We're now 9 games into the 2007-2008 basketball and we can only imagine how good this team would be if Rick Barnes could coach (note: kidding). This start is clearly better than any Texas basketball team we've ever followed, so we thought it would be fun to compare the '07-'08 Horns to our favorite Texas basketball team.
DJ Augustin vs. TJ Ford:
This is by far the most difficult comparison. Both are fantastic point guards, but in different ways. As quick as DJ is, he doesn't hold a candle to TJ in that regard. DJ has a better jump shot and can has a pretty three-point shot unlike TJ. We also feel that TJ's leadership is the intangible that puts him on top, for now. Edge: TJ Ford.
Damion James vs. James Thomas:
The James Thomas of 2002-2003 was a beast on the glass, had a serviceable jump shot, and knew how to put it in the hoop near the rim. Damion James is a year younger, less a beast on the glass, a sweeter jump shot, nearly as much skill around the rim, and a FAR better free throw shooter. Considering the rebounding, we'll give a slight overall nod to the man from zip code 12345. Edge: James Thomas.
Justin Mason vs. Royal Ivey:
Both wear #24, both do many things well but nothing particularly excellent, and both are shutdown defenders. Given his skills as a defender and experience, however, it's hard to place Mason over Royale with cheese. Edge: Royal Ivey.
Connor Atchley vs. Jason Klotz/Brian Boddicker:
What was your first thought when Connor got the ball at the top of the key against UCLA with Texas down 61-58? Don't be ashamed to admit it was: "shoot it, Connor!" Connor has become a major asset to this team that Jason Klotz never was in 2002-2003. With the exception of his hook in the lane to put OU away during the home win (the only time we ever rushed the court, awesome moment), Jason Klotz really didn't do a ton. Brian Boddicker had his moments but seems to not have quite the same inside presence as Connor. Edge: Connor Atchley.
Alexis Wangmene vs. Brad Buckman:
The two freshmen seem to be having a very similar impact on their respective basketball teams. They average similar minutes (~15 minutes per game), and both are having significant albeit somewhat limited impacts on the offensive end and in rebounding. Buckman is probably a little further along than Wangmene at this point, but for all intents and purposes they're about even. Edge: None.
AJ Abrams vs. Brandon Mouton:
The two are virtually nothing alike, but since the Mason/Ivey comparison had to be made, we're stuck comparing AJ and MOOOOO-ton. AJ is such a unique offensive talent that he doesn't really compare to anybody on the 02-03 team, but there isn't a Mouton on the 07-08 team either. AJ has added considerably to his game and is much more of an overall offensive threat than he has ever been, but his size is still a liability on the defensive end. Mouton was the jack-of-all-trades for the Horns, able to score and defend as well as anybody on the team. Brandon led the team in scoring 7 of the last 14 games, including 27 against UCONN and 25 against Syracuse. In all, neither player really has a counterpart. Edge: Brandon Mouton.
Dexter Pittman and Clint Chapman vs. Sydmill Harris and Deginald Erskin:
Big Dex and Clint Chapman compare favorably with what Sydmill and Deginald brought to the table. Sydmill was never the three-point specialist that he was made out to be, and circumstances prevented Deginald from really contributing once the season got going. Pittman and Chapman are likely to see significant improvement over the course of the year and could be contributing solid minutes off the bench by tourney time. Edge: Dexter Pittman and Clint Chapman.
Harrison Smith vs. Kenton Paulino and Terrell Ross:
If the 07-08 Horns have a real weakness it is the lack of backup point guard play. Should DJ get in foul trouble, Texas may have trouble running its offense. KP didn't really produce much his freshman year, and Terrell Ross is best known for not screwing things up during the scariest five minutes of our Texas basketball watching career following TJ picking up his fourth foul against UCONN. We had confidence that things would not go immediately and completely to hell without TJ. Harrison Smith...not so much. Edge: Kenton Paulino and Terrell Ross.
JD Lewis vs. Chris Ogden:
It is the O-Zone. Edge: Chris Ogden.
Ian Mooney vs. Drew Gressett:
Please. Edge: Drew Gressett.
Why the 02-03 Horns:
One word -- experience. The 02-03 Horns lost 4 of its first 18 games before winning 7 of the next 8. The Horns as we remember them, that team that went to the Final Four, was born during this stretch. It was here that this became the team we know and love, including the biggest regular season win we've ever experienced (at OU). The 02-03 Horns played great defense, could score when they needed to, and the best player in the country. Considering that the 02-03 Horns had significantly more experience and we know they were a Final Four team, it's hard to even think that the 07-08 Horns can compare.
Why the 07-08 Horns:
Had we compared the first nine games of the 02-03 Horns (7-2) to the 07-08's first nine games, we would have to say that this year's team is better. Two wins over top ten teams, including the biggest regular season win since ruining Hollis Price's senior night. This Texas team doesn't defend as well but is more potent offensively and has already shown it can play with (and beat) any team in the country. Should this team finish its non-conference schedule strongly and have a strong conference record, a #1 seed is certainly not out of the question.
The Final Comparison:
The 2002-2003 Horns have our edge with four of five starters and most of the bench. Considering it had more experience and played better defense, the 2002-2003 Horns have the overall edge...for now, but we feel these Horns can accomplish just as much.