Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:11PM

Texas slid to sixth in both polls this afternoon following back-to-back losses on the road. The Kentucky Wildcats ascended to the top spot as the nation’s lone undefeated team, while Kansas moved up to second in both rankings.

The K-State Wildcats took a slight dip after a home loss to Oklahoma State, even though they were the first team to knock off Texas with a Big Monday victory earlier in the week. KSU is 11th in the media poll and is ranked 13th by coaches. Baylor is the only other Big 12 representative, checking in at 24th in the Associated Press rankings, although Texas A&M, Missouri, and Oklahoma State all received votes in both polls.

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The Longhorns also took a dive in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, sliding to the 2-seed line in the Salt Lake City regional. In Lunardi’s mock bracket, Texas is paired with 1-seed Syracuse, an absolute nightmare match-up for a Longhorn team that is paralyzed by zone defenses.

The Jayhawks maintained their hold on a 1-seed, but were moved to the Houston regional that the Longhorns vacated. Lunardi awarded five other bids to the Big 12, putting K-State (3-seed), Baylor (5), Missouri (8), A&M (9), and Oklahoma State (11) in the mix.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:40PM

Texas A&M Aggies (12-4) at #1/1 Texas Longhorns (16-0)
Frank Erwin Center | Austin, TX | Tip: 5 P.M. CT | TV: ESPNU

The trip to Iowa State in the middle of the week has unfortunately put me waaaaay behind on absolutely everything, and as a result, we’ve only got time today for a very abbreviated game preview. Let’s cut right to the keys for tonight’s game…

1) Get Bryan Davis in foul trouble – Yes, we know that senior guard Donald Sloan leads the team with more than 17 points a game. And sure, no other Aggie even averages ten points (except for Derrick Roland, who is out for the year). But Texas A&M is a completely different team without their big senior, and if he’s riding the bench with foul trouble, Texas should be able to coast in this one.

Davis is the easily the team’s best post defender, so without his presence, the Texas frontcourt would have a field day. On the offensive side of the ball, his understudy David Loubeau can certainly score inside, but often doesn’t get in good position for entry passes and as a result the team’s guards will often settle for jumpers they shouldn’t be taking.

2) Keep the Aggies off the lineTexas A&M is the best team in the country when it comes to getting to the foul line, so the Longhorns must force their opponents to earn points from the field. Texas is clearly more talented and much deeper, so giving up free points will only serve to keep the Aggies close enough to start thinking about an upset.

3) Crash the glass – Texas A&M averages a thin +0.8 rebounding margin, but in two of their three losses they were outrebounded by double digits. Texas is a much bigger team and should win this battle on paper, but the last thing the Horns will need is to give the Aggies extra possessions by getting out-hustled on the boards.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 8:22AM

It’s a mess of sleet, ice, and snow outside as the Big 12 Championships roll into the second day of action. Although temperatures are expected to be back in the 70’s within a week, Mother Nature decided that folks traveling to OKC for the tournament would just love a three-day visit from some bitterly cold weather. So rather than going out in this last gasp of winter that has gripped the city, we’ll take a look back at all of yesterday’s action from the Ford Center.

Mike Singletary led Tech in a furious comeback
(Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

[11] Texas Tech 88, [6] Texas A&M 83

The best game of the day was certainly the last one, although it seemed like the nightcap between Texas A&M and Texas Tech was well on its way to being the worst of the four first-round match-ups. In fact, when we finally threw in the towel at halftime and hit the exits, the Aggies led by 19 points, and there were no more than 1,500 hardy fans remaining in the seats. But those who stuck around were treated to the single most-impressive performance in the history of the Big 12 tourney.

Mike Singletary — a forward whose role all season long was simply that of an effective sixth man — scored 35 points in the second half, including 29 straight for Texas Tech, and led the Red Raiders back from a 22-point deficit to steal the win. Oddly enough, we were joking midway through the first half that Singletary was Tech’s entire offense. At the time, his four points were all that Tech had mustered in the first seven minutes of the game. Who knew how accurate our wisecracks would actually be?

