Scouting Report: Texas Longhorns

It may not be No. 1 versus No. 2, but the Wildcats and Longhorns look to have one heck of a battle Sunday at the McKale Center. The two have played six straight years with the Wildcats winning all six. That's a streak the improved Longhorns hope to snap.

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LAST GAME: Texas (5-1) fell to Notre Dame 98-91 for its first loss of the season. Arizona played an up and down game but managed to beat San Diego State 89-81 on the road.

LAST MEETING: Arizona overcame a double-digit halftime deficit and beat Texas 88-74 in Austin.

This was thought to be one of the tests before the long awaited matchup in Lawrence. But with the Jayhawks struggling and Texas playing very well, this could be the best non-conference game of the year. Texas comes into the game with a lot of athleticism and lots of talent in the frontcourt and backcourt. This is probably its best team in a long while and, coupled with the injuries to Salim Stoudamire and Luke Walton, could be a game that the Longhorns have a legitimate shot to win.

"There is no question this is our toughest test to this point," Lute Olson said. "They are very, very impressive on both offense and defense."

The Longhorns bring perhaps the most electrifying point guard in all of college basketball. T.J. Ford is freakishly quick and should be amazing to see in person. The Longhorns also feature a rebounding machine in James Thomas, who could have a field day if Arizona continues its woes on the offensive glass. He is one of the top rebounders in the nation and is relentless when he plays.

"They are the best board team we will have faced," praised Olson. "They really attack the basket."

As has been the case all season, Arizona comes into this game limping. Luke Walton reaggrevated his sprained ankle and won't play. This, on top of Salim Stoudamire's nagging ankle injury, has led to fans not being able to see the true Arizona basketball team. This game would be a true test for Arizona if they were at full strength, but now it is a big concern as they are minus a couple of starters. While Salim is expected to play, he has been a shell of himself all season long. Expect a war, with the winner not being decided until late.

PG- TJ Ford Sophomore 5'10" 165 lbs vs Jason Gardner Senior 5'10" 191 lbs

This could be the premiere point guard matchup in all of college basketball. Kirk Hinrich and Luke Ridnour could challenge that statement, but one can't say enough about T.J. Ford. He is so fast that one wonders how anyone can stop him. He is such an amazing passer that you can definitely see him averaging 10 assists per game in the NBA. Oh yeah, and he's a sophomore!! The press will be put to a test big time and one has to wonder if it will actually work with Ford at the helm.

Whoever is given the assignment to guard Ford needs to slow him down, because he can get his team going in a hurry. Ford has increased his scoring to 15.3 PPG and exactly 10 assists a game so far this season. He is definitely for real and should be taken real seriously. If the Wildcats can somehow disrupt Ford, it disrupts the whole  Texas team, as they won't get many easy shots off penetration. The Cats will use a variety of defenders on Ford in an attempt to tire him out. Don't xpect Gardenr to start out of Ford, instead a bigger player like Hassan Adams, Chris Rodgers or even Andre Iguodala will likely take a shot at him.

Gardner comes off a less-than-solid performance at San Diego State in which he was too fancy at times and shot 1-for-10 from the field. While it is truly out of the ordinary for Gardner to have games like this, the mistakes he made were truly shocking. For a player who has gone through everything, a rowdy San Diego State crowd should have been a cake walk. But that game is behind him. I expect him to be extremely motivated in this matchup and have a great game.

Gardner is averaging 15.3 points and 4.3 assists, both down from a year ago, but that is due to less minutes and an improved supporting cast. Gardner is truly at his best in big games, and this should be like any other, especially at home. Both point guards are great and, although Gardner should have the edge being at home, this matchup is too close to handicap.
Advantage: Push

SG- Hassan Adams Freshmen 6'4" 201 lbs vs Royal Ivey Junior 6'3" 192 lbs

Adams should get the start as Stoudamire isstill somewhat limited and Will Bynum is better coming off the bench. Adams has come back to earth after his mind-boggling first two games and has been pretty pedestrian. He is still very productive and the quality of the opponent might motivate even more, like Western Kentucky did. Adams has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but has also looked lost at time. He is a great freshman for this basketball team, will only get better with further exposure to the system. He is vital to the press, but has a tendency to let his man get by him at times. Of course this is a little nitpicky, but the press can really be a load for a team if it works.

