Blogger Spotlight: Talking Texas’ tough luck with Burnt Orange Nation

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The NBA draft’s early entrant deadline rarely leaves teams happy. But Texas took a particularly rough jolt this season.

Three Longhorns – sophomore Jordan Hamilton and freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph – declared for the draft. Hamilton’s signing with an agent and Thompson’s likely to. Joseph should return to school (he’s hardly a first-round lock, which means no guaranteed money), but who knows?

So it made sense for this week’s Blogger Spotlight to talk with the man behind Burnt Orange Nation, Peter Bean. (You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.) We spent time talking about the draft, Rick Barnes, Texas hoops vs. Texas football and much more.

Q: Friday must’ve been an unpleasant day. After weeks of Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton mulling over their NBA decisions, not only do both declare, but Cory Joseph joins them. Did you see that coming?

A: We’d heard Joseph was about 50-50 on whether to declare, so his decision wasn’t out of nowhere.  That said, we expect he’ll withdraw, given his readiness for the next level.  Still, it’s a bit of a curious decision given that collegiate players can only early-declare once, so assuming he comes back — as he should — he’ll be under the gun next time it’s time to evaluate his decision.

Q: Hamilton’s signing with an agent. You think Joseph will be back. What about Thompson?

A: We’re not at all confident that Thompson is going to come back — call it a 10 percent chance, which is better than nothing, but still grim.  Unfortunately for Texas, with so many potential lottery picks returning to school this draft is wide open, which from an objective perspective makes it difficult to recommend Thompson pass on this chance.  Tristan has a lot of development in front of him, and his upper body some filling out to do, but he’s a hell of a talent and he’s wise to go now.  Which really, really sucks. (For more from Peter on the three declaring for the draft, click here.)

Q: Then what are your expectations for next season? Most had been predicting a Big 12 title, but that’ll obviously need to be reassessed.

A: Well, the top point guard in the 2011 class — Myck Kabongo from Toronto — is coming to Texas, and assuming Joseph returns Texas will have one of the best backcourts in the nation, but without Thompson there is absolutely no post presence to speak of.  Texas looks like it can be a fun, dangerous team, but the expectations are substantially lower without Thompson.  With him, they’re a Final Four contender.  Without him, the team’s ceiling looks like the Sweet 16.

Q: Rick Barnes got a lot of credit for adjusting his offense this season to play to his players’ strengths (and got a big boost from Hamilton in the process). But Texas struggled down the stretch on offense. Was this a year where Barnes squeezed everything out of his roster and they just couldn’t keep playing at a high level, or did he need to keep adjusting?

A: Rick Barnes did perhaps his best coaching job with this year’s team.  And I’m not sure that he needed to make any adjustments to his approach down the stretch; more than anything, the team struggled offensively because Jordan Hamilton got cold.  He shot dreadfully the last 10 games of the year, and without him we just weren’t as dynamic or multi-dimensional. Teams could afford to sag down on defense with impunity.

Q: Might lower expectations be a good thing? Barnes wouldn’t have to deal with as much knee-jerk reaction/criticism and a young team would be able to grow into its potential.

A: I suppose there’s something to lower expectations, but hey, you really want a cast that can take you to the Final Four.  Without Thompson and Hamilton, that’s a long shot.  Will it be easier on Barnes with lower expectations?  Probably, but that’s only worth so much.  This program is at the point where we want the stars to actually align for once, so we can get back to the Final Four.  I’m not sure any coach has gotten so badly hurt by early draft departures and bad timing of his best players overlapping.

Q: Is there a point where Texas ever fully becomes wrapped up in its basketball team? Or does football always loom, no matter how well the ‘Horns are playing? Does BON reflect that?

A: Certainly at BON, we go full bore into basketball during the season, and both me and Andrew Wiggins — the site’s co-founders — are actually probably bigger hoops fans than football, which is saying something.  With that said, football always looms.  During January and February, most of the fans are more focused on recruiting than hoops.  There are gobs of drive-by fans, who don’t understand college basketball and mostly just show up in threads to complain that the team isn’t 32-0.  Like it’s football or something.  It drives me crazy, but hey, we’re a football school.  And the flipside of that is that the fall is a lot of fun.

Q: Are there Texas fans who only watch hoops? Is there such a thing as a Longhorn who doesn’t care about the football team? I wouldn’t be surprised given the consistently good teams and talent Barnes fields.

A: I’d imagine there are a few, but not many at all.  There is a small minority of us who probably care more about hoops than football, but we’re dwarfed in size by those who care almost exclusively about football.  Football is everything here.

Q: BON has three editors and a massive amount of contributing writers, which isn’t usual for most of the SB Nation blogs. Is this a reflection of the school’s size, its devoted fan base or the success of the blog? Or all three?

A: I think it’s really reflective of the kind of roster you need to provide truly in depth coverage of a college athletics program.  There are tons of sports, there’s recruiting, and on and on, and it’s just not possible for one person to do as well as a dozen can. 

Q: How did you get into blogging and how much do you still have time for given your duties at SB Nation?

A: I got started blogging in 2004 because I moved to Washington DC and missed talking Texas sports with my friends. (They only talk politics up there, which… no.)  That was about the time that blogs were starting to pop up, and as a passionate writer, I thought, “Hey, I want to do that, too.”  True story: I launched my Texas blog right after Texas lost to Oklahoma 12-0 in 2004. Vince Young and the Longhorns promptly won 22 straight games, including the 2005 national title. Just sayin…

Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to write as I used to, so it really helps to have a strong roster of contributors to help keep things moving.  In addition to my other duties at SB Nation, I’m a full-time attorney at a firm in Austin, so sleep is at a premium these days.  I can’t complain, though.  I appreciate being busy and enjoy everything I’m doing.

Q: BON’s been around for six years. What do the next six years hold for it?

A: We keep having fun and keep growing, and blogging as part of SB Nation just makes it incredibly easy to keep adding to the depth of our coverage of Texas athletics.  I couldn’t have predicted we’d be here six years ago, so who knows where we’ll be six years from today.  All I know is there will be hoards of Texas fans obsessed with the sports programs, and we’ll be there to obsess about it all right there with them.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.