FROM THE STANDS: Texas is in!!!

This is a scary week for college football coaches: Spring Break. For the last eight or so weeks, college football players have been putting in the off-season work and getting ready for spring football. It’s cold, hard work that only the truly insane enjoy. Some schools, like Texas in the past, start spring practice before spring break and pick it back up after, but most don’t even begin before then (like the new Texas, which begins on March 25th). There are endless reps of weights, stations, sprints, drills and rehab sessions, and spring break is the first time for football players to really cut loose since Christmas break. And that’s terrifying to a coach.

Do you know any 18-22 year old college guys? I remember myself as one. I wasn’t exactly the model for maturity, responsibility and sound decision making. Put me on a road trip with my friends, and together we becoming one big, multi-headed moron. Even now, Ryan needs to go with us to ensure we all get back to the hotel in one piece. When we lose Ryan, it’s chaos. Lawrence, Kansas says hello. Now, factor in that a lot of the guys going through off-season aren’t doing the normal college-aged guy things throughout the semester and you potentially have a group of big, strong, confident guys that are ready to blow off some steam in this very short window away from the coaches and the workouts. “Blow off some steam” can take many different turns depending on where they go, who they run into and whether or not Ryan is there.

Every coach in the country sleeps less this week, wondering if his guys are following the rules or succumbing to the nonsense the other kids are reveling in. The mindset is very much like a parent: have fun, be safe and please, please do not do anything stupid. There are enough Ryans around, both on and off the team, who will help keep the morons (Treys) from doing the dumb things that get themselves in trouble and their programs in the headlines for the wrong reasons. But even when they are doing the right things, Dak Prescot happens. But there will be incidents somewhere, and every coach knows that and it’s keeping them up at night.

Be careful, Horns. Have a good time, keep your heads and everyone just be cool. If something happens, get Ryan.

The Dance

Texas is in! I was a little concerned overnight Saturday when Joe Lunardi didn’t have Texas in his “last four in” or his “first four out.” Had we dropped six spots? Did we rise two spots? There wasn’t a “these teams are off the bubble” either good or bad, so I just didn’t know. It didn’t take long for Texas to hear their name called, going in the first regional announced. The Horns are headed to Pittsburgh for a Thursday date with the Butler Bulldogs. And just like the bracket announcement, the Horns are jumping right into the race, playing at 1:45 pm. It’s the second game of the day, following the Notre Dame/Northeastern game at 11:15 am, which will likely be the very first game of the NCAA Tournament. I know ESPN is calling the play-in games the first round, but I am not. They are play-in games. You win, you are in. That’s not the first round. That’s the play-in round. A win over Butler and Texas likely faces ACC Tournament Champion Notre Dame … but let’s get there first.

The Butler Bulldogs come in as the No.6 seed with a 22-10 record, going 12-6 in the Big East. Both Texas and Butler are similar in that they are defense-first squads, using their pressure, quickness and talent to force turnovers, get rebounds and create offense. On the other end they both also like to slow it down, using a much slower pace to set up their offense. Both the Horns and the Bulldogs want to keep this game low scoring and impose their defensive will on the other guy. Let’s take a look at how they match up

The first thing you’ll notice about Butler is they aren’t very big. The starting five goes 5-foot-11, 6-foot-4, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9. Shooting guard Kellen Dunham leads the team with 16.7 points per game and also leads the team from three-point land, shooting 41%. He’s also very good from the free throw line, shooting 85% on the season. He’s probably the biggest matchup problem for Texas due to his size (6-foot-6) and ability to shoot from inside and outside. Forward Roosevelt Jones is more of an inside presence, and by that I mean he has zero three-pointers, but is smallish at 6-foot-4, 227 pounds. He’s very athletic, however, and dishes and scores well, averaging a team-high 3.7 assists per game and 12.6 points per game, which is second on the team. He looks like the first option with the ball and either scores or finds the open man as defenses collapse on him. Point guard Alex Barrow is Jevan Felix-sized (small) at 5-foot-11 and, like Felix, is very good from behind the arc, averaging 38% on 3-pointers. He totals 9.1 points per game. The big guys inside are Andrew Chrabascz and Kameron Woods, who are 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9 respectively. Charbacscz is solid with 11.1 ppg, but it’s Woods that’s the big inside presence. Long and lean at 6-foot-9, 200 pounds, the senior Woods leads the team with 9.8 rebounds per game. All the bigs on this team can clean the glass, but Woods is the best.

Butler wants to get Dunham going both inside and out, driving to the hoop and getting to the foul line if the defense gets sloppy. On the season he leads the team with 154 free throws attempted. Alex Barrow will shoot from outside but wants to drive and dish, hitting Charbascz at the three-point line (31%) if he’s open or dumping it to Woods or Jones if Texas pulls a big man out to cover him. Defensively they will be quick, aggressive and use a zone defense to make Texas shoot from outside. They don’t have the size Texas does, so they will pack the middle of the paint and clog passing lanes and make Texas shoot from outside to win.

