First of all, let’s start with Kansas State’s revival – led by Jake Pullen, an old-school, hard-nosed guard who is about as stand-up a guy as has come through college basketball in a while:
AUSTIN, Texas – A couple weeks ago, I was extremely close to writing that Texas sophomore Jordan Hamilton was on the verge of finally “getting it.”
Remember, here’s a kid who wasn’t eligible to play his senior year of high school and he looked like it as a freshman when he was taking poor shots and was a train wreck on the defensive end.
It was so bad that Hamilton apologized to his teammates after the season.
It started to get better early in league play as his teammates – veterans Dogus Balbay and Gary Johnson and freshman Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph – were rubbing off on him.
Hamilton was hardly a world-beater on the defensive end, but he was adequate.
And that was enough when you surround him with guys like Balbay, Johnson and the two young Canadians.
But Hamilton has reverted back the last few weeks – and it’s no surprise that Texas has struggled as well.
Let’s not put the Longhorns current losing skid – three of their last four – on par with the free fall that occurred a year ago when Rick Barnes’ team went from 17-0 to a No. 8 seed and a first-round exit.
This team has quality leadership. Superior chemistry.
``We weren’t the number one team in the country last year and we knew that,” Barnes said. ``We had issues. The chemistry wasn’t what it needed to be. This year you can’t say that.”
``It’s a different team,” Barnes admitted. ``A totally different team. The seniors have done a terrific job.”
That’s well-deserved praise for Balbay, Johnson and Matt Hill – and also maybe a slight knock (if you read between the lines) on last year’s seniors: Damion James and Dexter Pittman.
Barnes, not one to mince words, admitted that the Longhorns haven’t been “running good offense” in the last few games – and the defense hasn’t been what it was, either.
You hate to single out one individual, but the culprit – and the difference-maker for Texas – is Hamilton.
When he’s making quality shots and is average on the defensive side of the ball, Texas is as good as anyone in the country.
The Longhorns proved it by going into Lawrence and coming out with a win.
But Hamilton reverted back to his old self on Monday night, making just 5-of-18 shots from the field and making countless defensive mistakes.
It was plain to see that Kansas State coach Frank Martin was focused on trying to exploit Hamilton.
But Barnes doesn’t have a major re-tooling task on his hands as he had a year ago at this time when he was just trying to stop the bleeding.
If he can get Hamilton back on track, the Longhorns – the team that went from unranked all the way to No. 3 in the country – should return as well.