[9] Baylor 65, [8] Nebraska 49

While Nebraska’s four-guard sets have sometimes made it difficult to rebound against bigger teams, it seemed that a match-up with the similarly guard-oriented Baylor Bears might hide that weakness for Coach Doc Sadler and the Cornhuskers. That was anything but true in this one, as the Bears outrebounded Nebraska by a ridiculous 43-18 margin. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Kevin Rogers grabbed more boards than Nebraska all by himself. Rogers posted a double-double with 20 rebounds and ten points.

It’s also notable that this game started the day off with three technical fouls. There were three more in later action, and an additional warning on the Oklahoma State bench even after they had already been tagged with a T. Despite the temperatures outside, it was quite heated inside the Ford Center.

Marshall Moses was all smiles after his 18-point night
(Photo credit:Donna McWilliam/Associated Press)

[7] Oklahoma State 81, [10] Iowa State 67

Perhaps the most heated of all the action came in the prime-time game, featuring the Cowboys from OSU. The Pokes hail from Stillwater, just 66 miles NNE of the Ford Center, and the arena was packed to the gills with folks wearing road-cone orange. Craig Brackins took charge early for Iowa State, as he often does, and drew not only tons of whistles from the refs, but the ire of the OSU faithful as well. The fans grew more and more restless as the fouls piled up for Oklahoma State, while the Cyclones stayed foul-free.

With seven minutes left in the first half, the Pokes had seven team fouls to the zero for Iowa State, and some additional commentary from the OSU bench heading into the media timeout resulted in a technical foul. The irate crowd absolutely ate up the tactical maneuver from Coach Travis Ford, and when the Cyclones were finally whistled for their first infraction with only three minutes left in the first half, mock cheers rained down on the court and Ford slapped the scorers table so hard it could be heard from across the arena.

Interestingly enough, foul calls in the second half were much more even until Iowa State was forced to intentionally hack at the Pokes in the final minutes. It’s tough to tell if this was a result of Ford’s lobbying or of OSU’s newfound commitment to pounding the ball down to Marshall Moses in the paint, but the newfound whistle equity allowed the Cowboys to cruise to a first-round win.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 1:53PM

Texas A&M Aggies 81, Texas Longhorns 66

While the Longhorns have struggled through a recent stretch that included a three-game losing streak, it was easy to make reasonable excuses for their play. Players were in foul trouble, or the style the opponent played was a bad match-up for Texas. A player was having a career night, or the other team just got hot at the wrong time. The list of reasons was seemingly endless. But in Monday night’s drubbing of Texas, there was absolutely no excuses for the heaping pile of crap they put out on the floor. Texas was flat outplayed, and didn’t even look like they belonged on the same court with a team that is likely headed to the NIT.

Junior Elonu had his way against Texas
(Photo credit: Wade Barker/Associated Press)

Defensively, the Longhorns let the Aggies do whatever they pleased. Gary Johnson, Damion James, and Dexter Pittman defended the post with the will of the French army in World War II. A baseline spin move was apparently a new and amazing thing that completely baffled the Longhorn front court, as Bryan Davis and Junior Elonu each easily dropped 15 points on Texas. When the Aggies weren’t busy attacking the paint and racking up the fouls on Texas, it was open season on the three point line. The Longhorns felt it reasonable to leave deadly three-point shooters like Josh Carter and B.J. Holmes absolutely wide open time and again.

Even when the Longhorns showed a little bit of heart in the second half and trimmed the Aggie lead to just four with eight minutes to play, they gave up the most frustrating possible baskets as A&M pulled away once again. The Longhorns would make defensive stops and allow the Aggies what seemed like unlimited second chances, killing any chance of a comeback. In the final eight minutes of the game, Texas allowed A&M to grab four offensive rebounds, while they grabbed only one defensive rebound over that stretch. Not even the best defense in the NCAA could overcome that kind of shoddy work on the glass.

Granted, a huge part of the reason Texas fell behind in this one was a result of Dogus Balbay struggling with fouls and only seeing the court for 25 minutes. In fact, early in the second half the A&M lead ballooned from just five to an insurmountable twelve as the point guard spent three minutes on the bench following his third foul. It’s been perfectly clear over the last week and a half that this team grinds to a halt without Balbay, but the team must at least keep things within reach by playing defense when he leaves the game.

