Oakland Grizzlies Present a Huge First Round Challenge for Texas Basketball

Kris HughesCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2011

Tristan Thompson Must Play Well for Texas to Advance
Tristan Thompson Must Play Well for Texas to AdvanceKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Texas Longhorns held their own fate in their hands in Saturday's Big 12 championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks. 

With a win, Texas likely would have secured a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in one of the NCAA tournament's regions, and accordingly, faced an opponent in the first round which would not have posed a significant threat. 

With Texas' 12-point loss to NCAA top seed Kansas, the Longhorns will instead face an Oakland Grizzlies team which matches up closely with Rick Barnes' squad at key positions.

Oakland's best player is center Keith Benson.

Benson posted averages of 18.0 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game, and most impressively, 3.6 blocks per game during non-conference and Summit League play for the Grizzlies.

Currently projected by NBAdraft.net to be the 32nd overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat, Benson has a professional skill set as a strong finisher around the basket and intimidating defender. 

If Tristan Thompson has the same trouble with Benson as he did with the Morris brothers from Kansas, Benson could give the young Canadian center fits.

Texas has struggled mightily when Thompson struggles. 

The Texas offense prefers to work the ball inside-out, and if this is not possible, the offense stagnates.

If Benson can establish himself on both ends of the court early on, Texas could face an early exit from the 2011 tournament.

Oakland point guard Reggie Hamilton also presents another difficult challenge for the Texas guards.

Hamilton's ability to break down defenses and create quality scoring opportunities for his teammates will be important in the Grizzlies' efforts to derail a Texas Longhorns' run.

In terms of matchups, the Longhorns will succeed in Friday's game if Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Corey Joseph succeed.

If Thompson can keep Benson in check and score consistently inside, Hamilton plays well on both ends and Joseph can slow down the Oakland guards, it should equal a Texas win.

If Keith Benson and Reggie Hamilton can show some of the impressive talent which made them two of the Summit League's top players this season, Texas could be in for more than they bargained for in an early-round tournament game.

Either way, Texas didn't control its own fate when provided the opportunity and its fate may now be decided earlier than expected.