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A Texas Preview

Our pal Carlos, who wrote a great preview of Villanova, has another of Texas.
Great work Carlos!

If Duke were playing this game last year they would be facing a vastly
different foe. Gone from last year's Longhorn squad are 4 starters who
combined for 69% of the team's points and rebounds. For Texas to build on
the success of last year when they finished 2nd in the Big 12 and made it
into the second round of the NCAA tournament they are going to have to find a
way to replace All-American center Chris Mihm. In addition to Mihm, who left
after his junior year for the NBA draft, the Horns also lost Gabe Muoneke,
William Clay, and Ivan Wagner. ACC fans may remember Wagner who transferred
into Texas from NC State. Then again, considering Wagner's career at NC
State was 271 minutes as a freshman, maybe you won't remember him.
Transferring must have agreed with Wagner because he ended up 9 points and
just under 5 assists a game last year.

The task of replacing all that production falls to another familiar face;
former Clemson coach Rick Barnes who took the Texas job in 1999. As if
losing all that production isn't enough, Barnes' job is further complicated
by the loss of Darren Kelly who will miss at least part of the season.
Kelly, the best long range shooter on the team, is sitting out the first
semester because of academic difficulties. That's another 10 points per game
from last year's team that will need to be replaced in the early going.

Barnes is rebuilding the team through a mixture of freshman, transfers, and
junior college players. The result is not just a change in the faces on the
team, but a change in the style of play as well. Gone is the slow,
deliberate attack that was built around Mihm. Replacing it is a more
up-tempo attack that takes advantages of the increased athleticism in this
year's Longhorn squad.

Texas made it to the NIT finals in New York after an opening round victory
over Navy and a second round win over California. In both wins the Longhorns
played stifling defense holding their opponent to fewer than 38% from the
field. The increased athleticism is readily apparent on the interior where
they've blocked a total of 23 shots in their two games. Against California
they needed that defense because on offense they shot a woeful 35% from the
field. Things don't get much better at the three point line where they are
averaging around 23%.

Still, the 'Horns have been winning despite their shooting and they've been
doing that with that strong defense and by hitting the boards. Texas is a
strong rebounding team although those numbers are slightly skewed due to the
number of missed shots (both their own and their opponents). While they are
averaging an incredible 45 rebounds per game, their rebound differential is
only 1.5 rebounds per game. An undersized Navy team was able to pull down 45
rebounds in their game.


Texas bears a slight resemblance to Duke in that they don't play a true
traditional center. The talented duo of Chris Owens and James Thomas are the
primary interior players. Owens is a junior who transferred to Texas from
Tulane after his freshman season. Owens started last year well but then
struggled a bit to find his role on the team. Eventually he was able to
replace Muoneke in the starting lineup late in the season. So far this
season Owens was dominant against Navy to the tune of 28 points and 8
rebounds. He was less somewhat less effective against California where he
had 9 points and 6 rebounds.

The obvious matchup in the Duke game will be with Carlos Boozer. On the
defensive end Owens may be able to give Boozer trouble as he is personally
responsible for 14 of the team's 23 blocked shots. For the season last year
he tallied 45 blocked shots. Those numbers may seem intimidating if you're a
Duke fan but it should be noted that none of the centers Owens has faced this
year is as skilled a player as Boozer. The matchup between the 6-9, 245
pound Owens and the 6-9, 270 pound Boozer should be one of the better battles
in the game.

For Boozer to be effective he must be strong with the ball. Carlos started
the year with a good performance against Princeton where a less patient
player would have been tempted to try and force shots against a sagging
matchup zone. Instead, Boozer took what was available and relocated the ball
to open shooters on the wing. His game against Villanova could be described
as schizophrenic. After a strong start where he scored Duke's first 8
points, pulled down a pair of rebounds, and had a steal, Boozer hit a streak
where he had some difficulty holding on to the ball. For the remainder of
the game Boozer was effective offensively although he finished with a team
high 6 turnovers, something that is almost unheard of for a center.

When Texas has the ball Owens will present a challenge for Boozer who is
coming off a disappointing defensive effort against Villanova's Michael
Bradley. Bradley scored 28 points using a variety of low post moves to shoot
12 of 16 from the field. He also dished out 6 assists from the center spot.
Part of Bradley's success can be attributed to Duke's defensive scheme that
was geared towards taking away the Wildcat's three-point shooting. As a
result, Duke didn't have their normal defensive rotation and Bradley was able
to take advantage of relatively few double teams in the post.

Owens is a different type of player than Bradley. He isn't nearly as
polished offensively but possess far greater athleticism. A more sound
defensive effort, from Boozer and the entire Duke team, will be required to
keep Owens in check. Fortunately for Duke, Texas' aforementioned shooting
difficulties from the outside should allow for more interior help defense.
Owens will step out and attempt a three on occasion but his effectiveness
from that range is marginal unless he has enough time to square up to the
hoop. Last year he took 13 attempts and hit 4 of them, this year he is 0-1.
If the game is tight down the stretch Owens could become a liability due to
his poor free throw shooting (57% last season).