I could spend another five paragraphs recounting every single thing that went wrong in this trainwreck, but it’s just not worth the effort. All told, this was a gut-punch of a loss. The chances were good that Texas A&M was going to defend their home court. This rivalry is a very even one, and the Aggies are much better than their 4-7 conference record would indicate. But there is absolutely no reason that Texas should have folded the way they did in this one.

Things get no easier with the juggernaut known as OU heading to Austin this weekend. The Longhorns must crack down in practice during this long week, or else they’ll be sitting squarely at .500 in league play with only four games to play.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:36AM

Now that LRT is in its third year of existence, it’s a known fact that there will be a rough stretch of traveling hidden somewhere in each season’s schedule. The first year, it was an eight day span that included trips to Stillwater, Philadelphia, and Lincoln. Last year, it was two lengthy trips via car to Norman and Iowa State just days apart.

This season, that time is right now. Fresh off the heels of a there-and-back shot to Lincoln, this weekend has given us the pleasure of a Saturday contest in Boulder followed by a tilt in College Station just two days later. It’s sometimes tough to look forward to a game when you’ve just spent nearly as many hours in a car (33) as you did in the mountain town you visited (39). It’s often even tougher to look forward to that following game on just over an hour of sleep, especially when you consider the recent losing streak Texas has enjoyed on its road trips to College Station (4). We’re certainly not complaining, but when your brain is running on sleep debt, these are the kinds of numbers that run through your head.

For now, it’s off to work where we’ll pound the energy drinks and look forward to the possibility of exorcising the Reed Arena demons that have haunted Texas. We’ll be back this afternoon with a brief refresher on the Aggies, but in the meantime you can revisit the game preview from the first match-up in Austin.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:23PM

It’s easy to get excited by the 99-74 Texas victory over Oklahoma State last night. The Longhorns shot an incredible 56.9% from the field and scored their highest point total since blowing out the New Mexico State Aggies in the semifinals of the Legends Classic in 2007. A few simple lineup changes seemed to be a panacea for the offense, leading to an absolutely insane 1.379 points per possession for the Longhorns. But just days after suffering its third straight loss, is Texas truly hitting its stride?

It will be tough to know for sure, at least not until the Longhorns travel to College Station on Monday night. This weekend’s game at Colorado is a deceptive one, as the Buffaloes play a similar style to Nebraska, and the altitude in Boulder seems to always give road teams fits. The Longhorns will likely struggle, but should be expected to come away with a win. The trip to College Station, however, is another matter.

In the last four seasons, the home team has won every meeting between Texas and Texas A&M. And while the Longhorns have typically had to squeak out the victories in Austin, the Aggies have thoroughly spanked their rivals in all but one of their home wins. Only the 2006 game at A&M was competitive, as Acie Law needed a buzzer-beating three pointer to propel the Aggies to the win and eventually the NCAA tournament.

If Texas could overcome recent history and steal a road win in Reed Arena, the Longhorns would be riding a three-game winning streak, have 18 victories on the year, and still have five other contests in which to add to the resumé. Drop that game, and Texas would likely be staring another losing streak in the face with the powerhouse Sooners coming to down just six days later.

So while Texas fans might be feeling a little giddy after the dominating win last night, it’s best to temper expectations. If the Longhorns have truly made strides forward, the next two weeks could be surprisingly exciting.

We’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with more detailed thoughts on the Oklahoma State mudholing.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:52PM

Texas A&M Aggies (15-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12) at #14/15 Texas Longhorns (13-4, 2-1)

The Longhorns return to action tonight when they host the hated Aggies in an early conference game that has significant implications for both teams. Texas A&M is finishing a tough five game stretch against the league’s top teams, and a loss would drop them a full four games behind conference leader Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Texas has played inconsistently as of late, alternating wins and losses in its last four games. If they hope to contend for a Big 12 title and a favorable NCAA draw, the Longhorns will need to start stringing together wins.

