Texas transfer looks to have immediate impact at Fresno State

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After winning 21 games and reaching the championship series of the CBI, the Fresno State Bulldogs are optimistic as the 2014-15 season begins and rightfully so. Rodney Terry welcomes back three of the top four scorers from that team, led by junior guard Marvelle Harris, with sophomore Paul Watson poised to take a step forward after earning Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors.

Those two, along with guard Cezar Guerrero, will have some help in the form of redshirt junior guard Julien Lewis. The 6-foot-3 Lewis sat out all of last season after transferring in from Texas, where he averaged 11.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 2012-13. With the Bulldogs having to account for the departure of guards Tyler Johnson (15.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.9 apg) and Allen Huddleston (8.8, 2.1), Lewis is expected to fit right into the rotation as Fresno State looks to move up the Mountain West standings.

Terry said the following about Lewis in an article written by Robert Kuwada of the Fresno Bee:

“He’s a good player,” coach Rodney Terry said. “We knew when we got Juice that Juice was a high-level player. A year ago in practices, guys would look around and they knew why that guy was at the level that he was at. I’d stack him up with any of the guys in the league, to be honest with you.

“Julien is a high-level player. Juice was one of the top players coming out of the state of Texas in his senior year, a Top 100 player in the country. Guys knew last year when he was on the scout team that if they could guard him, they could guard anybody in our league. He’s a good player.”

Fresno State will have depth on the perimeter this season, with Guerrero, Harris and Watson (who will spend the majority of his time at the three after having to play the four for most of 2013-14) back to lead the way. And the Bulldogs have plenty of options beyond those three, with a surplus of perimeter players that includes Lewis, freshman Isaiah Bailey and sophomore Emmanuel Owootoah.

The top eight spots in the Mountain West won’t lack for suspense, with many pegging San Diego State as the early favorite to win the regular season title. Fresno State is among that group, and if Lewis can be a productive option for the Bulldogs a more prestigious postseason event could be within their grasp come March.

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

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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.