Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:46PM

Hey, look! We’re back from the dead!
(Still credit: Columbia Pictures)

If you happened to check the website yesterday (or have LRT’s feed set up on your RSS reader), you may have noticed our quiet and unassuming return to coverage. For the rest of you, chances are you won’t even notice the return for another few days…or more. But this is the time of year when everyone tries to make changes in their lives, and the ones we’re making are allowing more time for writing. We can’t promise things will be as consistent as last season, when there was content here on a daily basis. But we can promise that we are damned sure going to try.

The recruiting bonanza continues for Rick Barnes and the Longhorns, as they’ve now secured a verbal commitment from 2011 point guard prospect Myck Kabongo, beating out the likes of Villanova, Kansas, and Florida. The high school sophomore is a teammate of 2010 Texas commit Tristan Thompson, but he credits Barnes and assistant Rodney Terry with selling him on the program. This verbal is just the latest in a string of recruiting successes for the Longhorns, who have already inked one of 2009’s top classes in Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, and Shawn Williams, in addition to landing Florida transfer Jai Lucas for next season. When you throw in Thompson and fellow ’10 commit Daniel Bejarano, it seems that Texas will be loaded for years to come.

While Gallagher-Iba Arena is certainly never an easy place to play, Texas A&M might have lost a huge opportunity when they stumbled there on Saturday. The defeat came in the conference opener for the Aggies, who now have a murderous four-game stretch approaching that could easily sink their aspirations for a league title. Mark Turgeon’s squad hosts a salty Baylor squad tomorrow night before the Sooners come to town this weekend, but then also must travel to Lawrence and Austin the following week to take on the Jayhawks and Longhorns. For a Texas A&M team that has hardly been tested in non-conference play, this opening slate will truly be a trial by fire.

Kansas JuCo transfer Mario Little won’t take a medical redshirt this year, despite missing the first twelve games of the season. The guard has seen limited action in three games, including a lightning-quick foul-out in East Lansing this weekend. But with the hardship option still on the table until tonight’s game against Kansas State, Little informed Coach Self of his intentions to finish out the season. The decision will give Sherron Collins some much-needed veteran help in a backcourt that starts freshmen Brady Morningstar and Tyshawn Taylor.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:40AM

Shawn Williams
(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

The 2008 Longhorn recruiting class was up in the air for most of the year, with commitments not filtering down to the 40 Acres until the late spring. And with questions still surrounding the eligibility of J’Covan Brown, Texas fans still can’t be sure if that pair of incoming freshmen will stay intact until the season starts in November. But with temperatures still in the triple-digits and most fans just starting to think about football, Coach Barnes and company got an early start on the 2009 class by signing small forward Shawn Williams of Duncanville.

Williams is slotted 15th in the country by Rivals amongst small forwards in the 2009 class, and 77th overall. The 6-foot, 7-inch prep star is a “sharp-shooting wing” and averaged nearly a double-double in his last season. He is a part of the absolutely loaded Duncanville team that hopes to win its second state championship in the last three years. The Panthers ripped off a storybook undefeated season en route to its 2007 title and lost a narrow four-point decision to North Crowley in last year’s Region 1 semifinals. This year’s team looks to be even more talented, with Williams joining four other upperclassmen in a starting five that has only two blemishes on its record in the last two seasons.

The Longhorns are also still in the hunt for top-ranked small forward Jordan Hamilton of Los Angeles, who allegedly is enamored with the Texas program. It appears that after an off-year for the Texas recruiting machine, things could be back to normal in Austin.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 11:42AM

Oklahoma State Cowboys (16-13 overall, 7-8 Big 12) at #9 Texas Longhorns (25-5, 12-3)
Tip: 3 P.M. | TV: ESPN

I’ve spent the week watching games from December and January, wins over teams like Oral Roberts, TCU, and Saint Mary’s. Looking back, I remember my tempered expectations for the Longhorns this season. Without Kevin Durant, how would the huge 2007 freshman class mature in their sophomore season? I hoped for a 12-4 conference mark, but wasn’t going to hold my breath. And I certainly didn’t think Texas would stroll into Auburn Hills to face Michigan State with an unblemished record.

