Coach's Corner

Four seed? Six seed? It really doesn't matter if you lose your first game. UT basketball teams have gotten way too used to early exits from the NCAAs.

How close I really came to dying is a matter impossible to quantify. Any time an airplane goes bump, I think the end is near. Every takeoff is a frantic struggle between machine and gravity; each landing a controlled crash. Long descents into fog and clouds are worst of all: I'm sure we'll hit a hill or radio tower before the ground, mercifully, comes into view. Pills and bourbon don't help. When the airplane starts shaking, no matter what I've ingested, I'm a clean and sober man, with none of the what-me-worry fatalism of my fellow travelers. I'm not fond of flying.

A full 757 had just lifted off from DFW last Monday on its way to Austin. We were already delayed because the first 757 was broken … mechanical problems. At first I thought the burning smell was just stale air. Until, that is, the plane banked alarmingly, seconds after takeoff: The ground was, clearly, way too close. The intercom made a strange noise and the flight attendants, who should all be sitting, hurried up to the cockpit. The plane got very, very quiet. I didn't really start to hyperventilate until the pilot came on the intercom to tell me, "there's no reason to panic but …" As our plane began the endless (it seemed) turn back to the airport, there was a moment of black humor when my wife (noting my catatonic state) pleaded with me to breathe, drink water, and take two Valium. Unable to speak, I stared at her with what under more placid conditions might have looked like wonder. I'm thinking, we're all going to be dead in 45 seconds and Kelly wants me to take Valium! When they finally gave us an airplane that worked, the once-full 757 had more than a few empty seats.

It took me days to recover from this experience, but as terror slowly relaxed its grip on my bowels, UT players and coaching staff were whiling away the hours publicly griping about something as stupid and meaningless as the difference between a sixth seed and a fourth seed. John Chaney's Temple Owls, meanwhile, were winning the game against Texas (viewed from the turgid logic of the seeding process, a team twice as good as they were) before a player even boarded a plane for New Orleans. Rick Barnes had already been critically out-coached by that ancient, emaciated old badger that is Chaney.

I doubt there's a more overrated speckle of sports minutia than NCAA seedings. Aside from the Ones and Twos (and even these only for one game) it's all bullshit. Barnes needs to rethink how he approaches this annual Austin disappointment if he's going to allow his team to even discuss seedings. It's a simple two-game tournament, with no consolation game. So you play. That's all. Three seed, 11 seed, Johnny Appleseed. You just play.

I was shocked to hear the lack of basic preparation on the part of CBS lead announcer, Billy Packer. I don't expect Packer to know Brendon Mouton's high school scoring average, but I do expect him to understand one or two big-picture facts about the games he's covering. Packer led a national audience to believe that Texas' first-half shooting, 27%, was somehow an extraordinary aberration caused by Temple's matchup zone. But the seeds, if you will, of the sorry Texas performance in New Orleans were liberally scattered throughout the regular season. The Longhorns played several halves this season with shooting percentages in the teens and halftime point totals barely above 20, but that fact was lost on the flabbergasted Packer.

A decently prepared announcer might've noted that the difference wasn't UT's awful shooting -- that was normal -- but Temple's hot 54%. UT's uncharacteristically passive, bullring perimeter defense allowed Quincy Wadley to drift into one of those unconscious zones where, by halftime, he could've (and did) toss one up from halfcourt, behind his back, and it would've swished the net. Instead of holding Temple to a workable 40% and being behind 10, Texas was down 20 and out of the game before 10 minutes had passed. It reminded me of an early Mike Tyson fight when the other guy was so scared of Iron Mike, he couldn't dive to the floor fast enough.

One last comment on another dreary end to the basketball season. I'm tired of Barnes telling us how proud of his guys he is because "they left it all out on the floor." His team got embarrassed -- blown out of the gym -- by a team they were supposed to handle easily. Isn't it a base-level given that a college basketball team will "leave it all out on the floor?" Is this all that's asked and expected at the University of Texas? To try hard? Perhaps this is exactly what's always lacking from Texas basketball teams. Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams wouldn't be talking about "leaving it on the floor." They'd be pissed and the players would know about it. That's not acceptable at Duke or Kansas.

The NCAAs are about winning. Not trying hard. Every basketball coach at Texas always carps about respect. Here's a news flash: 25-win seasons are as common as a rainy weekend in our big and happy nation. A program is now judged by how well it does in the NCAAs.

Want respect? Win a couple of games.

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