How Will Dogus Balbay's Injury Affect the Texas Longhorns?

Dino NicandrosAnalyst IFebruary 22, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24:  Dogus Balbay #4 of the Texas Longhorns looks to make a free throw against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the CBE Classic championship game on November 24, 2009 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The slumping Texas Longhorns, losers of six of their last 10 games, received some more bad news on Monday.

Starting point guard Dogus Balbay will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. 

Balbay, the Longhorns' assists leader, left late in the first half of Saturday's contest against Texas Tech, and MRI tests on Sunday confirmed that he indeed suffered a severe tear.

Believed to be perhaps the best defender on the team, Balbay started 22 of Texas' 27 games, averaging a team-high 3.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 21.5 minutes a game. In addition, he ranks third on the team in steals, with 35.

So what does the loss of Balbay ultimately mean for this struggling Texas squad?

It's never a good thing when one of your best defensive performers—and best athletes at that—isn't able to contribute, and seeing as how Texas has struggled lately on the defensive end, the loss of Balbay will hurt.

But could this team be better without him?

Balbay has averaged just three points a game this season—hardly the numbers one would expect from a starting point guard.

He's a terrible jump shooter, and when he's not scoring around the rim, he's almost useless on offense, apart from the assists category.

Many of Texas' struggles early in games stem from the fact that the Longhorns are essentially playing four-on-five, meaning that five defenders can zero in on four offensive players, as Balbay is not a threat to shoot the ball.

Up to this point, Rick Barnes has struggled to come up with a lineup that meshes well, attempting to play 11 different players during the course of a game. While this can be effective if there is good team chemistry, the Longhorns are simply not getting consistency from any particular grouping of players.

With Balbay out of the lineup, Barnes is now forced to lean on freshmen point guards J'Covan Brown and Jai Lucas—which just may be what the doctor ordered.

Brown has the skills to be a great all-around point guard, and Lucas is a terrific perimeter shooter when given opportunities. But both will have to shake off their inconsistencies.

With real offensive production coming from the point guard position, Texas can get back to doing what it wants to do on offense.

Moreover, big man Dexter Pittman will see fewer double-teams in the paint if the young guards can shoot the ball effectively. Pittman is averaging a mere seven points in Big 12 play, down from around 20 early in the year.

Now, don't get me wrong: Balbay is a cornerstone of the Longhorn defense and is as scrappy as they come. His absence is significant.

However, if Texas wants to return to November/December form, they need a spark from the point. 

Brown and Lucas may give them just that.