By John Helsley
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OklahomaState’s 1-0 start to Big 12 Conference play stirred optimism – for a few days.
No reason to get carried away, the Cowboys’ win league-opening win over Texas Tech was expected, with the Red Raiders filling the role as Big 12 bottom feeder while Billy Gillispie sorts things out inLubbock.
Tonight’s game at Texasis a better barometer.
The Longhorns are a powerhouse in name only, left to rebuild when too many players bolted for the NBA last spring. Six freshmen play – and three start – in Rick Barnes’ nine-man rotation.
Of course, they’re good freshmen. AndTexasis 9-0 at home.
Still, the Horns, 10-4, don’t own any notable wins and have lost toOregon State,North CarolinaState,North CarolinaandIowaState. And their best player, junior J’Covan Brown – UT’s leading scorer at 19.3 ppg – is questionable tonight with a sprained ankle suffered in the Wednesday loss atIowaState.
So let’s see what the Cowboys got.
Five things to watch:
1. The Brown Dilemma. The news on UT’s Brown couldn’t come at a better time, with OSU’s Markel Brown still recovering from his butt-muscle strain. Markel is the Cowboys’ best defender and he’ll draw the assignment on J’Covan if he goes.
2. Noticing Nash. Let’s see how Le’Bryan Nash handles a road game back in his home state. The last time, in a game he highly anticipated in his hometown ofDallas, against SMU, it didn’t go so well: four points, four rebounds, 2-of-10 shooting. Nash is coming off perhaps his best effort against Tech, when he played with more energy and toughness, a must if he’s going to come close to approaching the player the Cowboys thought he could be.
3. The Frank Erwin Factor. Erwin is the man UT’s arena is named after. The Cowboys are 0-7 in their last seven trips to Erwin’s building. Overall, the Longhorns have won four straight in the series and 10 of 11.
4. Check Out TheCzech.Yes, I’ve used that before. And I’m sure to use it again. Can’t resist. Marek Soucek isn’t ready for a starring role with the Cowboys, not physically or mentally, as he continues to adjust to the American game. Still, he does some good things that are otherwise lacking from these Cowboys. Like shooting. And screening. And passing. He can help.
5. Paging Page. It’s always interesting to see what Big 12 coaches have in store for Keiton Page, who is riding a hot streak of late. Barnes is one of the league’s best, and you can bet he’ll work up something to pressure Page and force other Cowboys to prove they can score.
Those are a few of the storylines from here inAustin, where I’ll be tweeting throughout the game and, of course, writing this one up for the paper and newsok.com.