Guard, that is. It seems like every year, people want to talk about Barnes' offense, and how the Longhorns struggled to run plays once their sets broke down. And not surprisingly, the Longhorns have done their best when they've been able to get point guards who can create for themselves and for their teammates when things break down.
When looking at Texas basketball history over the last 10 years, only two point guards stand out as elite players, capable of making everyone around them better offensively: T.J. Ford and D.J. Augustin. Barnes has made three trips to at least the Elite Eight at Texas, and those point guards were responsible for two of them. The other trip came in 2006, when a team loaded with Daniel Gibson, P.J. Tucker and Lamarcus Aldridge went to the Elite Eight.
Perhaps not coincidentally, then, the impact of those point guards can be seen on the Texas offense:
Scoring (per game) in each of the last 10 years
1) 2007 — 81.7 (AUGUSTIN)
2) 2010 — 81.2
3) 2003 — 79.3 (FORD)
4) 2002 — 78.1 (FORD)
5) 2005 — 76.9
6) 2004 — 76.6
7) 2008 — 75.5 (AUGUSTIN)
8) 2005 — 75.2
9) 2011 — 75.0
10) 2009 — 72.3
Three of the top four scoring seasons came under Augustin or Ford. And two of Barnes' worst offensive seasons by scoring average came in recent years with defense-heavy Dogus Balbay manning the point.
Still, while scoring offense is an indicator, it's an imperfect one. Teams can create scoring chances through fast breaks, or simply by running more. A better example is to look at Ken Pomeroy's Offensive Efficiency Rating. The only problem there is that KenPom has only tracked stats since the 2002-2003 season, meaning we'll have to leave Ford's initial season of 2001-2002 off.
KenPom Offensive Rating in each of the past nine years
1) 2008 — 123.8 Offensive Rating (AUGUSTIN)
2) 2007 — 120.6 (AUGUSTIN)
3) 2003 — 119.8 (FORD)
4) 2006 — 118.8
5) 2004 — 116.5
6) 2011 — 114.6
7) 2005 — 114.5
8) 2010 — 113.5
9) 2009 — 112.4
The three top offensive seasons in the last nine years all came when Barnes had an elite point guard manning the ship. And it's not a stretch to think that Ford's first season of 2002 would stand a chance to be on that list as well. The most interesting shift there was 2010, when Texas put up the second-highest scoring offense under Barnes, but apparently had one of the least efficient offenses of his tenure.
And here's the good news: Texas apparently has the next creative point guard in Myck Kabongo, Scout.com's No. 2 point in the Class of 2011. Kabongo has earned rave reviews for his abilities to get other players shots, a trait he shares with Ford and Augustin. And like both of those players, his offensive game revolves around his talent for penetrating into the paint. With Kabongo's savvy ball-handling an first-step quickness, he's difficult to stay in front of.
It's obviously early in Kabongo's career, before he's even played a game at Texas. But if his past success, and Barnes' past offenses, are any indicator, the Longhorns could be in for a smooth offensive ride. And that's the point.