CN Breakdown of the Longhorns

The Cyclones can take control of first place with a win Monday. Ok, "take control" is a bit strong, but they would be alone atop the Big 12 standings for the first time since 2001 with a victory on Big Monday. With that said, it will be the best test of the season for this group.

Texas (12-2) was a consensus top two team in the nation by all the pre-season publications.  They dropped in the polls after back-to-back losses to #1 Duke (97-66) and then at home to Tennessee (95-78). If you caught either of those games, you didn't see the real Texas team. Longhorn forward Brad Buckman played only seven minutes in the Duke game before injuring his calf, and star point-guard Daniel Gibson missed the last 30 minutes of the Tennessee game after suffering a concussion. In the game against the Vols, Texas committed 22 turnovers, largely because of Gibson's absence.

 

Since those two losses, Texas has things rolling again. Buckman and Gibson are back, and they are coming off two straight impressive wins. The first of which was a dominating performance on the road in a heated environment at #4 Memphis. They defeated John Calipari's Tigers 69-58. They turned around Saturday and blasted a Colorado team that had scored over 110 points three straight games, 89-64.

 

This is a markedly different team than the one Iowa State beat in Austin last season 92-80. That team was without the services of 6'5 F P.J. Tucker or 6'10 F LaMarcus Aldridge (former McDonald's AA). They are the Horns two leading scorers this season, Tucker averaging 18.5 points and Aldridge 17.7. Tucker was just named as the Big 12's player of the week. Iowa State hasn't seen anybody equal in talent to either Tucker or Aldridge this season. They will be a handful for Iowa State's young post guys. Tucker may only be 6'5, but he is a phenomenal rebounder (9.2 RBG.) He reminds most of a young Charles Barkley, or to us Clone fans, Kenny Pratt. He can hit the mid-range jumper and also put you on his large backside and back you into the paint. He is also the emotional leader of the Longhorns.

 

Aldridge, on the other hand, is almost completely different in style. He is a classic big man, with the ability to score from the post with either hand. He is shooting an astounding 68 percent from the field. He also averages 10.4 boards, leading the Big 12. Against probably the best post-defender in the NCAA in Duke's Shelden Williams, Aldridge scored 21 points and played all 40 minutes. He can run the floor and will also knock down shots from 15 feet and in if left open. He is what Shawn Taggart should hope to be. They will find him right away and let him operate on Marsden and Hubalek. Up front, the Horns also start the very seasoned Brad Buckman (former McDonald's AA). Buckman (6'8 F) has been around for a while, and is putting together solid numbers as usual 11.3 points, 7.5 boards. He is probably the fifth option on offense, but can still beat you if unoccupied.

 

In the back-court 6'2 Daniel Gibson (former Mc AA) runs the show. A likely lottery pick (Aldridge will be as well) if he enters the draft, Gibson was last year's freshman of the year. Gibson is having a bit of a sluggish start to the year, averaging just over 13 points, but he is only shooting 40 percent from the field, and 35 percent from three. However, he is unabashed to shoot; averaging over 7 threes attempted every game. He also isn't dishing the ball as much as coach Rick Barnes would like at only 3 assists per game.

 

His back-court mate is Kenton Paulino (6'1). Paulino is averaging 8.3 PPG. Over half of his shots have been from three-point range. He is shooting 37 percent from downtown. Paulino is also a good defender and will more than likely have the duty of handling Stinson. Off the bench, Texas only had two guys play more than four minutes on Saturday. Freshman Center Connor Atchley (6'9) averages four points and two rebounds, and Freshman guard A.J. Abrams (5'10) puts up six points and also drops three assists a game. Abrams is a change-of-pace guy, much like T.J. Ford. He can fly down the floor and is a spark off the bench. Atchley is a big man used in brief stints to spell the starters.

 

Texas will play both man and zone defenses. Their defense is one of the best in the nation. Despite giving up over 90 points to both Duke and Tennessee, the Longhorns are giving up under 60 points a game. For Iowa State to pull it out, they will need a much improved effort over Saturday's average one against K-State. They can't afford to get beat-up on the boards again (ISU was out-rebounded 36-26). If the Cyclones win, it will because several of the big guys stepped up and played well. They don't need to score big points, but defense and rebounding are the keys. Tucker, Aldridge, and Buckman will be waiting to eat them alive. It would be nice if Tasheed Carr has an encore show of his game last year at Texas, where he scored 22 points, 13 of which were in overtime. Tasheed has only scored over 10 points twice and hasn't hit more than 1 three in a game this year.

 

Iowa State hasn't played on Big Monday since losing to Kansas 83-54 on Jan. 6, 2003. Texas has won in Hilton only once since joining the Big 12 (2002). Iowa State won the last meeting in Hilton, after Brian Boddicker missed two free throws with under four seconds to play (78-77.) Hilton should be rocking with the students back for the start of second semester.


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