Red River part II: Longhorns five questions

Sooners Illustrated's Joey Helmer asks Longhorn Digest's Kevin Flaherty five questions in preparation for tonight's rematch between Oklahoma and Texas.

1. Myck Kabongo returned four games ago. How has his return impacted Texas?

Kabongo has given Texas something the Longhorns desperately needed: a leader who can create shots for himself and others. Texas is a team full of players who don't necessarily excel at generating their own shots. He's also been somewhat of a surprising scorer, averaging better than 15 points per game. He can't carry the whole offense — there are times when he'll get somebody an open look, only to have them not finish or hit the jumper. But Texas is 2-2 since he's come back (the Longhorns had just two Big 12 wins in their previous 10 games), with the two losses coming to the Big 12's top two teams in Kansas and Kansas State. So it's probably safe to say that the Longhorns are better with him in the lineup.

2. Though Texas has struggled this year and lost the earlier meeting against Oklahoma, it has won seven straight in Austin. How much of a factor is the home court advantage?

It's a factor, but not necessarily on opponents. With the Longhorns struggling this year, the atmosphere at the Frank Erwin Center has been somewhat lacking. But Texas is certainly more comfortable in the more friendly confines of The Drum. The Longhorns' scoring goes slightly up at home, while their defensive points allowed drops dramatically. So while Oklahoma likely won't be intimidated, Texas will likely play better than it did in Norman.

3. A lot of Texas fans are probably starting to look towards next year because of their long season coupled with the plethora of youth players on the roster. How do you think that youth will develop and affect their immediate future?

A lot depends on 1) how Texas does with top target Julius Randle and 2) whether Kabongo returns for his junior year. NBA scouts weren't sold on Kabongo coming out of his freshman year, and he hasn't had a huge sample size to try and change their opinions of him. Still, even assuming both guys are gone, Texas should be better at point guard with another year for Javan Felix and DeMarcus Holland, while one more year could be all that's necessary for guys like Sheldon McClellan and Jonathan Holmes to take that next step forward. Add in a summer of development for guys like Ioannis Papapetrou and Cameron Ridley, and Texas could be one of the favorites in the Big 12 next year.

4. Julien Lewis is out for tonight's game with a concussion. What does that mean for Texas and how will that change the dynamic of this matchup?

Lewis is Texas's third-leading scorer and one of the team's better perimeter defenders. But with Holland starting more, it really puts Lewis and McClellan in a spot where there's not really enough minutes for both. So Lewis missing the game really means more minutes for McClellan, whose role has shifted to more of a quick scorer off the bench. It hurts Texas's depth, but on a one-game basis, it shouldn't be a huge deal.

5. The Longhorns are a 2 1/2 point underdog in this game and there's probably no question Oklahoma is the better team, so what do they have to do to knock off the Sooners?

It sounds simple, but Texas has to hit shots. The Longhorns have been able to get open looks, especially with Kabongo back. But they haven't always made them. That really hurt Texas against Kansas — the 'Horns went into halftime down 13, but they did so after missing a number of great looks. If those shots went down, it's a different game heading into the break. If Texas hits shots, it will be tough to beat.


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