Longhorns short on wins
Take a look at the bottom of the Big 12 standings to find something strange.
Below struggling Texas Tech and overmatched TCU sits Texas, winless in league games and the only team in the conference without a winning overall record.
After so much success under coach Rick Barnes — 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and three Big 12 championships — the Longhorns are cellar dwellers. Injuries, a difficult schedule and the suspension of top guard Myck Kabongo have crippled their chances of extending their lengthy NCAA Tournament streak this March. Heck, right now they don’t look like a NIT team.
Following a lopsided loss at Iowa State on Saturday, their third straight and fourth in five games, Barnes was critical of his players. On Monday, he was asked if he was worried about what making further negative comments might do to his team’s confidence.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” Barnes said. “We have a good group of guys who want to be good. What we are trying to do as a coaching staff is get them there quicker. They have worked, they have responded … I’m not worried one bit about ever losing them. They are in it and I know they want to be good.”
It might be a while before that desire translates into victories. Though Texas has shown it can be good during wins over North Carolina and Mississippi State, it has shown its lack of experience in losses to Chaminade, Southern California and in conference games.
Sheldon McClellan is averaging more than 14 points and Julien Lewis is playing well, but they aren’t getting much from their supporting cast.
Struggles were expected when Kabongo violated NCAA rules and started the year on the bench, but most thought he would return in time to help give the Longhorns a chance at reaching the postseason. He returns Feb. 13 against Iowa State, but the season might be lost by that point. Texas plays No. 4 Kansas next and goes to surging Oklahoma after that.
Texas has tasted plenty of success under Barnes. Things are different this season.
“I’ve been through this before,” Barnes said. “When you have a group of guys who are really trying for you, you look forward to being with them.”
Closing the bank
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg hasn’t fully recovered from the three-pointer Kansas’ Ben McLemore made against his team last week.
“I’m trying to put that one behind me, so please stop talking about it,” Hoiberg said Monday.
McLemore banked in the shot in the final seconds to force overtime, and Kansas went on to beat Iowa State.
Too much travel
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins isn’t happy that the Mountaineers have to fly to Iowa State for a game on Wednesday and fly back to Morgantown, W.Va., that night only to fly to Purdue for another road game on Saturday. He would prefer to stay on the road and go straight from Ames to West Lafayette, Ind., but he is making a stop at home to comply with NCAA travel rules.
“With conference expansion, some rules become antiquated,” Huggins said. “It would be advantageous to be able to, at times, (stay on the road) probably than come back. I think you will see rule changes as the landscape of college athletics continues to change.”
The TCU/Tech effect
TCU and Texas Tech played well in losses to Baylor and Kansas over the weekend. Both were considered heavy underdogs, but pushed the Bears and Jayhawks well into the second half before losing by double digits. They were helped by a lack of motivation, though. Baylor and Kansas were clearly looking ahead to their Big Monday clash. That might occur as the season continues. With TCU and Texas Tech struggling, it will be hard for opposing teams to take them seriously. Consider it the TCU/Tech effect.
Players of the Week
Iowa State’s Georges Niang and McLemore were obvious choices for Big 12 player of the week honors. McLemore scored 33 points, and looked like a star doing it, against Iowa State. Niang scored 13 points against Kansas and 18 against Texas to win the league’s freshman of the week award.