The other Longhorn forward is freshman James Thomas who somehow managed to
slip under most recruiting gurus' radar screen. Thomas is a Barnes type
player- tough and aggressive. To meet academic requirements Thomas spent a
year at Hargrave Military Academy where he added weight to bulk up to 220
pounds on his 6-8 frame when. Thomas isn't a particularly adept scorer- he
averaged 14 points as a prep player. What Thomas does do though is rebound.
His game is like that of Donnell Harvey who left Florida after his freshman
year. His early performance shows strong potential to be an all-league
caliber player at some point in his career.

Thomas' NIT efforts have been similar in consistency to Owens'. Against Navy
he posted 11 points and 9 rebounds but his results dropped off against
California where he only scored 3 points but still had 8 rebounds. 7 out of
his 17 rebounds have been on the offensive end. He also posted a freakish 29
point, 20 rebound line in their Orange/White preseason scrimmage.

That's the good news for Longhorn fans. The bad news is that his counterpart
on the other team is Shane Battier. In the opening round win over
Princeton Battier showed why he is one of the best long-range shooters in the
nation. After missing his first two treys Battier went on a little 9-10
binge. Against Villanova Battier was cold from the outside shooting only
2-7. Like the smart player he is, Battier took his game in closer and hit
5-6 with a variety of moves. At one point he showed the whole package in a
series of possessions where he hit a hook shot in the low post, took a
pull-up jumper, and followed it up by freezing his defender with a jab step
and then nailing another jumper.

Facing Thomas, Battier will need that whole package once again. Thomas has 6
blocked shots to his credit so far this season and is strong enough to defend
most power forwards in the low post. Still, Thomas is a freshman going up
against one of the best players in the country. Thomas' ability to step
outside and guard the perimeter is still unproven and Battier could have a
big day either shooting the deep ball or driving by Thomas if he tries to
stick with Shane on outside.

When Texas has the ball Thomas is very active. Many of his points come on
offensive putbacks or jams from down low. If Battier is guarding him he's
going to have to be very conscious of Thomas' position on the floor which may
limit the amount of help defense Shane is able to offer. Keeping this guy
off the boards is the key to taking him out of the game. Unfortunately for
Duke, it's also a very difficult thing to do.


Before anyone feels too sympathetic for Barnes over the loss of Darren Kelly
they should check out #5 on the current roster. That's Maurice Evans, a
transfer from Wichita State. Prior to sitting out last year Evans was the
9th leading scorer in the country with a 22.6 ppg average as a sophomore.
Evans is 6-5, 220 pounds and can be very effective down low. He has
struggled from beyond the three point line so far this season shooting a
dismal 3-16. However, don't expect Duke to let him have the open look on the
perimeter as he shot 42% from behind the at Wichita State.

Nate James should get the defensive nod on Evans as Duke continues to look
for a defensive stopper on the perimeter to step up and assume Chris
Carrawell's role from last year. At 6-6, 200 pounds James has the size to
check Evans down low but may struggle to keep up with him on the outside.
Evans is a powder keg of a scorer and is bound to go off at some point. He
has the potential to be the best player on the Longhorns but has yet to
realize the form he showed at Wichita State.

Duke's James is coming off another workmanlike outing against Villanova where
he hit 3-4 from the field and 6-8 from the line. If Texas plays a zone then
James will find his spot in the corner for some long three pointers. If they
play a man defense then look for James to try take his game down low so that
he can contribute on the offensive boards.

At the small forward slot Barnes is starting 6-7, 215 pound sophomore Chris
Ogden. He'll be matched up against Mike Dunleavy for Duke who is slightly
taller at 6-9, 205 pounds. Ogden and Dunleavy are similar in that they are
very flexible players both of whom are capable of playing anywhere from
shooting guard to power forward. That's about where the similarities end
though because Ogden's freshman campaign was nowhere near as productive as
Dunleavy's. Ogden is averaging 6 ppg so far this season and I think Rick
Barnes would dearly love one of his newcomers on the bench to step up and
take the starting job away from Ogden. This is a matchup that Duke should


With the loss of Wagner, Texas is relying on junior college transfer Fredie
Williams to run the team. So far this season he has been solid, but not
spectacular and a bit undersized at 5-11, 178 pounds. To compensate for his
lack of size Williams must rely on his quickness. That said, he is not a
particularly good on the ball defender and a guy like Duke's Jason Williams
should be able to get past him with some frequency. California's Shantay
Legans was able to take Fredie Williams off the dribble several times in the
second round game. At 6-2, 196 pounds Jason Williams may be too physical for
the other Williams. Offensively, Fredie Williams doesn't present much of a
scoring threat.