Conference play has been tough on the Aggies
(Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

By the numbers

Coach Billy Gillispie led Texas A&M out of basketball irrelevance and into the national consciousness with a brand of hard-nosed, physical basketball. The Aggies were constantly ranked in the upper echelons of the NCAAs in defensive metrics, and they often won ugly games in the 50-point range. This Aggie team, under second-year Coach Mark Turgeon, is still playing a slower style of basketball. But the defense that often carried the Gillispie teams is no longer present.

The Aggies are averaging under 65 possessions a game, which puts them in the bottom third of the country in tempo. Texas is not much faster at 67.4 per contest, so neither team will be trying to force the other into a different brand of basketball. However, the Longhorns are a more efficient team than the Aggies on both sides of the ball. Unless Texas A&M is able to increase their number of possessions through offensive rebounding or forcing turnovers, Texas wins this game on paper.

If you were to look at raw rebounding numbers, it would seem that the Aggies are a strong rebounding team that dominates on the glass. After all, they have outrebounded opponents by over four boards per game. But against quality competition, Texas A&M is struggling to win the battle. They are being slightly outrebounded in conference play, and were even dominated 20-5 in the first half against a marginal Arizona team back in December. For a Longhorns squad that is winning the battle on the boards by more than five per game, this could be an area to exploit in tonight’s contest.

The starting five

The leading scorer for Texas A&M is swingman Josh Carter, who is an absolutely deadly long-range threat. While he has never matched his ridiculous sophomore season, when he tied for the national lead by hitting 50% from behind the arc, Carter still makes 38% of his attempts. But despite his solid stroke, the senior has been frustrated in conference play, averaging less than 10 points per contest, including a goose egg against Oklahoma State. He has lit the Longhorns up in the past, so Texas certainly cannot afford to sleep on Carter in this one. But if he fails to revert to his early-season form, it could be a long night for the Aggies.

At the point is heady junior Donald Sloan. While he spent much of last year being saddled with the unrealistic expectations Acie Law had left behind in College Station, Sloan still provided enough steady leadership to get Texas A&M within a shot of the Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately for the floor general, there’s no true go-to guy in this offense and the Aggies can go very long stretches of time without a basket. Early in games against both Kansas and Oklahoma State, Texas A&M struggled to put any points on the board, and it is difficult for Sloan to carry the team on his own. When he does try to press and do things by himself, it often results in dumb turnovers. If Sloan can keep his head on straight and control the basketball, the Aggies will have a good shot in tonight’s game.

While Texas A&M lacks that one stand-out player, they are enjoying quality contributions from their post players. Bryan Davis is having a great year, averaging over ten points and six rebounds per game. He’s also added to his arsenal of post moves and can now score just about every way possible within a few feet of the bucket. Chinemelu Elonu has also made great strides this year, becoming a much more important part of the offense. He logged a career-high 20 points against Oklahoma State in the conference opener, and leads the team in double-doubles.

Derrick Roland is another long-range threat for Coach Turgeon, but his true specialty is lock-down defense. While Texas A&M’s main weakness this year has been giving up the three-pointer, the Longhorns have failed to find any true gunners beyond A.J. Abrams. If Roland is able to neutralize Texas’ main three-point weapon, this one glaring weakness in the A&M defense will likely go unexposed.

B.J. Holmes is making waves off the bench
(Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Off the bench

Sophomore guard B.J. Holmes is making huge contributions off the bench, and is easily my pick for Sixth Man of the Year in the Big 12 Conference. He’s a very quick guard who can attack the rim, but his 38% accuracy from behind the arc makes it dangerous for teams to sag off of him. When the Aggies are having trouble scoring with their experienced starting five, Holmes is usually the man providing the spark and pushing the issue. The Longhorns will certainly have their hands full trying to contain this kid.

If freshmen Dash Harris and David Loubeau are any indication of the talent that Turgeon is going to be bringing to College Station over the next few years, Aggie fans have a lot to look forward to. Like Holmes, Harris is a very quick guard who can turn on that burst of speed at a moment’s notice. He’s still having trouble with decision making, but as he gains experience in conference play, he will be a very valuable weapon off the bench.

