We've been doing this whole blogging thing for seven months and have now hit baseball, off, and football season. It's time, therefore, for basketball season. We know, we're 5 games into the season, but this is as good as any time to do our first basketball post of the new season.
For the first time in our career as Texas fans, the basketball program is healthier than both the football and baseball programs. To illustrate this point, think about this: without defections to the NBA, the Texas starting five this season would probably be DJ Augustin, Kevin Durant, Lamarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson, and Connor Atchley(?). Obviously players leaving early is a part of college basketball, but the fact that Rick Barnes has fielded another solid squad which should be playing well into March is a testament to his coaching ability (no matter what Bill Simmons says) and the positive direction in which Longhorn basketball is headed.
To start with, if you look closely at our dream lineup you might notice one player who doesn't fit in. That's right, Connor Atchley. So far everybody's favorite neo-Jason Klotz has been playing very well for the Horns, a fact that bodes extremely well for the future. Aside from clamping down on defense and rebounding, Connor has put in 12.4 points per game (up from 3.9 last season). Say what you will about Rick Barnes as a recruiter first, coach second; the fact that he has turned Connor into a useful member of a basketball society is proof that Barnes can teach and coach, too.
Damion James has brought energy and enthusiasm on the defensive end, much like James Thomas circa 2002-2003 (yeah, we know, our frame of reference for Texas basketball remains that season. Our glorious, glorious freshman year of school). Justin Mason seems like a whole new player (a player named, say, Royal Ivey. Yep. We went there), AJ Abrams has been lights out on both sides of the court (a great account of his defensive impact on Tennessee sharpshooter Chris Lofton can be read here), and DJ Augustin is playing PG as well as anybody in the country (there will be no TJ Ford comparison).
We can't wait to see what happens when you throw in the potential of Gary Johnson with the already impressive play of Alexis Wang...Wang...well, just Johnson, just Gary Johnson. All kidding aside, should Texas develop a defensive and offensive interior toughness, this Horns team could go far into the postseason.
Finally, and best of all, we don't expect Bill Simmons to be watching the Horns this year, which is probably best for all of us. The Horns season continues Wednesday against Texas Southern and then a big early season matchup with UCLA on Sunday in Los Angeles.