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2007 Texas Longhorns

by Nick Evans | March 5th, 2007

Team Personality: Not since Michigan’s Fab Five has a team relied so heavily on the play of freshmen. The numbers are staggering. Texas is getting 74-percent of their scoring, 77-percent of their rebounding, and 79-percent of their assists from freshmen. Rick Barnes is receiving 75-percent of his teams’ offensive production from kids who less than a year ago were attending their high school prom.

These kids are good and they are getting better as the year progresses. Just last week they overcame Acie Law’s brilliance down the stretch to defeat Texas A&M in two overtimes and then had Kansas, one of the hottest teams in the country, down as many as sixteen only to eventually fall by four.

Has to be on the floor: Everyone with a pulse is aware of the show that Kevin Durant has put on during his first and probably only season in Austin. Heck, Bill Simmons, a renowned NBA junkie who writes for ESPN has devoted a paragraph in nearly every one of his articles to Durant. Almost all of his Page 2 endeavors end with Simmons salivating over the thought of Durant wearing Celtic green this time next season.

Durant is long and athletic, measuring in at 6’9” and 225, and he is as good as advertised. Many have compared him to Kevin Garnett while others have compared him to Tracy McGrady. These comparisons are legit. But when it’s all said and done, I think you are going to have to look long and hard to find the next Kevin Durant.

He has yet to score in single-digits in his college career. From January 6th until February 5th, a ten-game stretch, he failed to score 26-points only once. He averages a double-double (25.1-11.4) and has recorded the feat in 18 of 32 games. On January 31, Durant poured in 37 points and 23 rebounds against Bobby Knight’s and Texas Tech squad. If you were one of the four people who didn’t know who Durant was before that night, you knew now.

Durant can score from the post, he can knock down the perimeter jumper, he rebounds, he runs the floor, he blocks shots, and he shoots nearly 50-percent from the field and 80-percent from the line. There is not a weakness in his game and that is why any writer with a passion for college basketball will find it difficult to stop writing about him.

To sum up the impact that Durant has put on the college basketball world in his brief five months in it: he could very easily be the first freshman in the history of college basketball to win the National Player of the Year award.

Crunchtime Crutch: If not for Durant, D.J. Augustin would be the leading candidate for Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Augustin is a pass first-point guard with incredible vision and he has the ability to score when needed.

When the Longhorns need a basket, Augustin consistently makes good decisions with the basketball. He has an uncanny ability to get into the lane and if he doesn’t find Durant or an open shooter on the wing, he usually draws a foul and goes to the line.

Straw that stirs the drink: A.J. Abrams, a sophomore and elder statesman for the Longhorns, is the only holdover from last year’s Elite Eight squad. Abrams is Texas’ second leading scorer and is deadly from beyond the arc. He is quick to make defenders pay when they lay off of him to help when Augustin or Durant penetrate.

Potential Pitfall: Youth. Will the Longhorns’ reliance on freshmen be their downfall come March? Rick Barnes said in a recent statement that he sometimes believes his team is a little overconfident in their abilities. If in fact the Longhorns are a little bit naïve due to their lack of experience, it could come back to haunt them in the NCAA Tournament. Then again, that same naïve nature might serve as a blinder in the spotlight.

How to reach the Sweet 16: The Longhorns definitely have the talent to make a run in the tourney. especially if Durant steps up and plays like the best player in the country.

There are not many players around the nation who are talented enough to win games by themselves. Durant is, and with the help of Augustin, Abrams and others, he could carry them to the Sweet 16 or beyond.

The Longhorns are surely aware of the impact that Michigan’s Fab Five had on college basketball; the black socks, the baggy shorts, and the realization that freshmen can step right into a prestigious program and contribute. These Texas freshmen have definitely contributed and they are confident that they can make a run come tournament time. On any given night, Texas is capable of beating anyone. But, will their youth serve as a negative or a positive?

At the beginning of the year everyone knew that these freshmen were really talented, but no one really thought they would contend for a National Title this season.

Can college basketball’s best player lead his team to a title as a freshman? I don’t know, but I can guarantee it will be fun watching Kevin Durant try.

–Nick Evans

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