College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Having pounded two of the better teams in the country - North Carolina and Michigan St. - in consecutive outings, the Texas Longhorns have the look of a #1 and merit serious consideration of making it all the way through the field in March to a national championship. Whether they should be ranked #1 right now would be a value judgement weighed against the current #1, Kansas, and a very small number of other candidates - Kentucky, Syracuse and Purdue - all of which have, like Texas and Kansas, unblemished records.
What compels one to consider Texas begins with the play of future-NBAer Damion James, who put together another highlight reel with 23 points and 13 boards in the Longhorns' 79-68 win over Michigan State. James dropped in 10 of his 18 shots and was the steadiest player on the floor in addition to being the most durable: his 38 minutes was a game high. His effort followed a 25-point, 15-rebound performance just three days earlier against the Tar Heels, so with back-to-back high quality games over ranked opponents, James could be looking at player of the year honors somewhere down the road.
Texas has won all 11 of their games by a minimum of 11 points, have exceeded the century mark three times and they are also one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Besides Carolina's 90 and Long Beach State's 78, Michigan State's 68 points was the most they've allowed all season. One of the reasons Texas defends so well is the play of Turkish-born guard, Dogus Balbay, who demonstrated his denial skills by holding Spartan point guard, Kalin Lucas, to 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, and just 2 assists. Lucas averages 15 points on 48.5% shooting and 4.3 assists. Balbay was instrumental in forcing Lucas into 6 turnovers and 22 total for the Spartans. He had 3 steals of his own.
The Pollsters probably won't elevate Texas to #1 until somebody beats the Jayhawks, or, if Texas does when the Big 12 foes meet on February 8. Prior to that a stretch from January 16-27 will be crucial for the Longhorns, as they host Texas A&M and Texas Tech and play at Kansas State and UConn during that span. All four of those opponents are currently ranked in the Top 25.
NOTABLE: North Carolina's offense is beginning to take shape in big ways, and they look like the team to beat in the ACC. With Tuesday's 98-61 trampling of the Marshall Herd, the Heels have put up their three highest point totals of the season back-to-back-to-back. After dropping a 68-66 decision at Kentucky, Roy Williams' kids have scored 103, 90 and 98. That's big-time production, no matter who you're playing.