* According to Ken Pomeroy, Texas boasts a top-40 offense and a top-five defense. So what about this team does coach Rick Barnes love the most?
"I like the fact that we can get so much better," Barnes said Tuesday.
Barnes said that the Longhorns could still improve their execution by getting better with the details, and that potential improvement includes on the defensive end. Barnes also added that he liked the team's chemistry and how the players liked each other.
"They want to be a good team," Barnes said.
* Barnes also likes the team that is coming to Austin Wednesday. Barnes said he was impressed with the Texas A&M squad that, despite having roster turnover, enters the rivalry showdown with a sparkling 16-1 record, including a 3-0 mark in conference play.
"I like their team. I think that for one, I think it's a real team," Barnes said. "I think they really complement each other. I think they've got players that have improved."
Barnes said Aggie coach Mark Turgeon did a nice job of coaching the Aggies to play, and especially rebound, beyond the sum of their parts. He also noted some similarities between the two squads, both of which are performing beyond expectations.
"I don't think we've ever let outside people set our expectations," Barnes said. "I know Mark Turgeon well enough to know that he's the same way."
* Barnes said Tristan Thompson's work on the defensive end, particularly his ability to rotate over and challenge shots, had been a huge factor in the Longhorns' defensive success. The freshman leads the Longhorns in both blocked shots and steals.
He's also made a couple nice plays in the open court, handling the ball and moving with a mobility seldom seen from a big guy. Dogus Balbay joked that he didn't need to teach Thompson his open court moves.
"He's just gifted," Balbay said, laughing. "He can do whatever he wants."
Balbay went on to say that Thompson was the most gifted frontcourt player he played with at Texas.
"This is the only guy changing directions in the open court, bringing the ball down," Balbay said. "It's good to see."
* When looking at Wednesday's game, don't look at it as a high-pitched rivalry shootout. Balbay said the rest of the Longhorns aren't.
"I think it's (just) another game," Balbay said. "We don't really care who comes in, we're just focusing on the next game. This is A&M; A&M is coming in and we're going to be ready for them."
Balbay said the Longhorns wouldn't focus on outside factors like the two teams' high rankings, either.
"We don't really care about that (other) stuff," Balbay said. "I don't really care about the rankings. Whoever comes in, we're just going to get ready for them, play as hard as we can and if that's A&M, Kansas or whoever, we'll be ready for them."
* But. It's a word often heard from national analysts trying to figure out the Longhorns' 2010-2011 destiny. It's typically used in a sentence like "I like Texas this year, but …". The hesitation is typically derived from the Longhorns' collapse last year, when media members were so quick to jump on the Texas bandwagon.
But Balbay said this year's team was more falter-proof than last year's version.
"We learned from last year, so hopefully we're not going to repeat the same mistakes," Balbay said. "I always say that we've got better team chemistry and a better team this year. We're not going to repeat the mistakes we made last year. We're going to be fine this year."