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Hoop heads rejoice! ('Tip Off' by: Chris Flanagan)

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Tip Off!




Preseason polls have been published and the college basketball season is only a month away. Representatives from all ten Big 12 school converged in Kansas City this week to talk about their teams and expectations for the season. HornSports' Chris Flanagan was at the Sprint center for the Big 12 Men's Basketball Media Day...

Texas Tech

I was surprised that most of the media did not talk to Tubby Smith. I think Texas Tech is going to be a surprise team in the Big 12 this season. Tubby seems a little hesitant about the team which is going to happen. They are a young team but certainly a team with more overall talent than previous years.

Kansas State

Bruce Webber was as humble as always. I don't know why people don't like him as a coach but I guess it's all about expectations. He is a good fit at Kansas State because recruiting is never going to be Kansas State's strong suit in any sport. Looking at the roster, there’s a lot of depth. Kansas State loves to go big; however, they should also have an advantage over most of the league in perimeter shooting. This is one of the few teams that could sweep the Longhorns in the regular season.

Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State only has four veteran players returning. They have a really good recruiting class coming in, but the issue will be team chemistry. Oklahoma State relied on Marcus Smart a number of times last year and for good reason. However, the only star the Cowboys have to rely on is Le'Bryan Nash, who has averaged at least 13 ppg every season. Will Forte is a star in the making with his 3 point shooting. Teams are going to take away those two in a game, the question then becomes whether or not the other players on the team can step up.


I feel for any head coach at TCU where it's a tough job to win consistently and to establish the program. Trent Johnson talked in his media interview about how TCU has no basketball tradition. The bad news for the Horned Frogs is the Big 12 is not a league where you can build a program in a very short period of time. At least Johnson kept a positive attitude at media day…after all, TCU is still undefeated.

Iowa State

Fred Hoiberg thrives on low expectations for his team. Despite losing Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, he feels that Iowa State should contend for a Big 12 title. I think they will beat a few of the top tier teams in the Big 12 but they will fall short of winning the Big 12 title. ISU is a likely low seed in the NCAA tournament. The biggest issue for the Cyclones is their lack of big men.


When I asked Lon Kruger about his freshmen, he said he expected energy from them. Not exactly what I was looking for but it was an answer. Fortunately for the Sooners, they won’t be relying on their freshman because they have nine upperclassmen on the roster. They will be a title contender in the Big 12 this year.


To no surprise, the media packed the room for Bill Self – the man is a star in Kansas City. Self’s Jayhawks are still very big as a team. The guard play is going to be questionable again which is going to be an issue when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Their size and athleticism on the front line will ensure that they at least have a chance at an 11th straight Big 12 title.


Baylor, as a team, is an unknown quantity – lots of turnover and new faces in Waco means most people don't have a clue what to expect from the Bears. Ishmail Wainwright needs to step it up this year and be a star if the Bears want to compete for the Big 12 title and get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

West Virginia

The Mountaineers are are lot like Baylor in that they have plenty of new faces on this years team. Therefore it’s no surprise that they’re picked T6th in the preseason Big 12 poll with…the Bears. The key returnee is Juwan Staten, the conference’s preseason POY. Staten almost broke WVU’s assist record last season and he led the league in scoring and minutes played. One thing Huggins mentioned was trying to find a way for Staten’s production to be on par with last year’s, but to decrease his minutes.

With expectations high for coaches, players and fans of Texas basketball, let’s take a closer look at each of the questions asked of Rick Barnes, his answer, and my interpretation of that answer:

Q. Coach, can you let us know about the Martez Walker situation?

COACH BARNES: He withdrew from school. He was not allowed to come back on campus. At that point in time, also getting behind academically, he felt like it was best for him to withdraw, and that's what he did.

Flanagan: I should have been more clear in my question (but I also didn't expect to go first)…I intended to ask him about Texas's response to the Martez Walker situation and maybe how they could have handled the situation better. Texas didn't take the initiative to dismiss him from the team, instead they allowed him to leave without any accountability on their part. They could have sent a stronger message than they did.

Q. Do you allow yourself to have high expectations for Myles Turner?

COACH BARNES: I would say that we do, but I think we've got high expectations for all of our players.

But certainly Myles is a player that we're excited about having and a player that we really appreciate the way that he has embraced this situation that he walked into in terms of right from the beginning, through the recruiting process, we felt like and he told us this that he wanted to be a part of the program where he could be a part of it but not necessarily him be the program.

