NCAA Tournament Preview: Texas, Part I

Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger previews the Texas Longhorns for the Stanford faithful before their Sweet 16 game on Friday at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Official Texas Starting Line-up:

G - D.J. Augustin, So. (19.4 ppg, 5.7 apg)
G - A.J. Abrams, Jr. (16.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
G - Justin Mason, So. (7.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
F - Damion James, So. (13.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg)
C - Connor Atchley, Jr. (9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

As many Stanford fans well know, the biggest name the Cardinal will have to deal with Friday is D.J. Augustin. The sophomore point guard is the Longhorns' leading scoring and the team's unquestioned floor general.

But Augustin is not the most dangerous scorer for the Longhorns...assuming everything is going to plan. In Texas' opening round victory over 15th-seed Austin Peay, the All-American guard scored just six points. Against Miami, in Texas' 75-72 second-round win, Augustin had 12, again below his season average of over 19.

Yet both wins were not considered poor performances by the speedy point guard, because over those two games he dished out 16 assists, compared to giving up just four turnovers. He ran the offense and distributed the ball to Texas' other scorers, primarily to A.J. Abrams, who scored 26 points in each victory while shooting 12-of-20 from three-point range (6-of-10 in each).

Abrams is listed at 5-11, but he was probably standing on a couple text books when they took that measurement. But he's a dangerous outside shooter, hitting 38.1 percent of his three-point shots on the year (111-of-291) and a good compliment to Augustin, who hit 38 percent of his threes (70-of-184).

Three-point shooting in general is the name of the game for Texas, especially against an opponent with as strong of post game as Stanford. Look for the Longhorns to push the tempo, spread out and shoot the three. All five of Texas' starters can hit the three, with guard Justin Mason (34.2 percent; 25-of-73), forward Damion James (44.6 percent, 37-of-83) and center Connor Atchley (42.3 percent; 41-of-97) each willing to take a shot at anytime.

Augustin is quick off the dribble and likes to break an opponent down if he thinks he's got a speed advantage. Most of the Texas offense should be comprised of Augustin driving and kicking out to a three-point shooter or driving in and taking the shot himself if he's got an opening.

James is the team's primary rebounder. The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward is averaging a double-double on the season and in Texas' win over Miami had 16 points and 16 boards. As for Mason, he's one of the more interesting players because he's best described as the "trash man". You need something taken care of and he'll do it. It was best summed up in his line from Texas' opening-round win over Austin Peay: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists. He won't score the most points, but he'll always take the toughest defensive assignment amongst the guards and will always be around the ball when a big play's happening.

The most interesting defensive assignment, however, will be Atchley's. Much of the Cardinal's offense runs right through Brook Lopez and it'll be Atchley's job to stop him, something that is not impossible for the 6-10 center. This year, Atchley is fifth on Texas' single season blocks list with 75 and has averaged 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in the Horns' two tournament games. His most notable defensive performance of the season was when Texas took down then No. 1 UCLA. Atchley held Kevin Love to 11 points and five boards in the Longhorns' 63-61 win in Los Angeles.

But Brook is only one of Stanford's Twin Towers. Because of this, expect Texas to frequently use a 2-3 zone, which Texas head Rick Barnes does like to employ in certain situations, and to go deeper on the bench than normal.

Texas' strength is its guards, but its depth is in the post. The Horns have very little when it comes to guard depth and both Augustin and Abrams usually play close to 40 minutes. Texas does employ frequent rotation in the post, so expect to see a cavalcade of defenders taking on Stanford's big men.

Dexter Pittman may take on a big role in the post, just as he did in Texas' opening-round win, where the 6-10, 299-pound behemoth scored 11 points and pulled down 10 boards against the much smaller Austin Peay. Freshman forwards Alexis Wangmene and Gary Johnson should also see significant minutes, primarily as post defenders, but Texas may go even deeper, also giving time to 6-10 freshman center Clint Chapman.

Regardless of the particular arrangement of players Texas uses, expect the offense to come from multiple directions. Texas has had four players in double figures 13 times this season, sporting an 12-1 mark in those games. The most notable was a 97-78 win over Tennessee in the fifth game of the season, in which four Longhorns (Augustin, Abrams, Mason, Atchley) all scored over 20 points.

Expect a lot of running, expect a lot of threes and expect a fast-paced, exciting basketball game between two very talented teams.

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