Texas, Villanova's Deep Rotations Show the Good and Bad of Depth

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IFebruary 9, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19:  Jordan Hamilton #23 of the Texas Longhorns at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The man in the photo to the right is Texas freshman Jordan Hamilton. To those familiar with Longhorns basketball, he's known as a gunner who can occasionally spark his team if he gets hot but generally takes too many bad shots and doesn't really understand the concept of man-to-man defense.

To those unfamiliar with Texas hoops who tuned in to see the team play Kansas Monday night, Hamilton's game against the Jayhawks represented only the negatives of the previous description. Hamilton is increasingly becoming that player as he and Rick Barnes' other freshmen try to settle into roles in his 10, sometimes 11 man rotation.

Barnes should watch what Villanova's Jay Wright has done with his rotation. Each have 10 or 11 serviceable players, including three or four highly-touted freshmen, yet 'Nova is still a championship favorite while UT has dropped off so far the Longhorns might not even reach the second weekend.

Wright handles his rotation brilliantly. His 11 players are just interchangeable parts. When several reserves enter the game, a brand new Wildcats squad isn't out on the floor. The freshman Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek replace Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes giving those Wright two replacements who have similar repertoires as his starters.

In the frontcourt, Maurice Sutton and Isaiah Armwood spell Antonio Pena but keep the same roles in the offense. Neither has developed enough to get touches like Pena occasionally does, but like Pena, they clean up the garbage around the rim.

The only time Villanova's team philosophy really ever remotely changes is when Taylor King enters the game for Reggie Redding as the Wildcats sacrifice some defense for offense by bringing King in off the bench.

That's why Villanova's offense is so much more efficient than Texas. Villanova ranks third in the country in offensive efficiency; Texas ranks 34th.

When Texas brings in all its spare parts, the Longhorns become a drastically different team. At point guard, Dogus Balbay is a passer and not much else, but J'Covan Brown is a scoring point guard. Jai Lucas is a mixture of both. The player running the point is constantly different as well, forcing the other four players on the court to adjust the offense.

Rarely does Texas get into a rhythm.

As time goes on, that rhythm keeps getting worse because Barnes is asking his freshmen to continue to develop while playing large amounts of minutes against quality competition.

Barnes can't just start cutting Hamilton and Brown's minutes like what Kansas and Syracuse have done with their freshmen. The Jayhawks are making it clear that Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, and Elijah Johnson will only play when absolutely needed. Those first year players are close to the same talent level as the Texas newcomers.

For Syracuse, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley have already been banished to the bench except for 25-point blowouts. Even starting point guard Brandon Triche is seeing his minutes scaled back a bit as he's struggled at times through conference play.

But Barnes can't do what Kansas and Syracuse do. Brown and Hamilton are too explosive to just send them to the bench for the majority of the game. While they can single-handedly lose UT the contest, they are also spark-plugs to the offense: Hamilton saved the Longhorns' butts against Oklahoma State with 27 points, while Brown was the majority of the Texas offense in the second half against Kansas.

Villanova doesn't have that problem with its freshmen. The Wildcats are slowly getting better as the freshmen become more comfortable. That defense which was horrendous at the beginning of the year has improved through Big East play (minus that 103 point disaster against Georgetown).

So to put it simply: Jay Wright has a 21st century high-speed train for a "team" while Rick Barnes just pulled into the station with George Stephenson's 19th century steam locomotive.

Barnes: Good luck trying to update your engine by two centuries in the next two months.

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