But now here we are, just hours away from the conclusion of another regular season, and Texas stands in a position to share their second Big 12 crown in the last three years. It’s even crazier to think that the Longhorns had a chance to win the thing outright and finish with a 14-2 mark, but it’s hard to be disappointed with a possible title and 13-3 finish in what was statistically the second-toughest conference in the nation. Not only did the new sophomores step up — particularly double-doube machine Damion James — but Connor Atchley blossomed into a big-time threat and a great shot blocker. The new freshman class developed nicely over the year, giving Coach Rick Barnes a respectable rotation in the front court.

All that being said, there’s still a lot of basketball to play. And the long road through March continues on Senior Day against a very hot Oklahoma State team. This isn’t the same Cowpoke squad that scuttled in early conference games and dropped a 63-61 nailbiter to Texas at home. No, this OSU team is now one that slays giants, namely #4 Kansas at home and #16 Texas A&M on the road. The biggest difference for the ‘Pokes? The emergence of point guard Byron Eaton, who has averaged 19.3 points per game over the last six contests, a stretch in which included a five-game OSU win streak.

For a review of the complete Oklahoma State roster and style, you’ll want to revisit the game preview from the January 21st match-up in Stillwater.

What to look for

The key today is going to be shutting down Eaton. In OSU’s last game against Oklahoma — the only loss in their last six games — the Sooners held him to only 13 points, his lowest scoring output in a month. The pudgy guard had only 14 points in the first game with Texas, and if the Horns hold him to similar numbers today they should be in business.

Texas also needs to concern itself with perimeter defense, which suddenly reared its ugly head again in the second half against Nebraska. The Longhorns can’t afford to let Eaton and James Anderson get hot from long range, lest they give the ‘Pokes a fighting chance today.

Finally, the Horns must control turnovers, which has suddenly been a problem in the last week and a half. Texas has turned the ball over an average of 11.6 times per game over the last three contests. While that’s not a staggering number, it is up 21% over the season average that the Horns carried into the K-State game, and they can’t afford to give a ton of points up in transition to an Ok-State squad that likes to pressure beyond the perimeter.

Tickets remain

As the sub-head says, there are still tickets available for today’s game. The Horns have some big-time recruits visiting today in Renardo Sidney, Wesley Witherspoon, and verbal commit J’Covan Brown. It won’t look good to have a half-empty, dead arena, so come on out and bring out everybody that you know. If you’re out of town and can’t make it in, the action can be caught on ESPN.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:38PM

Mark Rosner of the Austin American-Statesman posted in his blog this afternoon that Texas has landed 2010 forward Tristan Thompson. The sophomore is ranked fifth in his class by Rivals.com and is currently playing his ball at St. Benedict’s Prep Academy in New Jersey, the same school that produced J.R. Smith. Rosner reports that the Toronto native was a huge Durant fan and that assistant Rodney Terry was key in the signing.

One other item of note from Rosner is that J’Covan Brown, Wesley Witherspoon, and ’09 target Renardo Sidney will be in town on Sunday to visit. It’s unfortunate that Witherspoon and Sidney will see a game when the students are away on Spring Break, but I know that the facilities and staff here in Austin will more than make up for it.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 4:58PM

Texas 2008 target Tyreke Evans testified Thursday in his cousin’s murder trial, repeating the same story he told police back in December. Regardless of whether or not Evans ever ends up in burnt orange, I hope this situation can be resolved soon so that Tyreke can move on and focus on finishing his senior year.

Lundardi’s newest Bracketology still has the Horns #1 in the Phoenix regional. UCLA still holds the corresponding 2-seed in this projection, so hopefully the Bruins will drop enough down the stretch to make a “home” region out of the question. Perhaps Sunday’s roadie at Arizona and the home tilt with Stanford can cause some stumbles.

Clark Kellogg tells us why he doesn’t project brackets, but the only real reason to read this is to check out his use of “LOL” in the middle of what is allegedly legitimate journalism. IDK Clark, R U nutz?

I’ve been wanting to post the Russell Westbrook dunk from last weekend’s game against Oregon, but all of the videos on YouTube were of poor quality. Finally I’ve found one that is pretty solid, which you can check out below. The dunk in question happens around the 20-second mark, but be careful while watching — the Oregon uniforms were sponsored by the Bedazzler that day, so some viewers may be blinded.

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