs a motion offense that is very similar to what the Utah Jazz ran under Jerry Sloan.

BN: By Friday Barnes will figure out (but likely already has) that Cincinnati by-and-large goes as senior power forward Yancy Gates goes? Who will he lean on to shut down or at least slow down the UC big man?

BON: The loss of Wangmene was a big blow to Texas’ already thin frontcourt, leaving the Longhorns with just three forwards — which is also to say, 15 fouls.  Texas will try to deal with Gates using the length of Clint Chapman (6-10) and the body strength of Jaylen Bond, but really, the player who we needed for Gates was Wangmene, who did a great job bodying up Kansas’ Thomas Robinson.  Without him, Texas may play some zone, or it may do some doubling with help coming from the backside guards.  Or Barnes may just live with whatever Gates can give Cincy and focus the defensive energy on limiting everyone else.

BN: Cincinnati lives and dies by the three-ball. Case in point the Big East Tournament finals in which the Bearcats shot 3 – 14 from three point land. How has Texas fared against teams that like to jack it up every chance they get?

BON: It depends if the other team is making them, now doesn’t it?  Texas went 2-1 against Iowa State this year — a team that lives by the three — winning the two games  the Cyclones shot poorly, and winning the one in which they were hot.  I’d expect the same on Friday; if the Bearcats are feeling it, there’s not much you can do.  If they’re average or worse, I like Texas’ chances.

BN: In general how will Texas defend the UC 4-guard offense?

BON: It mostly depends on whether Gates is killing us inside.  If he is, we may have to play some zone, but otherwise we’ll play Cincy in straight up man.

BN: Switching gears how many Longhorn fans can we expect in Nashville for this game?

BON: Not many.  Texas basketball isn’t a huge thing with fans, I regret to say.

BN: Cincinnati has cooked up the Down the Drive chant that makes fans of Big East teams cringe with disgust. We, of course, love it. What can those UC fans going to Nashville expect from the Texas contingent on Friday?

BON: Absolutely nothing.  Texas fans will clap and cheer to the fight song, and might do a “Texas! Fight!” chant, but we’re not a vocal fan base.

BN: Put up or shut up time. Who wins?

BON: This Texas team is hard to figure out — not just game to game, but half to half.  I’ll say this, if I were drafting players from Cincinnati and Texas to put on my squad for the NCAA Tournament, I’d select J’Covan Brown with the first pick.  We’ll see how far that goes on Friday, or if Cincinnati’s experienced and athletic guards get the better of Texas’ freshmen.  So no prediction from me, but I do expect the game to be very competitive.  Hopefully Friday’s game is a memorable one.  Hook ’em.

Phew. Well I’ve been thoroughly mind-blown. Mad props to Peter for getting through that. He was a trooper. I agree with him that this will be a close game considering a lot of unknowns involved. Will J’Covan Brown go off? Will Yancy Gates establish himself early and maintain his presence inside? Will the Texas freshman play scared in their first NCAA Tournament or with confidence? Will Cincinnati shoot well from beyond the arc or go cold? It’s unclear just which determining factor if any become the storyline of this game but it is clear that Texas is a dangerous squad albeit young. The Bearcats need to build a lead and not let up this team. If it’s close UC will be in danger of letting J’Covan Brown perform some of his magic for the Longhorns.

Regardless it should be a good one! Tune into CBS tomorrow at 12:15 EST for tipoff and be sure to follow Peter and Burnt Orange Nation on Twitter for all-things Texas Longhorns.