Know Your Foe: The Texas Longhorns

In this edition of “Know Your Foe,” William Wilkerson of Horns Digest on the Scout network joins us to talk about Friday’s Big 12/SEC Challenge clash between No. 1 Kentucky and No. 6 Texas.

ALLWILDCATS: This looks like an opportunity for the Longhorns to really make a statement early in the season. Do you sense there's more buzz around the Longhorns and the fan base entering this matchup, or is it still difficult for basketball to command attention at this time of year in Texas?

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WW: Texas will always be a football state first and foremost, and the University of Texas is no different. But Rick Barnes has really done a nice job of getting this program back to where it was several years ago. There's an undeniable buzz around this program that simply hasn't been there since Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph brought their Canadian flare to Austin. Five-star recruit Myles Turner is a big reason for that. He's reminding several of Lamarcus Aldridge with a hit of Kevin Durant. For as good a player as he is, his humble personality has really made him a welcomed addition to not only the team, but to the fan base as well. Having every player back from last season's 24-win team helps as well.

ALLWILDCATS: Rick Barnes has coached a lot of good teams at Texas, but hasn't been able to get the program to that "next step." Is there any sense of pressure or the so-called "hot seat" with him?

WW: Not at all and it really stems from the job he did last season when he had to replace the top four scorers from the previous season, had no seniors, and led the team to a 24-11 record and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. On top of that, he was able to secure Turner's commitment and has two really nice recruits signed for next season. Texas has enough confidence in him that the school added two years to his contract, which now runs through the 2018-19 season.

ALLWILDCATS: What does the point guard situation look like going into this game?

WW: Well as you all might know the Longhorns will be without their starting point guard, and leading scorer, Isaiah Taylor, who broke his left wrist a few weeks ago. But they've got Javan Felix starting now and are confident with him controlling the offense. The junior moved over to more of a shooting guard roll when Taylor came in last season, but he averaged more than 34 minutes a game UT's starting PG as a freshman.

ALLWILDCATS: Is there a matchup that bodes well for Texas, and is there one that concerns the Longhorns most?

WW: I wouldn't say there is one that bodes well for Texas, not against this type of talent. Two players that could have success are Jonathan Holmes and Damarcus Holland. Holmes is Texas' best all-around player right now and can stretch the floor offensively as a 6-8 three. He grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and blocked three shots on Tuesday against UT-Arlington. He could create issues depending on who Calipari decides to put on him, especially around the perimeter. Holland is one of the better on-ball defenders in the country and will give whoever he is guarding fits.

ALLWILDCATS: What is the key to Texas leaving Rupp Arena with a win over the No. 1 team in the nation?

WW: One key is to get Cameron Ridley, Texas' 6-foot-9, 285-pound post, going offensively early and for him to keep constant pressure on UK's bigs on the glass. He's struggled this season and hasn't shown the type of promise he showed last season when his stock as an NBA prospect was at an all-time high. Secondly, Texas has to hit from the outside. The Longhorns aren't known for being a great shooting team but they do have several players - Holmes, Turner, Felix - that can catch fire. Finally, they need to enjoy the moment and not get overwhelmed by their situation. This is a big stage but this team, given their experience, shouldn't be wide-eyed by the moment.


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