UT is President's pick, but is change on the way?
The one-liners for Thursday's 8:35 p.m. matchup featuring the former No. 1 Horns, who went 7-9 in their last 16, and the Decons, who've lost five of six are piling up:
*Now there's two teams in need of a Wake (bada-bing).
*New Orleans is the perfect site, they're great at funerals (bada-boom).
OK, you get the point.
For the past two months, Texas has been singing the same tune. A fresh start is all it needs. If it can just put it all together its collective talent will take over. Well, it just hasn't happened. Now they get one more chance to make good on a season that initially looked like Final Four or bust.
Texas coach Rick Barnes still thinks one game -- one play, even -- can turn momentum -- especially in the NCAA tournament.
"We see it happen all the time. We see teams come into [the tournament] that have been down and out and they catch it and they kind of ride the wave," Barnes said. "And there’s other teams that come in with a lot of pressure on them and maybe not play to win as opposed to just trying to keep from losing and those are the teams that can be bit a little bit. So yeah, momentum is a big part of it and I think confidence; so yeah, I do think that this time of year one game here or there, one play here or there, can really swing it."
Maybe it can. Maybe Texas drew the perfect foe in a Wake Forest team that's won just once since Feb. 13.
But, Texas' issues seem to run too deep. They've dealt with offensive inefficiency, poor perimeter defense and a bizarre quality in which the team splinters when adversity strikes in a game with no recourse to pull it back together. Whether two months of team breakdowns that's often left Barnes grasping for explanations can be fixed overnight would leave some skeptical.
Some are so tired of discussing the slide from No. 1 to the ranks of the unranked they're done discussing it: "No comment on that," forward Damion James said.
Others can't stop analyzing the issues. Just listen to Texas junior Gary Johnson, who believes momentum can swing, but it will take more than some New Orleans voodoo.
"I think it can, but guys have to be willing to buy into it. I think we are," Johnson said. "It’s not the fact that we’re a selfish team, it’s just the basketball IQ of a lot of players aren’t as high. With that being said, we try to cover it up by running certain sets for guys and try to keep the focal point on certain aspects of the game instead of having a free-wheeling type of offense."
In the end, Barnes said, you're left with hope.
"Again, you hope. You hope they grow. What you want this time of year is energy I think more than anything. I think attitude is important as anything right now, that you're excited. I think you have to be rested both mentally and physically.
"But, yeah, you hope."
The winner will likely face No. 1 Kentucky, which plays No. 16 East Tennessee State at 6 p.m.
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