The Longhorns Are No Longshots In The Big 12

Vince Young and his University of Texas football teammates aren't the only bunch of Longhorns in Austin in national championship contention. Their basketball counterparts plan to make more than their share of national noise as well . . . maybe all the way to the Final Four.

Is this the school year in which a university's athletic program captures both an NCAA men's Division I championship in basketball and a BCS title in football?

It well could be but I don't think that's the buzz at USC, Virginia Tech or Florida State these days.

But it should be in Austin, where the University of Texas sports a Vincent Young-led football team and could also be the home of a basketball squad potentially better than the Longhorns' club that advanced to the Final Four in New Orleans in 2003.

Coach Rick Barnes' team was eliminated by Nevada in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March – in large part because of an injury (to the hip of then-freshman LaMarcus Aldridge) and academic ineligibility (that sidelined forward P.J. Tucker for the second semester).

But both are back in the fold and, despite the loss of a 2005 McDonald's All-America swingman (C.J. Miles) to the NBA Draft, the Longhorns are a solid choice to win the Big 12's regular season championship and also have all of the ingredients in place to be play on the final weekend of the season in Indianapolis.

A closer look at the Big 12

Projected finish:

Frank's Spin: In Daniel Gibson, the Longhorns have a sophomore floor leader good enough to be a consensus first-team All-America in March and a Top 10 NBA Draft selection in June. He's also got plenty of jump shooters (including returnee Kenton Paulino) to dish to and a frontcourt (Brad Buckman, P.J. Tucker and LaMarcus Aldridge) that could be the best Rick Barnes has coached in Austin.
Postseason possibilities: Other than Duke, there isn't a team in the country that, on paper, has a noticeably better opportunity of getting to the Final Four.

Frank's Spin: Kelvin Sampson has his usual collection of returnees and standout transfers, and the mix is enough to make the Sooners the top threat to Texas in the conference. Seniors Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout (assuming he's healthy) team up in the post positions to offer a pretty nifty definition of "forceful". Terrell Everett isn't a flashy point guard and, as we should know by now, there's nothing wrong with that. He's among the most underrated in the country at the position. Six-five Nate Carter, a transfer from UC Riverside, will challenge the Kansas and Oklahoma State guys for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
Postseason possibilities: It took the John R. Wooden Award winner (Andrew Bogut of Utah) to eliminate the Sooners in the second round of the NCAA tournament last March. They'll be into the second week of the tournament this time around.

Frank's Spin: Then-senior guard Ronald Ross was a significant factor in the Red Raiders advancing to the Sweet 16 last season, where they narrowly lost to West Virginia. But there's plenty back from that club, including junior guard Jarrius Jackson and sophomore wing Martin Zeno, both vastly under recruited out of Louisiana, and post Darryl Dora, who should have a productive junior season.
Postseason possibilities: If Knight's freshman class is as good as some think it is, another Sweet 16 run wouldn't be startling.

Frank's Spin: The Cyclones have a group of perimeter players, led by juniors Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock, that is as offensively creative as any in the country. But can newcomers, led by Shawn Taggert, compensate for the loss of center Jared Homan and power forward Damion Staple?
Postseason possibilities: Back to the NCAA tournament but only if Coach Wayne Morgan gets reasonable play out of the post.

Frank's Spin: There is no doubting the talent in the sophomore and freshmen classes (especially the latter) but it's difficult to envision a smooth transition with the loss of Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Michael Lee. The key: the play of sophomore posts C.J. Giles and Sasha Kaun, who combined for about 5 ½ points and 4 ½ rebounds per game a year ago.
Postseason possibilities: The Jayhawks will get into the NCAA tournament and could stay a round longer than a year ago if the frosh develop as quickly as most are assuming they can.

Frank's Spin: Like the Jayhawks, the Cowboys will lean heavily on their newcomers to maintain the lofty status, within the conference and nationally, that they've become accustomed. JC transfers Jamaal Brown and Torre Johnson will have to be instant producers to keep sophomore guard JamesOn Curry from having to score 20-plus per game to keep his team competitive in most outings.
Postseason possibilities: It's difficult to envision an Eddie Sutton team slipping too far, even with its heavy losses.

Frank's Spin: The Aggies lost Antoine Wright to the NBA but return a couple of players (center Joseph Jones and guard Acie Law IV) who played as well as he did most of last season.
Postseason possibilities: The NIT* (*or whatever it's being called in March). But Billy Gillispie will have his 2006-07 team in the NCAA tournament. That guy is a keeper.

Frank's Spin: Here's the nomination for the team that I might be most underrating in this conference. Wing Joe McCray and center Aleks Maric are very well known outside the conference but make up a high caliber set of sophomores.
Postseason possibilities: The NIT* is do-able, if the Huskers win a hefty number of non-conference games.

Frank's Spin: Sophomore Richard Roby is the best of five returning starters from a team that won only four games in conference.
Postseason possibilities: The NIT*, with a strong non-conference performance in the equation. The Buffs might be better than this but who drops below them?

Frank's Spin: The Tigers are capable of finishing several notches higher than this but only if perimeter veterans Jimmy McKinney, Thomas Gardner and Jason Horton have much stronger seasons, and Quin Snyder can get reasonable play from the post positions.
Postseason possibilities: Will the postseason find the Tigers searching for a new coach if Snyder's team doesn't show considerable improvement from last season's 16-17 finish?

Frank's Spin: Junior forward Cartier Martin, who turned down Oklahoma State to sign with the Wildcats a few years ago, will have to continue the kind of improvement he demonstrated last season to elevate the team much higher than this in the standings.
Postseason possibilities: The non-conference schedule (nine of 11 games in Manhattan) was built for an NIT* bid.

Frank's Spin: The NCAA hammer stamped out the team's non-conference schedule so we won't see the sophomore debut of a marvelous guard, Aaron Bruce, until the Bears' Big 12 opener on Jan. 11 in Lubbock, Texas.
Postseason possibilities: In three words – not very good.

Daniel Gibson (6-2, So., Texas)
Aaron Bruce (6-2, So., Baylor)
Taj Gray (6-8, Sr., Oklahoma)
JamesOn Curry (6-3, So., Oklahoma State)
Curtis Stinson (6-3, Jr., Iowa State)

Jarrius Jackson (6-1, Jr., Texas Tech)
P.J. Tucker (6-5, Jr., Texas)
Terrell Everett (6-4, Sr., Oklahoma)
Richard Roby (6-6, So., Colorado)
Brad Buckman (6-8, Sr., Texas)

Jamaal Brown (6-0, Jr., Oklahoma State)
Julian Wright (6-7, Fr., Kansas)
Mario Chalmers (6-2, Fr., Kansas)
Nate Carter (6-5, Jr., Oklahoma)
Brandon Rush (6-5 ½, Fr., Kansas)

Jarrius Jackson (6-1, Jr., Texas Tech)

Daniel Gibson (6-2, So., Texas)

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at Read more of Burlison's pieces at

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