February 26, 2008

Re-Assessing The Horns

A while back we compared this team with the most successful team in Texas history (the 02-03 Horns). At that time, Texas was 10-0 with huge wins over Tennessee and UCLA already in the bag. The post was one of the more controversial posts in 40AS history (read: not very controversial), with one poster suggesting that the thought of even discussing that comparison was "sacrilege."

On this date in 2003 the Horns were 18-5, having played 11 non-conference (9-2) and 13 conference games (9-3). Today, the Horns are 24-4, having played 15 non-conference (13-2) and 13 conference games (11-2). A month ago we were thinking about throwing ourselves at the mercy of our reader(s?) for even thinking a comparison of the two seasons could be made. Now, though, we'd like to revisit the comparisons and see what has changed.

DJ versus TJ:
In December we gave the edge to TJ. We still feel pretty confident that TJ's 15 points and 8 assists still hold up over DJ's 19 points and 6 assists. The gap, however, is closing. Even when TJ didn't score he brought important leadership and defense to the court. During a recent cold spell DJ showed that he can do some of the same things, but there's no shame in being considered second to TJ Ford. Old Edge -- TJ...New Edge -- TJ

Damion James versus James Thomas:
Exhibit A that the '07-'08 Horns are gaining in our minds is the rise of Damion James. Damion can be a huge offensive threat for the Horns, with great defensive intensity and a very solid rebounding presence. He may never be the rebounder of JT, but his offensive versatility gives him the edge in our book. Old Edge -- Slight JT...New Edge -- Slight Damion James.

Justin Mason versus Royal Ivey:
Mason went through a stretch of bad basketball that resulted in Mason losing his starting spot. The last few games we are starting to see how much Justin Mason means to this club and how he can contribute significantly to a succesful March run. Mason does not shoot the ball well, but he does pretty much everything else very well. All things considered, the assessment from December still holds true. Old Edge -- Ivey...New Edge -- Ivey.

Connor Atchley versus Jason Klotz/Brian Boddicker:

Quick, what is your first thought whenever Connor gets an open look? Yep, it's still 'shoot it, Connor!' Atchley has become one of the most important players in Texas' success, as evidenced by last night's 14 points in 13 minutes. He combines Boddicker's outside shooting with (more than) Klotz's inside presence. Old Edge -- Connor...New Edge -- Connor.

AJ Abrams versus Brandon Mouton:
Neither player really has a comparison on the other team. Both are very important cogs in each team's success. AJ has the edge in outside shooting, Brandon in just about everything else. Old Edge -- Mouton...New Edge -- Mouton.

SexyChappyWang versus Brad Buckman/Sydmill Harris/Deginald Erskin:
We've finally landed on a nickname for the threesome that is Dexter Pittman, Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene. Together those three are capable of giving energy, defense, rebounding, and an inside presence for a few critical minutes each night. Most importantly, each are improving and could become even better by the time the tourney rolls around. The '02-'03 trio never did that. Old Edge -- N/A...New Edge -- SexyChappyWang.

Harrison Smith versus Terelle Ross/Kenton Paulino:
Nothing new here. We feel bad for Harrison Smith who was a 4* recruit but gets no minutes under Rick Barnes. We've got nothing against the kid and would like to see him transfer for more minutes elsewhere. Old Edge -- Ross/Paulino...New Edge -- Ross/Paulino.

J.D. Lewis versus Chris Ogden:
What the hell is "Stampede"? Old Edge -- O-zone...New Edge -- O-zone.

Ian Mooney versus Drew Gresset:
One of us was at the Texas-OU game last Saturday. With Texas up big at the end of the game the fans began chanting to see Mooney in the game. It felt...wrong. Old Edge -- Drew Gresset...New Edge -- Drew Gresset.

Gary Johnson versus ??????:
In December we hadn't seen what Gary Johnson could do for this club, although even then we had an idea of what he could do for this club. It's not that he adds all that much scoring or rebounding or defense. No, the key thing to know about Gary Johnson is that with him on the court Texas can do anything. He brings toughness, he brings an inside game, he brings energy, and he brings budding confidence. There was no equivalent on the 2002-2003 team. He brings a bit of Buckman, a bit of Deginald Erskin, a bit of James Thomas, and a bit of Jason Klotz. We didn't really know what it would look like when we said he might be the difference maker for this team, now we know. Old Edge -- N/A...New Edge -- Gary Johnson.

The Final Comparison:
We'll say this about the 07-08 Horns, they have achieved enough to be judged solely by their post-season performance. It may have been sacrilege to say it in December, but this team has up to this point accomplished every bit as much as the Final Four squad had. No other team since has done as much. The '05-'06 team had 3 double digit losses by this point (including a 31 point loss to #1 Duke) and no real defining wins. This team, however, has the opportunity to define its place in Texas basketball history. For now the assessment remains in favor of the '02-'03 Horns, but it's getting awfully close.


Micah said...

here is my question - looking forward, who are you hoping to get paired with in the NCAA tourney and who would you rather see the Horns avoid? I would like my chops at being in the bracket with Duke or Tennessee, but wince at the thought of facing bigger teams like UNC or Memphis...

JMA said...

That's an excellent question. I have a natural fear of Duke stemming from them kicking the crap out of us in 2005. It would be hard to beat Tennessee twice on a neutral court, but Texas clearly matches up well with them. I think UNC scares me much more than Memphis because Memphis doesn't shoot well from outside. That might be a post in itself before selection Sunday.