rick-barnes'

Defense to be a staple of Texas basketball in 2013-14

Leave a comment

Criticize Rick Barnes all you want — believe me, the criticism is not unfounded — but the longtime Texas coach has built quite the resume for himself in his time with the Longhorns. He has been the head coach for 15 years, and in his first 14 years earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament in each year. Last year, however, was nothing short of a major disappointment. A fringe Top 25 team to begin the season with a surplus of talent, the Longhorns finished the year 16-18 — the only sub .500 in Barnes’ history as a head coach which spans more than 25 years.

That’s pretty impressive. But last season? Far from it.

Expectations are low for Texas entering the 2013-14 campaign, and the coaching seat hot for Barnes.

The offense wasn’t very good to begin with last season, and compound that with Texas losing Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis and Ioannis Papapetrou, it doesn’t figure to get much better. There are many uncertainties entering the season, with the primary one being who will actually score the basketball. Barnes told the Longhorn Network that he wasn’t sure “who would be that guy if we had to go get a basket.”

That’s pretty unsettling. Entering the year not knowing who was going to be “that guy” isn’t a good thing.

If there is one bright spot for Texas, it will be on the defensive end, according to Barnes.

The last season Texas was considered a top team and routinely in the Top 25 was in 2010-11; they were 28-8 that year and earned a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Much of their success that year could be attributed to their defensive play as they held opponents to just 29.5% shooting from 3PT and 42% shooting from 2PT — both top ten nationally.

Said Barnes, “We haven’t been good the last couple years. We will play harder and play better defense. With the size we have, we’ll be able to protect the rim.”

Rising sophomore guard Javan Felix will spearhead the effort to turn the program around and back to its winning ways. That’s a big onus for Felix, especially considering he is the top offensive threat returning from last season. Felix averaged 6.8 points and shot 35.4% from the field — both of those numbers will have to drastically improve.

With a dearth of proven scorers, Texas will need to hang their hat on the defensive end in order to find success.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Leave a comment

Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 11.57.22 PM
Leave a comment

Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.