Frank Burlison On College Hoops

National writer Frank Burlison gives us his thoughts on college basketball

You don't have to search far and wide to find most of the "most disappointing" teams of the November and December portion of the college basketball season.

All you need to do is take quick glances up and down the rosters of the Big 12 and Pacific 10 conferences.

But they don't hold a monopoly on teams that haven't quite lived up to preseason expectations.

Alabama and LSU (Southeastern Conference), Louisville (Big East) and Charlotte (Atlantic 10) have all done enough (or, not enough, actually), to be filed under the "disappointing" heading.

Let's dispense with the ones in the Big 12 and Pac 10 first, though:

Big 12:

When is it right to call a team with a 9-2 record disappointing?

When it's the University of Texas Longhorns you're talking about.

Coach Rick Barnes' team was a consensus preseason Top Five selection and, in the minds of some, an even better choice to win the national championship than was Duke or Connecticut. Barnes is the former head coach at Providence.

And, with a starting lineup that includes four of the elite players (Daniel Gibson, Brad Buckman, LaMarcus Aldridge and P.J. Tucker) in the conference, the Longhorns' hype was understandable.

An 8-0 start that included only two competitive games (vs. the only two quality squads the Longhorns faced in that stretch, West Virginia and Iowa, in Kansas City) and No. 2 rating led to the team's Dec. 10 game with top-ranked Duke in East Rutherford, N.J., being the most anticipated matchup of the still-young season.

First the Blue Devils (during a 97-66 shellacking in which Duke looked a lot better than it is right now) and then, seven days later, Tennessee (smacking the Longhorns, in Austin, 95-78), exposed Texas as a team with a lot of shortcomings – especially on the defensive end of the floor.

The Longhorns beat up on Texas State Thursday night and will cruise against Prairie View A&M on Dec. 30 before a game at the University of Memphis three days later that will give us a real opportunity to see how much progress the Longhorns have made since the Duke and Tennessee blowouts.

Oklahoma was a consensus Top 10 team and the squad considered Texas' biggest threat to a Big 12 title. But the Sooners have lost to the only two quality teams they've faced, Villanova (85-74, in Philadelphia), and West Virginia (92-68, Thursday night in Oklahoma City).

And, although Texas Tech wasn't a preseason Top 25 selection, the Red Raiders – with three starters returning from a Sweet 16 finish – were looked upon as being fully capable of returning to the NCAA Tournament.

That trip to the tournament may yet still happen but Coach Bob Knight's team hasn't looked of that caliber yet while splitting its first 12 games. Five of those losses were by margins of 11 or more points.

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com


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