Basketball Scouting Report: Texas
Vanderbilt really doesn't yet know what kind of team it has. Wins over Morgan State and Loyola Marymount were nice, but VU needs some better scalps in order to show that it is ready to climb a few notches on the national scene and in the SEC as well. This being a road game, Vanderbilt – removed from the comforts of Memorial Gym – needs to learn how to finish off a power conference opponent. The loss to Providence could either become the kind of result that leaves a scar, or it could turn out to be the splash of cold water this team needs in order to grow.
The Longhorns missed the NCAA tournament last season, and longtime coach Rick Barnes – who led this program to the Final Four in 2003 – is a man desperately groping for answers. Texas hasn't made the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2008, a profound disappointment for a school that used to compete on even terms with Kansas for Big 12 titles. Texas is now much more of a pretender than a contender in the Big 12, and Barnes has to find a way to inject fresh life into a stagnant operation.
The first thing that immediately jumps off the printed page about the 2013-2014 Longhorns is that they haven't won a single game of consequence this season. They lost to BYU in their one big test, and their only victory over a team from a multi-bid NCAA tournament conference came against lowly DePaul (from the new Big East). When you look at Texas, you can't know if various levels of statistical output mean very much. Vanderbilt has to test this team in every way imaginable, and then respond to the adjustments Barnes makes in midstream.
Center – Cameron Ridley– Senior, 6-3, 197; 2013-14: 9.1 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game
Ridley has more than doubled his 2012-2013 scoring output (4.1 points per game) while nearly doubling his rebounding numbers (4.3 boards per game). He has done so in nine more minutes (25.3 this season compared to 16.4 last season). Is Ridley merely getting more court time to provide an average level of performance, or is he in the midst of an upward trajectory that could make him a tricky assignment for the Commodores at both ends of the floor?
Forward – Jonathan Holmes – Junior, 6-8, 240; 2013-14: 13.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg
Holmes missed Texas's most recent game on Nov. 29 against Texas-Arlington, due to a death in his family. He carries a large share of the workload for this team, and accordingly deserves the bulk of Vanderbilt's attention. Holmes was a role player for the Longhorns the past two seasons, so one must wonder if his scoring average is the product of substantial personal development or the team's soft November schedule.
Forward – Connor Lammert – Sophomore, 6-9, 235; 2013-14: 7.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Lammert is not a particularly imposing player, reflecting the decline of Texas basketball in recent years. Lammert is a foul-prone player, giving Vanderbilt a chance to attack the rim and get a lot of free throws in this game. To prove the point, Lammert picked up a total of eight fouls (four per game) in 28 minutes against BYU and Texas-Arlington.
Guard – Demarcus Holland – Sophomore, 6-2, 185; 2013-14: 12 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.6 apg
Holland's most outstanding basketball virtue is that he is fearless on the boards. A 6-2 player generally doesn't have the success that Holland has enjoyed on the glass this season. It is instructive to point out that a large number of rebounds will lead to second-chance points, given that some of those rebounds will come at the offensive end of the floor. Vanderbilt must box out Holland, who is not a high-percentage foul shooter or a high-percentage three-point shooter.
Guard – Isaiah Taylor – Freshman, 6-1, 170; 2013-14: 10.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.9 assists per game
Taylor is doing a reasonably good job of getting his teammates involved, given that he's a first-year player. Taylor's reed-thin build could make him vulnerable to a steady diet of forays to the rim. As one goes through this Texas lineup, one is struck by the lack of high-end skill, the kind of explosive and dynamic power that used to characterize the Longhorns.
One player in Barnes's rotation is listed as a reserve, but he receives starter-level minutes: guard Javan Felix, who averages roughly 11 points per game and hands out just over three assists per outing. Center Prince Ibeh is a grunt-worker backup who averages five points and four rebounds per game. Guard Kendal Yancy comes into games simply to relieve the starters and provide a competent defensive presence.
Keys to the Game
1) Attack Lammert and Taylor. Early in a season, when teams are still trying to find an identity, it is always recommended to attack them at their weakest points, not their strengths. Vanderbilt's offense has to relentlessly seek out the Longhorns' less proven defenders and force them to hold up under pressure. If Texas sends help, the Dores need to be able to pass out of double-teams and rotate the ball crisply.
2) Pay attention to Holmes and be ready to expect his best. Texas's whole team is unproven right now. The Longhorns haven't tested themselves a lot, and the one high-profile game they played was a loss (to BYU). Vanderbilt needs to take the court with an emphasis on stretching Texas and challenging the Horns to perform at a much higher level in order to win. Forcing Holmes to elevate his level of play is just one of the things Vanderbilt can do to ensure that Texas must max out in order to win.
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