Ivey is one of those good college players but probably doesn't have much of a professional future in this country. He is a prototypical Texas swingman. He is averaging eight points per game, but plays great defense and is a solid all-around player. He only plays about 24 minutes a game, which makes those totals that much more impressive. Ivey is not one of those guys that will have a huge game scoring, but can be a defensive stopper. Last year he limited Casey Jacobsen to 2-18 shooting. Ivey has the experience, Adams the talent. When both are at their best, Adams gets the edge.
Advantage: Hassan Adams

SF- Andre Igoudala Freshmen 6'6 200lbs vs Brandon Mouton Junior 6'4" 205 lbs

Mouton has a scoring average  12.2 and also plays nails defense, which could give Igoudala fits. Mouton should have trouble shooting over the taller Igoudala, but he's much more experienced in big games and should use that to his advantage. He has also committed only 10 turnovers in 150 minutes this season and could be a primary ball handler against the Arizona press.

Igoudala has been a typical freshmen so far, truly amazing one moment, and making head-scratching mistakes the next. He has been one of the better defensive players for Arizona this year, which should help his matchup with Mouton. Scoring for Igoudala could be a challenge, as Mouton plays good defense as well, but Iguodala has the height advantage. Igoudala checks in with a modest scoring average of eight points a game, but is second on the team in rebounding (5.8) to Channing Frye. That is particularly impressive as Igoudala only plays 21 minutes a game. The true freshman should be pumped for the game. It is his biggest of his career, but hopefully he is not too over anxious. Iguodala played tenatively in the early minutes against SDSU and didn't really appear totally relaxed until the second half. Iguodala has all the potential to have a big game, but Mouton is the better player at this stage.
Advantage: Brandon Mouton

PF- Rick Anderson Senior 6'9" 225 lbs vs Deginald Erskin Senior 6'5" 218 lbs

Surprises this year in college basketball: College of Charleston, Stanford, Rick Anderson!!! Anderson was the forgotten man all summer, but has been the Wildcats' most consitant player. He is averaging 13.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG, but it is his inspired play that has really captured all the Arizona faithful. Anderson single-handedly kept the San Diego State game out of reach for the Aztecs. Anderson has a huge height advantage in this matchup, which makes me believe you might see McDonald's All-American's Brad Buckman and Brian Boddicker defending him.  Erskin is averaging only 23 minutes a game, so you could see a lot of different playersgoing against Anderson. The smaller Erskin does have a quickness advantage over Anderson, while the two bench players are more traditional inside players.

Anderson's perimeter game could be negated by anyone he plays against as they are all athletic and will be tough to get a shot off against. That being said, Anderson looks very comfortable on the inside and has been very good on the offensive glass. With the way Anderson is playing, he should have a good game against just about anyone the Longhorns throw at him.
Advantage: Rick Anderson

C- Channing Frye Sophomore 6'10 235 lbs vs James Thomas Junior 6'8" 235 lbs

This is a matchup that could scare a lot of Wildcat backers out there. Frye should be able to score against Thomas, but on the glass Thomas could be a nightmare. Thomas averages almost 12 rebounds per game and is a beast on the boards. Arizona has had trouble rebounding with the likes of Northern Arizona and Saint Louis. Playing against a guy like Thomas could be deadly. He needs to be neutralized on the glass, because if he gets Texas too many extra chances with offensive rebounds, the Longhorns could be dangerous. This also keeps the game in a half court set, when Arizona wants to run even against teams as quick as Texas. Thomas is scoring 12.5 PPG and has significantly improved his game from last year.

Frye has improved as of late but it has basically been a 2-headed monster at center with Frye usually starting and Fox spelling him off the bench. Fox will probably play nearly identical minutes to Frye and should be just as important in this matchup with Thomas. Thomas is playing great this season and has to get the nod against either Frye or Fox. Frye has been a big game player and he'll need to be a factor against Thomas and the Longhorns.
Advantage: James Thomas

SIMOMN'S OUTLOOK: Both teams are deep, athletic and physical. The press could disrupt Texas, but it would not surprise me if Longhorns gave Arizona some of their own medicine and pressed back. This could lead to a frenetic pace and lots of points scored. But with point guards like Gardner and Ford it is real tough to have a consistent press. This could have easily been a 1 vs 2 matchup and everyone should look at it the same way. Texas is real good. They caught a hot Notre Dame at a real bad time, as the Irish had a great shooting day. This is going to be a true test for the Wildcats,, playing without their leader and coming off three "sub par" games in a row.
Simon's pick: Arizona 94-83

BRAD'S OUTLOOK: Texas would like nothing more than to get their first win in this lopsided series, especially on national television. The Cats will miss Walton, but with Iguodala and Adams taking his place the Wildcats are actually a bit more athletic. Texas is always athletic and now their athletes are good basketball players as well. T.J. Ford is the nation's best pure point guard, but Jason Gardner is the best in big games. After a 1-for-10 performance you can bet the senior wants to strut his stuff on national television. Gardner goes off and the Cats pull away in the second half.

Brad's Pick: Arizona 97-84.

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