Question Of The Week: What Is Wrong With The Longhorns?

Dino NicandrosAnalyst IFebruary 18, 2009

This is getting a bit ridiculous.

Just when it looked like Rick Barnes' squad had finally gotten their mojo back after two straight victories following their three game losing skid, the Longhorns laid a goose egg.

Texas was pounded by 81-66 by rival Texas A&M monday night in front of a thrilled Aggie home crowd. 

Rick Barnes didn't share their enthusiasm.

His team was beaten.  It's as simple as that.  They stepped out on to the court and were thoroughly dominated.  What's even more shocking is apparent lack of enthusiasm by this team to go out and play, much less win.  Needless to say this isn't characteristic of a Rick Barnes team.

The Longhorns now sit at 17-8 (6-5), fifth in the Big 12.  Fifth.  This was a team who early in the season was supposed to be Final Four bound, not to mention champions of their own conference.  Now, they are struggling to get off the NCAA tournament bubble.

Let's take a look at a few of the problems plaguing the Longhorns at the moment:

  1. Still no point guard.  Yes, Dogus Balbay has been a pretty good facilitator of the offense.  He manages tempo well and has some pretty good passing skills.  Notice I didn't mention anything about scoring ability.  We already saw the A.J. Abrams point guard experiment go up in flames and Justin Mason is a more defensive-minded player.
  2. Conner Atchley.  He actually showed up for the Oklahoma State game, but he still is a distant shadow of his former self.  His 14 points last week against the Cowboys was his most since November.  When he scores in double figures, Texas is 23-0...sooo...yeah, I think you see where I'm coming from.
  3. Turnovers.  If you've watched this team, this problem speaks for itself...
  4. Free throw shooting.  It's mediocre as a team, though I have been impressed with big Dexter Pittman, who is hitting about 76% of them.  Damion James was lucky his team had a whole extra five minutes of overtime to beat Colorado, or he would have cost his team the game with two misses at the line with about a second left in regulation.

Now, I want you to take a look at an article I wrote back in December following a Longhorn loss to Michigan State:

How many of the problems I listed back in December are still prevalent with this team in February?  Notice a trend?

All this aside, Texas has to decide whether it wants to grow a pair and push in to the NCAA tournament or take a number in the NIT tournament and fall in to obscurity. 

This is a talented team. Wait, wait, wait just hear me out!  Damion James is an NBA-caliber player, though he hasn't shown it consistently since November.

A.J. Abrams is one of the best pure shooters in the nation, he just needs some support from his teammates to shed some of the double coverage he is facing.

Gary Johnson and Dexter Pittman are budding young stars.  Both are monster defenders as well as viable offensive threats.

This team should be much better than it is.  After all, they did knock of UCLA, Villanova, and Wisconsin early in the year, all equally tough games.

Unfortunately, the selection committee for the NCAA tournament looks at the whole year and the Longhorns' recent struggles are costing them big brownie points.

Texas has a big opportunity with high-flying Oklahoma rolling in to Austin on Saturday.  If by some divine miracle Texas should win or at least keep it close in to the final seconds, they will be well on their way back to their old form.  However, if they are blown out of the water, they fall to sixth or seventh in the Big 12 and their tournament hopes become bleak at best.