  • Duke - 1 guy
  • Texas - more guys

That may be a bit of an oversimplification but it sums up the frustrations of
a lot of Duke fans. In their first close game of the season Duke essentially
played a six man rotation that look eerily familiar to many. The positive
side of a 6 man rotation is that the 6th man is Chris Duhon. After
struggling with his shot in the exhibition games and the Princeton opener
Duhon found his range against Villanova. Duhon shot 4-6 from long range,
including a deep, off-balance three from the top of the key that hit nothing
but net to end the first half. (OK, it may have banked in but I was sitting
right behind the goal and I like my version better.) Although he's listed as
6-1 many reports have him closer to 6-3. Regardless of his size, he is able
to come off the bench and play the point or the off-guard. When he's in the
game with Jason Williams they form one of the quickest backcourt combinations
that Duke or any other team has ever seen. Duhon is impressive with his
blazing quickness complimenting his sou
nd fundamentals on defense. Offensively he is very patient and is more
concerned about getting the whole team involved than he is about scoring his
own baskets.

For Duke to fully reach its potential this year they are going to have to get
some additional output off the bench. Casey Sanders played only 3 minutes in
the last game and did not contribute significantly. At 6-11 and 218 pounds
Sanders has a tough time against physical players. He can be very productive
if he can get out and run in a transition game but he won't get that chance
until his defense improves. Until then he's going to continue to frustrate
Duke fans looking for a deeper team. Matt Christensen is 6-11, 250 pounds
and offers bulk in the middle but is athletically limited.

The Texas bench is made up of Brandon Mouton, Brian Bodicker, Royal Ivey,
Chris McColpin, and William Wyatt. All 5 guys should play to some extent
against Duke. Mouton is the cousin of almost-went-to-NC
State-ended-up-at-Tulane-and-then-went-to-Maryland Byron Mouton. He's a 6-5
wing player who has struggled a little offensively but was a top 50 recruit
last year. He would be my pick to eventually replace Ogden in the starting
lineup although he is occasionally turnover prone.

Bodicker was the most heralded recruit in Barnes' nationally 6th ranked class
last year. He is a 6-9, McDonalds All-American who can play in the paint and
step outside to nail a three point shot. McColpin is a no frills backup
point guard who has been the team's best outside shooter. It is unlikely
though, that he has the quickness to stay with any of Duke's backcourt
players. Wyatt is a 6-8 forward who can play both positions. His shooting
range is somewhat limited, as is his mobility due to arthroscopic knee
surgery late last spring. Ivey is a 6-4 swing man who is not expected to
contribute much offensively. His main contribution to the team will come on
the defensive end however his offensive limitations will probably limit his
minutes in this type of game.


Much like Villanova, Texas is faced with a decision on defense. Overall the

Longhorns are athletic enough to match up with the Blue Devils in a man to
man. The most glaring exception to that would be at the point guard where
Jason Williams may be too much for Fredie Williams. If the Texas Williams
can limit the penetration of the Duke Williams then this game could be very
difficult for Duke. Texas' big men are athletic enough to make interior
scoring a major challenge for Boozer and Battier. In this event Duke could
still get points from Dunleavy or from James' efforts on the offensive glass.
Jason Williams played a remarkable offensive floor game against Villanova
despite not shooting well from the outside. He's likely to need to improve
that outside shooting against Texas as Fredie Williams should present
somewhat more of a defensive challenge than Villanova's Jermaine Medley.

If Jason Williams is hitting the outside jumper then Fredie Williams is going
to have to play tight defense on him that should allow for easier
penetration. If that happens Jason could create some havoc with interior
passes to Boozer or Battier. Duke may be able to force Texas into a zone and
if so, all sorts of positive things begin to happen for the Devils. Battier,
Williams, Duhon, Dunleavy, and James should get all sorts of open looks for
the three point shot. Duke must make a concentrated effort to keep Texas off
the defensive glass to prevent the Longhorns from getting out into a
transition game where they would be more effective.

On defense Duke will be hard pressed to force another 29 turnovers like they
did against Villanova. However, the Longhorns guards can be shaky at times
and they've yet to see defensive pressure like Duke brings. California was
able to get several baskets in transition off from turnovers and defensive
rebounds. Duke should be able to do the same because of the inexperience of
the Texas backcourt. The Texas point guards have a combined zero NCAA starts
between them prior to this year. Between that, and this being the first road
game for a team that is rather youthful overall, there is a good chance that
Texas may play nervous.

If the Longhorns are able to solve the Duke defensive pressure and get into a
halfcourt set then Duke has three keys on defense. The top priorities must
be keeping Texas off the offensive glass and not allowing Maurice Evans to
get on track. The other key is the Boozer / Owens matchup. Boozer has the
strength and quickness to matchup against Owens his performance against
Bradley is something for concern. Don't be surprised to see Battier switch
over to Owens and Boozer match up on Thomas. Battier could really negate the
quickness advantage Owens usually has and Boozer has the size to keep Thomas
off the glass. Either way that will be a good 2 on 2 matchup inside.

Texas has some of the ingredients to make a serious run at Duke. If the
Devils are as (to borrow a phrase from Coach K) benevolent on defense in this
game as they were against Villanova then they could find themselves playing
in another preseason consolation game in the Garden. More likely is that
they will be able to compound the offensive difficulties Texas has had and
advance to the finals.