Loubeau is a very lanky, highly-touted forward from Miami who won two national championships with his AAU team. He still needs to bulk up if he’s going to withstand the rigors of Big 12 play, but his hook shot and short- to mid-range game mean that he is going to be a tough match-up for many forwards who aren’t used to defending players like him.

The final word

By all indications, this is a home game that the Longhorns should win. They are statistically better in virtually every category, and home court advantage in college basketball is huge. The only danger is that Texas has had a tendency to play down to the level of their opponent this season, so they could easily let Texas A&M hang around for far too long. And against an Aggie team that beat Arizona in the final seconds and tied Alabama in the last second before winning in overtime, that’s a risk that Texas cannot afford to take.

The Longhorns must come out early and put points on the board to keep A&M and their struggling offense at a manageable distance. They will need to continue their solid rebounding, and should look to force mistakes by point guard Sloan in order to collect easy transition buckets.

There are still a few tickets left for this one, which are only available for purchase in person at the Erwin Center box office. If you can’t manage to make it to the Drum, however, be sure to tune into ESPNU for all the action.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 5:23AM

#4 Pittsburgh Panthers 78, #8 Syracuse Orange 60 – Pitt bounced back from their first loss of the season in convincing fashion, blasting the visiting Orange at the Pete on ESPN’s Big Monday. The Panthers were able to overcome Andy Rautin‘s five three-pointers by dominating on the glass, outrebounding their opponents by a 37-24 margin. DeJuan Blair was an unstoppable force, posting 20 and 12, while Sam Young came alive in the second half to lead the team with 22 points.

Kansas Jayhawks 73, Texas A&M Aggies 53 – The Aggies were the last visiting team to win in Allen Fieldhouse, all the way back in February of 2007. But Texas A&M stole that game behind the heroics of Acie Law, who they sorely missed in last night’s contest. The Jayhawks owned this rematch from start to finish, thoroughly dominating the contest much more than the 20-point margin would indicate. The Kansas D forced 20 turnovers on the night and held every single Aggie player to eight points or less.

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 5:15PM

As mentioned in the Greg Oden Video Spectacular below, I’m quite a bit behind this week. Of course, with only 16 teams left in the country, there’s a lot of coverage of the Longhorns out there that I’ve been missing out on. Mixed into all the burnt-orange love is a little news from elsewhere in the NCAAs, so dive in and get your fill as the first night of the Sweet 16 quickly approaches…

Pat Forde tells a story that many Longhorn fans are familiar with as he explores the winding path D.J. Augustin took to Austin and the tight family bond the Augustins share. This story actually had front-page play on ESPN.com earlier in the week, so it looks like the Burnt Orange Media Conspiracy has stepped from the shadows and into plain sight.

And speaking of the BOMC, how about Donald Sloan openly crying that the Aggies don’t get treated with the respect that the Longhorns get? If you happened to miss Sloan’s post-game interview with radio station KZNE, you’ve definitely got to check out the link. Regardless of what you think about the referees swallowing the whistle in that situation, you’ve really got to wonder why the first place Sloan’s mind jumps is a fantasy construct where he’s D.J. Augustin…

Students at Davidson are getting a free ride to see their team play in Detroit. Oh, and they’ll be getting free lodging and tickets, as well. Trustees at the small, private liberal-arts college decided to pay for the unprecedented trip, which will allow at least 300 students to make the journey. Just imagine what Longhorn Road Trip could be with trustees like these. Hint, hint.

Mike Freeman at CBS Sportsline combines all of the recent stories about Coach Barnes into a quick, enjoyable read. All the themes familiar to Longhorn fans are there — Barnes’ moratorium on cursing, his joking remark that set off Razorback fans, and the North Carolina native’s jocular nature. But most enjoyable are the anecdotes from Coach Haith, particularly one about the Final Four in 2003. Check it out.

The folks over at Gutty Little Bruins have a hilarious post about tournament upsets leading into the game with Western Kentucky. Hats off to the writers for this one, which was not only good for a laugh but also provided a great photographic trip down memory lane.

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