NCAA Tournament Preview: Texas, Part II

Inside Texas' Ross Lucksinger continues his preview of the Texas Longhorns for the Stanford faithful before their Sweet 16 game on Friday at Reliant Stadium in Houston through an interview with our own Daniel Novinson.

On the lineup:

I'll just start with the biggest name. D.J. Augustin. I'm sure y'all have heard of him. Augustin is averaging 19.4 points per game and 5.7 rebounds and the offense almost entirely goes through him. On rare occasions it's Mason, but it's Augustin almost every minute bringing the ball up every time. If he needs to be the leading scorer, he'll do it and break down defenders off the dribble, where he's fast, extremely fast. Texas honestly is at their best when he doesn't have to be their leading scorer, like in the first two rounds, when he distributed, when Abrams' shot is on.

[Guard A.J.] Abrams is probably 5-10, 155. He's got a dead-on outside shot. If Augustin is driving and dishing to Abrams, then the team's at its most dangerous.

[Justin] Mason also starts at guard. He's the trash man: he does all the random stuff Texas needs and does not get a lot of publicity, but staff really, really likes. Against Austin Peay, he had nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists -- almost a triple double. He always draws the toughest defensive assignments. Whoever the opponent's biggest scorer is, he draws him. He's kind of the lockdown defender.

Damion James starts at guard/forward, 6-7, plays inside and out. He's best whenever he is really able to rebound the ball. Against Miami, he had 16 points and 16 boards, and had 10 and 10-ish against Austin Peay. He actually can shoot the three: all five starters can shoot the three.

The center Connor Atchley can shoot the three, but is going to be most important with his D. Whenever Texas is in man, he'll draw up one of the twins. He's a 6-10 junior center, 9.5 points and 5.3 rebounds. He's an occasional spot shooter from the outside, when Texas likes to spread the floor.

I'm expecting a lot of 2-3 zone from Texas to handle the post game, and then spreading the floor and getting out and trying to outrun Stanford on offense.

A guy to watch off the bench is Dexter Pittman. 6-10 300 pounds, and the big thing when he got to Texas was losing weight. He lost 70 pounds. They recruited him as a 370-pound center. But he's got quick speed and everything. He had one of his biggest games ever against Austin Peay, who had no starter bigger than 6-5. They just put him in and let him muscle everyone around. He played only eight minutes against Miami but did well.

Another forward who's important on defense against Stanford is freshman Gary Johnson. He played six minutes against Miami, but that was first time he was back after he suffered a right lower leg strain in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament. He was testing it, and that leg should be ready to go in Houston. He wears a mask from a broken nose, but should be healthy. He's got a decent jumper but is more of a trash man and will be playing defense against Stanford.

Another big who'll probably play, usually for defense, is Alexis Wangmene. He's a true frosh from Cameroon. He's got big length in the post defensively, and also will come in off the bench.

Most of bench who'll play are posts. Augustin and Abrams and Mason play most of game, though to give Mason some rest, Texas will put in a post and pull a guard to go big. [Guard] J.D. Lewis is a senior but it's rare if he ever plays. They don't have any backups at guard.

On Texas' track record defending bigs:

One of most notable bigs in the Big 12 is from Kansas State, Michael Beasley [6-9]. Basically, Texas' policy with him is let him get his and shut down the rest. He had 30 and Texas stopped. Tex has a steadily improving track record with bigs throughout the season. Post players have been stepping up. At the beginning of the season, it was entirely guard oriented, but the posts have been steadily improving. It's still one of the concern areas, one of the weaker areas, and what makes Stanford a tough matchup. But to attack weaknesses for Stanford, Texas will try to adjust, spread out and outrun. You'll see a lot of three-point shooting, with the fact that all five can shoot the three, you'll see Texas spread the floor and try to outrun them. I expect a lot of 2-3 zone underneath to try to minimize the twins as much as possible. Going head up with bigs has been hit or miss; I wouldn't call it a strength.

I wonder whether Augustin wins more with his length, which I figure will be less of a matchup problem for our guards, or more with his quicks. [Mea cupla, this is before I realize he's 5-11]:

He's more of a driver/quick guy. If he's got a good matchup, which I think he will for this game, he's going to drive. He's most effective when he can drive and break a guy down and get to the basket or kick it out to an open three-point shooter. They'll see a lot of Augustin driving the ball.

On who's the most dangerous three-point shooter:

It's definitely Abrams. He's going to shoot more threes than anyone else. Then, after that, probably Augustin.

Mock drafts have James going in next year's second round (Augustin is this year's No. 17), so I ask what makes him NBA-worthy:

He's 6-7 but can get rebounds over anybody and really jump and fight under the boards, as I mentioned, with 16 boards against Miami. He averages a double-double on the season, and along with that, he also has range a nice mid range J. He also added a three; he can hit the three now. He's got kind of the total guard combo package. At 6-7, he won't be a pure post in the NBA, but he has kind of all the small forward skills, not at a superstar level but all the skills to be an NBA small forward.

On Barnes and his strengths and weaknesses:

Barnes is intense in terms of practices. His practices are legendarily brutal. He really, really works the guys but they have a lot of respect for him. Everyone likes him and a lot of them think he's funny. He is, with a really dry sense of humor, very dry, very funny if you get to know him.

There's kind of been a debate among fans. Texas has blown a lot of leads late this season, but hasn't been losing these games. It seems like every game, teams make runs at the end. Fans worry about going into shell at end, dropping into zone and playing not to lose, but it goes back and forth. Late-game coaching been a topic of debate, but I wouldn't call it a weakness. They do get the job done.

Texas is 30-6 on the year, and it's going to be very home-friendly, with a lot of alums based in Houston. It's nothing but burnt orange fans all the way out for Texas, with strong alumni bases in Houston and San Antonio. Texas is 17-1 and 8-0 in-conference at home this year, so whenever their fans are in arena…

I ask for his keys from a Texas perspective:

Outrun, let D.J. work his magic, and help D in the post. The reason is that I expect a lot of 2-3 zone. Atchley is a good post defender, and one of his best games is when Texas beat UCLA, he pretty much shut Kevin Love down. He's going to be the guy matched-up with one, but that's only one. So I'll expect a lot of help D in the post.


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