The Horns have a HUGE size advantage in this game, and with big men that can stretch the defense out with perimeter shooting like Connor Lammert, Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes, it opens up space inside for the big man Cam Ridley. But Texas needs to impose their will on Butler and not settle for 3-pointers. Against Iowa State, Texas hit some early shots outside and fell in love with the 3-ball, and when it went away at the end they didn’t have an answer. That cannot happen Thursday. Texas needs to overwhelm Butler with their size inside and the ability of Isaiah Taylor to penetrate and score or pass to the open man. This is a solid team Texas plays, but Texas has played some excellent teams this year, some three times, and frankly I don’t think Butler is one of those teams. Which Texas shows up? That’s the key here. If the Texas from the Big 12 Tournament shows up, they are into round two. If the other team shows up, they are on a plane home before ¾ of the field even starts.

About Butler

  • A private school founded in 1855 in Indianapolis, Butler has an enrollment of 4,600 students.
  • Remember the movie Hoosiers? All the basketball scenes were shot in the Butler basketball facility, Hinkle Fieldhouse.
  • Truly a diverse university from inception, when Butler opened its doors in 1855 the University charter stated it would be “a non-sectarian institution free from the taint of slavery, offering instruction in every branch of liberal and professional education.” Both men and women and people of all colors and races were welcome and encouraged to enroll.
  • Every student is required to participate in community service in Indianapolis in order to graduate. It’s called “The Butler Way.”
  • Butler moved their basketball program to the Big East in 2013, leaving the Atlantic 10, where they were supremely successful. The Bulldogs played in consecutive National Title games in 2010 and 2011, losing both, and then losing their coach to the Boston Celtics.
  • In football they are a I-AA school, so they are probably going to play Baylor or TCU.
  • Butler’s mascot, Trip, has nearly 15,000 followers on Twitter. Check him out.
  • Notable alumni from Butler: Scott Drew (Baylor basketball coach), Thad Motta (Ohio State basketball coach), Jim Jones (crazy cult guy) and Peter Lupus (bodybuilder, actor).
  • I’ll bet Andy from Parks & Recreation is a Butler fan. Ron Swanson is definitely not, paying homage to Bobby Knight in the first episode. Maybe Donna is, too? Definitely not Tom. He probably doesn’t even like basketball.

The Big 12 in the Big Dance

The Big 12 placed the most teams into the NCAA Tournament this year with seven: Kansas, Iowa State, ou, Baylor, West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma State. The Horns and Cowboys were the teams on the bubble, but bad losses in conference tournaments (like A&M losing to Auburn) dropped some teams (like A&M), and the strength of schedule of Texas and Oklahoma State (the opposite of A&M) moved them up and in, leaving those others for the NIT. (See A&M.) The seeding for the Big 12 goes like this:

  • Midwest No. 2 Kansas (vs. No. 15 New Mexico State, Friday, 11:15 am, CBS)
  • Midwest No. 5 West Virginia (vs. No. 12 Buffalo, Friday, 1:10 pm, TNT)
  • Midwest No. 11 Texas (vs. No. 6 Butler, Thursday, 1:45 pm, CBS)
  • East No. 3 oklahoma (vs. No. 14 Albany, Friday, 6:27 pm, TruTV)
  • West No. 3 Baylor (vs. No. 14 Georgia State, Thursday, 12:40 pm, TBS)
  • West No. 9 Oklahoma State (vs. No. 8 Oregon, Friday, 5:50 pm, TBS)
  • South No. 3 Iowa State (vs. No. 14 UAB, Thursday, 11:40 am, TruTV)

Oklahoma State can get streaky hot shooting the ball, but like Texas you just don’t know what you get each time out. Maybe they win, maybe they don’t, but Wisconsin will send them home two days later if Oregon does not. I think Iowa State cruises to a Sweet 16 matchup with No.2 seed Gonzaga. I think the Cyclones can win that game, but they won’t. Baylor will lose to Georgia State, based on two things: nothing at all, I don’t like them. The sooners are going to run into the second best defensive team in the Tourney in UVA in the Sweet 16. Their ability to shoot  from the outside could get them past the Hoos, but I don’t think they will be able to score enough. I think your first 12-5 upset this year will be the Buffalo Bulls knocking off West Virginia. The Mountaineers are not super healthy and Bobby Hurley is the coach for Buffalo. Maryland sends the winner home on Sunday, anyway. The No. 2 seed Jayhawks have a monster round-two matchup with in-state rival Wichita State should they both win. I think KU wins the first round, but they better be on point against the Shockers. I think they are, and they get through a tough, intense game that the rest of the nation will really enjoy. If Texas could get by Notre Dame you know who the Sweet 16 matchup would be against? Kansas. That would be something.

Let’s go Horns! Back next week with whatever is happening/has happened in basketball, some baseball news and the beginning of spring football.

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