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Just The Sports: Texas Longhorns Without Kevin Durant

Just The Sports

Monday, December 24, 2007

Texas Longhorns Without Kevin Durant

The Texas Longhorns basketball team is once again a prominent feature of the national headlines, though now it is for a different reason. Last year, the ink and typescript used to discuss the Longhorns focused mainly on the play of Kevin Durant, supposedly the best freshman ever to play college basketball. This year, with Durant's departure to the NBA and sports followers no longer completely enamored with a player of Durant's physique with his myriad skills, the 2007-08 Longhorns are showing they have improved even if they no longer have a unique player on the roster. Comparing the 2006-07 Longhorns' first twelve games of the season (9-3 record) with the 2007-08 Longhorns' first twelve games demonstrates the change is more than just results-based, it is also style-based.

Since the two teams' defenses have no statistically significant differences for which to write home about, it behooves us to discuss only the transformation on the offensive side of the ball. This year's Longhorn team runs at a slower pace than last year's team, but to their advantage. They are averaging 5.2 fewer shots per game and 7.3 fewer team possessions a game than last year and have increased both their offensive efficiency (117.0 to 126.0) and effective field goal percentage (51.1% to 56.9%) so in effect they have learned to value their possessions more effectively. With their defensive stalwartness maintained, those differences add up to a +31.0 efficiency margin this year while last year it was +21.3.

Let it be said that I am not attributing the Longhorns' improvement solely to the departure of Kevin Durant. Such a conclusion would be both shortsighted and erroneous. The real culprit behind the positive transformation of the Longhorns is none other than roster stability. There is probably no great prediction of improvement from one year to another in basketball than roster stability and the Longhorns' roster stability this year is .89, or the equivalent of losing only one half of a position starter from the previous year's team. Having so many freshmen on last year's team playing together on last year's squad only revealed the potential this team would have; this season, they are realizing their potential and in an attention-grabbing way.



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