I think he would also tell you that, when he visited campus, the one thing he felt was that he was able to be around other players that felt the same way, that they just wanted to have a great team. They wanted to win, and they would know that their individual goals would be met by buying into each other and really wanting be to the best team that they could be.

Flanagan: The quote about Myles Turner wanting to, "not necessarily be the program" was a key takeaway. That speaks to the humility of Myles Turner and his background as a mature young man. Does that mean he won't make mistakes? Of course not. However, he has the right mindset and support to get it corrected. He should be a solid piece to the lineup.

Q. I guess two-parter about Isaiah. First of all, how's he feeling? I guess he was supposed to be here and took a little spill in practice. Second of all, when you look at your point guard situation, how does he factor into it, and how much has he improved from last year as a freshman playing the position?

COACH BARNES: I can assure you, he wishes he were here now. Right at the end of practice, we had a time set that we were going to leave, and we weren't going to wait on them to do the things they need to do. He told everybody this morning that he's fine.

Where Isaiah has improved most of all is he's become more verbal. He's really starting to understand what that position calls for. People have always questioned the fact, can he shoot it? He can shoot it. We told him a year ago that we need him to shoot the ball when he's open, but his idea was always to try to get into the lane, try to penetrate, and create for his teammates.

He does have a really need midrange floater type game. He's great around the basket, but he is willing to shoot the ball, and he's capable. He's a guy that we really believe, when he shoots it, it's going to go in. So he's improved there a lot.

His teammates will tell you that he's a player they have a lot of confidence in because he's a confident player. He's a player that he wants to win. He's very, very competitive. But the biggest change that I'm seeing right now is the fact that he's become much more verbal in practice talking.

Flanagan: Even if he can shoot the ball, he still needs the confidence to do the job. The players may have confidence in him but if he isn't willing to take that big game shot, what is their confidence level going to be like? Everything Taylor does is going to be closely scrutinized by the coaches, media, fans and especially his teammates. We all know his best attribute is driving the lane, now he needs to be multi-dimensional.

Q. Last season, the basketball team had great games at home, but they would be a different team on the road. How do you improve on your road performance this year, especially in conference?

COACH BARNES: First of all, our league is very, very tough. It's tough to win at home, but it's really tough to win on the road. But what I would like to see us do, probably more than anything, is play with the same mentality that I think that we play at home, and I think most teams are probably a little more aggressive in playing at home, maybe the word is relaxed.

I want to see us be able to handle situations like, when we get down on the road, when we're down at home. We seem to handle those situations of adversity a little bit better at home than we did on the road. We need to get off to better starts. We didn't do that sometimes on the road.

We're a year older, and I would expect some of the experience that we gained a year ago that we'll hopefully benefit from this year.

Flanagan: This is the second question I asked and he gave an excuse to set up the discussion. Yes the Big 12 is a tough league but there were plenty of teams that didn't get embarrassed when they played on the road like Texas did. Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas (in certain situations) – the list goes on. I do think he is correct that the team has to handle adversity better on the road. They will be a marquee game for every road matchup, they play better away from the Erwin Center if they hope to challenge for a Big 12 title.

Q. But that needs to improve, doesn't it, the shooting?
COACH BARNES: I think, when you look at it statistically, you would say that. I think, when you go back, if you analyze our team from a year ago where we have to improve, we got hurt defensively with transition defense, and that was a direct result of not taking care of the ball and, I think, our shot selection.

We know we've got to improve there, and I do think we have guys that can shoot the ball. They take good shots. I think it's hard when they take bad shots and expect to make them. Isaiah has the ability to score in some traffic and so some of those type things. I think we can shoot the ball. That really is not I'm not concerned about it. My biggest concern, again, is understanding good shot selection and protecting the ball from the offensive side.

Flanagan: I doubt these players would get Division 1 scholarships if they couldn't shoot the basketball. The shot selection issue last year was the difference in many games. Improvement on what shots this team takes is a big concern this season. 
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AUSTIN, Texas â€” Fans of all ages are encouraged to walk over to the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday afternoon to get an early glimpse of The University of Texas Men’s Basketball team.

The Longhorns, ranked No. 10 in the USA Today coaches' preseason poll announced on Thursday, will hold an open practice on the arena floor.Red River and C doors open at 2 p.m., and practice is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Admission is free and seating will be open.


The open practice is the first of two opportunities to visit with the Longhorns on Saturday. The UT men's and women's basketball teams will sign autographs at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium before Texas Football takes on Iowa State. The autograph session will be held inside Gate 8 from 5:45-6:30 p.m. Texas Basketball posters will be provided for signatures.

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